Ambiguities of Democratization: Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity Under AKP Government in Turkey

Decentering Social Theory

ISBN: 978-1-78190-726-9, eISBN: 978-1-78190-727-6

ISSN: 0198-8719

Publication date: 7 August 2013


This chapter explores the impact of the seemingly new recognition of non-Muslims in Turkey, a historically marginalized minority. In the 2000s, the ruling AKP party, a religiously and socially conservative party, made a number of symbolic gestures toward the increasing recognition of these communities. This chapter explores this ethnographically and historically by looking at the political effects of AKP’s democratization attempts on the Rum Orthodox (“Greek”) community in Istanbul. It argues that these attempts paralleled a similar language of democracy within the community particularly in the aftermath of the government’s permission to run elections in the non-Muslim community institutions (vakıfs), following a period of time during which no elections had been held in these institutions. At the same time, these attempts occasioned old and new forms of hierarchies within the community, which emerged as a result of the competing claims within it to its representation. These seemingly ambiguous effects of democratization within the Rum community emerged in the gap between the AKP’s democracy discourse that claims universal inclusion and its highly selective practice of democracy. This was so because the AKP preserved the ethnoreligious definition of national identity even while it readopted the historical legacies of the Ottoman millet system that managed society along religious confessional lines. These findings contribute to the existing theories on democratization by highlighting the inextricable link between inclusion and exclusion that emerges in the gap between the discursive claims of democracy toward universal inclusion and the selective actualization of these claims in practice. Such selective inclusion that is inherent to the politics of democracy is managed differently in different contexts due to the hybrid forms of state recognition of the population.


Adar, S. (2013), "Ambiguities of Democratization: Nationalism, Religion, and Ethnicity Under AKP Government in Turkey", Decentering Social Theory (Political Power and Social Theory, Vol. 25), Emerald Group Publishing Limited, pp. 3-36.

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