Neo-liberal Governance of Culture and Neo-Ottoman Management of Diversity in New Turkey


Neoliberalism and neoconservatism as two distinct political rationalities have formed a peculiar alliance and generated what Wendy Brown (2006; 2015) describes as “de-democratizing effects” in contemporary societies over the last two to three decades. In Turkey, under the Justice and Development Party’s rule, this alliance has a unique configuration combining the norms and values of the free market and Islam(ism) to govern every aspect of social life. While the existing literature has generated lively debates on education and social security reforms, urban development, and gender policy, culture as a target of administrative reform and a part of the governing processes remains relatively under-discussed. This study takes up Turkey’s recent popularization of Ottoman-themed cultural practices, ranging from history museums to television series featuring the Ottoman-Islamic legacy, as a site where de-democratizing effects of the neoliberal-neoconservative alliance can be observed. The study reveals that Turkey’s neoliberal approach to cultural management between the 2000s and 2010s has converted culture into an integral part of the free market where civil participation, as consumers and entrepreneurs, is translated as an indication of democratization. This emergent culture market also has operated as a regulatory mechanism in favor of the Islamist government’s conservative and nationalist agenda. The study maintains that Turkey’s blend of neoliberalism and neoconservatism has significantly transformed the state’s approach to culture as a way of governing the social, produced a popularly accepted knowledge of Ottoman-Islamic pluralism, and a citizen-subject who is increasingly subjected to exclusion and discipline for expressing critical views of this knowledge.

Author Information
Chien Yang Erdem, Istinye University, Istanbul, Turkey

Paper Information
Conference: ECAH2018
Stream: Humanities - Media, Film Studies, Theatre, Communication

This paper is part of the ECAH2018 Conference Proceedings (View)
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Posted by James Alexander Gordon