Call for papers: Transcending the secular-religious dichotomy: The AKP and the blurred edges of politics and religion in Turkey (ECPR General Conference, Hamburg 22-25 August 2018)

Call for papers for the 2018 ECPR General Conference
Section 61:Revisiting Religion and Politics Research: Achievements, Critique, Future Questions

Panel Title:Transcending the secular-religious dichotomy: The AKP and the blurred edges of politics and religion in Turkey
Since its foundation in 2001, the Justice and Development party (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi, AKP) has attracted a vivid academic debate about its collocation vis-à-vis Turkish secularism and religion. Established from the ashes of the Islamist Welfare Party, the AKP has officially presented itself as a ‘conservative-democratic’ party, pragmatically denying any Islamist pedigree. However, a strong legacy of Islamism has progressively come to the fore both in the party’s discourse -largely imbued with religious references- and in several areas of policy-making, such as family, women, youth, education, foreign policy. This ambivalent stance of the AKP on religion has recently led to contrasting definitions of the AKP as either an intrinsically Islamist party, whose “real nature” is unveiled after 15 years in government, or a conservative populist party resorting to Islam as an instrument to sustain its power grab.
These recent debates, however, reflect a clear turn away from an earlier widespread academic consensus in early 2000s that the AKP is a ‘post-Islamist’ party representing the marginalized conservative masses in the political arena. In short, the relations between religion, state and the AKP are deeply blurred and the scholarship is disarrayed by normative judgments. Despite tremendous interest in Turkey and the AKP, little to no attention has hitherto been paid to deconstruct, systematise and synthetize the AKP’s positioning vis-à-vis religion, particularly in the light of the party’s recent hegemonic and authoritarian turn.
The panel aims at reinvigorating and revisiting the academic debate on religion, the AKP and the Turkish state/secularism through discussing the involvement of different policy areas and actors as a key explanatory factor. To what extent, how and why has the weight of Islam in the AKP politics and policies evolved? How has the fallout with the Gülen movement and the subsequent emergence of the AKP as the guardian of both national values and religious –namely Sunni Islamic– groups affected Turkish secularism and modernized state Islam in its whole? What is the role of religion and major religious actors (Diyanet, faith-based groups etc.) with their new modus operandi and areas of cooperation with the state in underpinning Turkey’s deepening authoritarianism? How do religious symbolism and sacralisation of nominally secular themes relate to the AKP’s hold on political power? What are the consequences of the sectarianization, i.e. ‘Sunni-Islamization’, on Turkey’s foreign policy and societal conflict along religious lines (e.g. Alevis, non-Muslims)? Papers are encouraged to question the secular-religious dichotomy and makecontributions on the role of religious tradition on democracy (and authoritarianism) in Turkey, the creation or reinstatement of ‘hegemonic’ state religion, and the broader evolution in the state-religion-secularism relationship in the last decade.
We invite papers with original empirical data and theoretical/analytical contribution to the debate from a wide disciplinary background including anthropology, media studies, history, political science and sociology. The deadline for abstract submission (300 words) is February 14th. Please submit in word format and include the name, title and institution of the applicant in your email to and

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