The Politics of Secularism in International Relations

By Elizabeth Shakman Hurd | Go to book overview

CHAPTER FOUR
Contested Secularisms in Turkey and Iran

Post-Enlightenment thought defines modern politics in terms
of a public realm that is or should be …animated either by
apparently objective socioeconomic interests or secular ideals, or
both; by contrast the very definition of irrationalism is historically
and culturally linked with the authority of religion, faith, and
tradition. The attempt to remake the public realm in terms of
religious imperatives, to (re-)define the boundary between public
and private, to (re-)interpret the collective good in terms of a
divine mandate comes to seem no less than an attempt to destroy
the foundations of modern politics itself.1

THIS CHAPTER BRIDGES the conceptual and historical arguments of the two preceding chapters and the more applied arguments of chapters 5 and 6. Its primary objective is to introduce domestic Turkish and Iranian renegotiations of the secular. Woven into these historical accounts are examples of how the epistemological and evaluative stances described in the preceding chapters as laicism and Judeo-Christian secularism have operated in practice to condition Western responses to religiopolitical developments in Turkey and Iran. Developments in these countries do not fall easily into categories available to Western observers for understanding religion and politics. The cases in this chapter are examples of religiopolitical accommodation and contestation that are neither laicist nor Judeo-Christian secularist. They illustrate my argument that the attempt to remake the public realm is not necessarily a threat to the foundation of modern politics. It is a modern contestation of the concept and practice of the secular authorized and regulated by state authorities since the founding of the modern Turkish Republic by Atatürk in 1923 and the rise of Reza Shah in Iran in 1925. It is modern politics. Renarrating these historical episodes poses a challenge to what Anthony Marx has referred to as the “long cherished consensus and conventions of Western historiography.”2 It contributes to “a rethinking of the historiographic conventions that have bracketed histories” of Turkey and Iran.3 Finally, the background presented in this chapter is part of a broader historical and political context that is referred to but not described in detail in later chapters. This chapter therefore also serves as an important preface to chapters 5 and 6, which focus on the role of secularist authority in European and American representations of and relations with Turkey and Iran.

-65-

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The Politics of Secularism in International Relations
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents ix
  • Acknowledgments xi
  • Chapter One - Introduction 1
  • Chapter Two - Varieties of Secularism 23
  • Chapter Three - Secularism and Islam 46
  • Chapter Four - Contested Secularisms in Turkey and Iran 65
  • Chapter Five - The European Union and Turkey 84
  • Chapter Six - The United States and Iran 102
  • Chapter Seven - Political Islam 116
  • Chapter Eight - Religious Resurgence 134
  • Chapter Nine - Conclusion 147
  • Notes 155
  • Select Bibliography 213
  • Index 237
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