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Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks (Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics) Paperback – November 25, 2012

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Editorial Reviews


One of's Best International Relations Books in the Best Books on the Middle East category for 2012

"[P]iercing and original analysis . . ."--Economist

"[A]deeply insightful book. . . . [T]he writing is . . . clear and straightforward, and the book is chock-full of rich tidbits from Turkish society. . . . Filled with insight, Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks is sure to become a leading text for those looking to read the Turkish tea leaves . . ."--David Lepeska, National

"[T]his is a good book worth reading by those concerned with Turkey and broader issues of democratic transitions in the Muslim world."--Hurriyet Daily News

"Even for those already familiar with contemporary Turkey, this sometimes disturbing book will be an eye opener"--.John Waterbury, Foreign Affairs

"This anthropological work is grounded in a deep knowledge of Turkey, nourished by White's successive long stays and periods of fieldwork in the country; yet it is also a judicious compilation of key secondary sources."--Clémence Scalbert-Yucel, Times Higher Education

"Jenny White has provided readers with insightful and nuanced access to the complexities of Turkish society and a first look at a newly emerging class of individualist Muslim nationalists."--Zeynep Kosereisoglu, Muftah

"In this multilayered, theoretically sophisticated, and analytically rich examination of the contradictions and convergences found in contemporary expressions of 'Turkishness,' especially with respect to Muslim and secular forms of nationalisms, White offers an interpretation that reinforces Barth's emphasis on pluralism, choice, and negotiation, while also demonstrating greater understanding and synthesis of the constraints of gender, class, ethnicity, and religion."--Choice

"It's a reviewer's job both to critique the book at hand and to detail and summarize its most salient points. It's a tribute to Boston University anthropologist Jenny White's excellent Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks that it makes the latter extremely difficult to do, simply by doing justice to the enormous complexity of Turkish society."--William Armstrong, Hurriyet Daily News

"I would definitely recommend it to both Western scholars and Turks themselves. White's book is an extensive analysis of the Turkish nationality issue. In my opinion it is original that White also researched the female image of 'belonging to the Turkish nation', this is a view one seldom encounters. Inter alia therefore Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks is a valuable addition to other books already written on the subject of Turkish nationality."--Anouk Willemsen, International Review of Turkish Studies

"This is a very readable book which aims at providing a better understanding of the role of nationalism in Turkey and of its paranoid and multiphobic nature, while also narrating the rise of a generation of pious young people who have taken over the reins of the secular state and found new ways of expressing their Muslim identity. One of the strengths of the book is its exploration of common themes, i.e. racist and patriarchal worldviews, that bridge various forms of nationalism in Turkey."--Laurent Mignon, Journal of Islamic Studies

From the Back Cover

"Few questions are more urgent, especially since the eruption of the Arab Spring, than whether there is a 'Turkish model' for combining Islam with democracy. White's book, the culmination of many years of research, provides a magisterial guide to the complex reality behind this question. The book is must reading for scholars, members of the policy community, and educated citizens concerned with the interplay of religion and politics in the contemporary world."--Peter L. Berger, Boston University

"White's book is a bold and flawless analysis of the new Turkey's collective unconscious. This exceptional work must be read not only by Western observers but also by the Turks themselves."--Moris Farhi, author of Young Turk

"Innovative and original, this is a very important and insightful analysis of contemporary Turkish discourses on what it means to be Turkish and a member of the Turkish nation. White makes the significant argument that the divide in Turkey is not between secularism and religion, but rather is a struggle over what is sacred to the nation and where the boundaries of national identity should be drawn."--Marc Baer, author of The Dönme: Jewish Converts, Muslim Revolutionaries, and Secular Turks

"Turkey is a country of contradictions, and very few authors have managed to paint so complex a picture of it as White. It is a nation where the secular elite has dogmatically made war on all things Islamic, yet this same elite embraces a Turkish nationalism rooted in the Islamic religion. This is a well-written, engaging, and smart book about contemporary Turkey, one that will be widely read and discussed."--Henri J. Barkey, Lehigh University


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Product Details

  • Series: Princeton Studies in Muslim Politics
  • Paperback: 264 pages
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press (November 25, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0691155186
  • ISBN-13: 978-0691155180
  • Product Dimensions: 9.2 x 6.1 x 0.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 14.4 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (13 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #610,282 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Jenny White is a writer and a social anthropologist. Her first novel, The Sultan's Seal, was published in 2006. It was translated into fourteen languages and is available as a paperback and audiobook. Booklist has named it one of the top ten first novels of 2006 and one of the top ten historical novels of 2006. It was shortlisted for the 2006 Ellis Peters Historical Crime Award. The sequel, The Abyssinian Proof, was published in February 2008 (W. W. Norton) and a third Kamil Pasha novel, The Winter Thief, in 2010.

Jenny White was born in southern Germany and emigrated to the United States at the age of seven. She lived in New Rochelle, NY, where she learned English and attended grammar and high school. She studied at Lehman College in the Bronx, part of the City University of New York that had been set up for immigrant children. Working her way through school, she has held a variety of jobs. At various times, she has been a telephone operator, bookkeeper, librarian, file clerk, language teacher, receptionist, patient associate in a clinic, copyeditor, research assistant, teaching assistant, tour coordinator, professor, and now novelist. While at Lehman College, she studied abroad in Germany, where she first met people from Turkey, from which sprang a lifelong interest. After finishing college, she traveled to Turkey and stayed for three years, eventually earning a Master's degree in psychology from Hacettepe University in Ankara. After working for a couple of years in Montana, she moved to Texas to begin graduate work in anthropology, specializing in Turkey. She received her Ph.D. in anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin.

Jenny White now teaches social anthropology at Boston University as a tenured associate professor. She has published three scholarly books on contemporary Turkey. Money Makes Us Relatives, a description of women's labor in urban Turkey in the 1980s, was published in 1994. Islamist Mobilization in Turkey was published in 2002. It explains the rise of Islamic politics in Turkey in the 1990s and won the 2003 Douglass Prize for best book in Europeanist anthropology. Her latest book (November 2012), Muslim Nationalism and the New Turks, takes a look at the transformations that Turkish Islam and secularism -- and the idea of the nation -- have undergone in the past decade. What is behind Turkey's leap to international prominence, and what should we make of it? Jenny White lives in the Boston area.

"I learned English as a second language, primarily from books. This nurtured my relationship with language and made books my friends. As long as I can remember, I've wanted to be a writer. From my earliest days of learning English, I carried around a notebook in which I sketched the world in words. However, I also had a bent for science, so opportunity and curiosity took me in that direction, to graduate school and a career as an anthropologist. Over the years, the two desires merged, as my scholarly writing became more and more literary (although not fictional), and my experience in Turkey and knowledge of Turkish culture and history infused my fiction writing."

Customer Reviews

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18 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Jackson Dallas on December 29, 2012
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The first half of this book gave me a better understanding of Turkish politics and culture than I gained from two years of living in Turkey. The author's observations are brilliantly perceptive. The writing style, however, is so opaque that I was unable to motivate myself to read the second half. The sentence structure is convoluted, and every page has phrases so abstract that I had to study and deconstruct them to figure out their meaning...or could not figure out the meaning at all. The sentence opening that finally stopped me in my tracks was, "In place of individualizing as a response to the spread of new forms of communication and self-production through commodities,..." I do not fault the author; it is the publisher's responsibility to provide an editor.
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6 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Paul Durrenberger on June 28, 2013
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This is an insightful analysis of the current political/cultural situation in Turkey that people in Europe and the U.S. know only via highly selective press treatment if at all. When the Prime Minister wanted to build in the last green space in Istanbul, protesters halted construction. Police cleared away the protesters. The protesters gathered again. Police methods became progressively more brutal as the demonstrations grew and then started in other towns and cities throughout Turkey. What was behind it? The press were baffled or offered little in the way of convincing explanations. White, in this sequel to her two previous books on Turkey, offers an insightful understanding, written before the demonstrations started. The Third Republic (since 1923), opened Turkey to the world and to the market and removed government controls of a number of enterprises. In the wake of this, there grew a group of successful businessmen who could finance new patterns of consumption, no less market based, based on Islamic notions. At the same time, identity itself became a commodity, something one could choose from a number of models offered--the Kemilist secularist, the conservative Islamist, some kind of Turkish Islam less influence by the Arabian world, or the pre-republic Ottoman identity. People could mix and match elements and elect an Ottoman style house with a modified Turkish dress style for women. With the new openness arose the AK party, originally Islamist but progressively modified at the insistence of the Army and Courts that stood watch over Ataturk's legacy of a democratic republic. When they won a third election, AKP began to re-define the shape of the Republic by purges of the courts and the Army. AKP won, but by only a slim majority. That meant that a good half of the voters did not support them.Read more ›
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12 of 18 people found the following review helpful By Trotsky the Libertarian on February 2, 2013
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It seems that the author's mind was kidnapped by the subjects of her research. She is biased against Kemalists. I am neither a Kemalist nor a Political Islamist. However, for a book published by a prestigious university, the minimum expectation is it has to be objective. The majority of the people interviewed by the author were Islamists. The "so-called" Kemalists interviewed by her were presented like apparatchiks of "soon-to-be-abolished" ideology. I believe this author to learn how the objective research is done should have read Sukru Hanioglu's book entitled Ataturk before undertaking her project. In fact, she should have learned foundational issues associated with the transition from an empire to republic so that she could analyze what present-day Islamists want much more analytically. Kemalists with the coup in 1980 almost slaughtered the left to the non-existence and opened up (in fact supported) a very congested path to Islamism to create a new generation without single bite about left ideologies in their brain. The author unfortunately misses this milestone in the history of Political Islam in Turkey. Islamism is the creation of the very Kemalists the author and her subjects like to bash. Thus, in the deep blue see, there is not much difference between the Kemalists and their creation, so-called New Turks, mildly Islamists, Islamists and so on.
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By geoffreyl on July 25, 2013
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This is a stimulating and profound work by an author who knows her topic inside out. Professor White does an admirable job of disentangling the intricate threads of modern-day Turkish society and politics, all informed by a real empathy for her subjects. The treatment of the status of women in Turkey today seems especially insightful and original. Don't be put off by the bits of academic jargon sprinkled throughout, especially at the beginning - this book is the real deal and a must read for anyone with a serious interest in the Turkish scene.
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2 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Jay on January 26, 2013
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I visit Turkey occasionally and this book explained a lot for me. Today's common wisdom is that Turkey under prior governments was a great American ally but under Erdogan is drifting toward Islamism. The story is a lot more complex than that and in some ways almost the opposite. Jenny White's book is a must read for anyone who thinks he/she knows what's going on in Turkish culture and politics.
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One of the worst Turkey ethnographies ever. There is actually no ethnography. She rather trusts her experience in Turkish politics but totally failed at interpreting lots of issues. I actually agree with her main argument that the mainstream Islamists in Turkey have become more nationalist and have better relation with the Turkish state recently, but her methodology and some keywords she chose made it really not trustworthy at all.
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