Globalization and marketized Islam in Turkey: The case of Fethullah Gülen
This dissertation addresses Turkey's on-going political crisis by explaining the discursive and organizational strategies employed by the transnational Islamic advocacy network of M. Fethullah Gülen. "The Gülen Movement" (GM), as it is most often referred, has attracted international attention because of the extent of its education and business network, which now spans over 100 countries. Despite Fethullah Gülen's reputation as a master of Islamic knowledge, and as a gifted and modest spiritual leader, the GM is often criticized for its secrecy, and is subject to allegations of conspiracy. In Turkey, suspicions about the GM infiltrating the civilian, police, and military bureaucracies in a grand effort to "Islamicize" the Turkish Republic are common. In order to combat such skepticism, the GM is forced to confront the contradictions that emerge in regard to the wealth of its underwriters, to allegations of political and economic cronyism, and to the imperialistic connotations of a globally connected religious/education/merchant network.
Based on 11 months of ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Istanbul, Turkey and in the United States (September 2006 - August 2007), the findings of this research suggest that while unquestionably focused on accumulation and influence, the GM is not interested in overseeing the emergence of an "Islamic" Turkish Republic. To the contrary, the GM uses its transnational network of resources to fill the discursive and institutional vacuum created by a crisis in Turkey's isolationist development model, and as such, is a success story in Turkey's experience with economic globalization - a product of the country's modernity. The implications of this research in the field of Muslim politics are that it forces a rethinking of sweeping generalizations that presuppose "secular" versus "Islamist" divides by calling to attention the methods by which the GM mobilizes as a market driven network of pious Turkish teachers, entrepreneurs, journalists, writers, editors, bankers, and salespeople. The GM is thus representative of a middle to upper middle class advocacy network that works in coalition with Turkey's governing "Islamist roots" Justice and Development Party to instigate a power shift within Turkey's ruling elite. In this way, the GM is an exemplary case by which to observe the transformative effects contemporary globalization can have on domestic power dynamics.
0615: Political science
0630: Public policy