Talk: Reimagining the Ottoman Past, Depoliticizing Civil Society: Islamic Neoliberalism and the Vakıf Civilization Rhetoric in Turkey by Dr. Gizem Zencirci, Providence College Rhode Island, USA
Monday, 26 October 2015, 12:30 p.m.
A-130 (Seminar Room)
This talk examines the impact of AKP’s neo-Ottomanist heritage politics upon state-civil society relations in Turkey. Instead of treating Ottoman heritage as a fixed essence, this study illustrates how shifting interpretations of the Ottoman past serve to construct alternative understandings of civil society. Specifically I discuss how the Ottoman vakıf institution has been rearticulated as an “Eastern” model of civil society that not only resembles, but also precedes the birth of civil society in the West. Most importantly, by depicting the Ottoman Empire as a vakıf civilization, this new rhetoric seeks to consolidate a neoliberal understanding of civil society where NGO’s are expected to collaborate with the state instead of confronting it. I read this cross-fertilization between neo-Ottomanism, Islamism and neoliberalism in Turkey as a local site for the production of neoliberal governmentality. Such an approach allows understanding neoliberalism as a malleable and mutable process that is created on the ground instead of merely being a form of governance imposed by the West.
Dr. Gizem Zencirci is an assistant professor of political science at Providence College, RI. She has received her BA and MA from Bilkent University, and her Ph.D. from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in 2013. Her research interests include civil society, charity, philanthropy, poverty and welfare policy as well as Islamic economics and the anthropology of neoliberalism. (2006–08).