Between Center and Periphery? Higher Education, Social Sciences and Intellectuals from Islamic Habitus in Turkey

Lecture | November 7 | 12:30-2 p.m. | 340 Stephens Hall

 Deniz Ilhan, Stony Brook University

 Center for Middle Eastern Studies

The modernization program endorsed by the Republic of Turkey, and the institutions which established the infrastructure for educational, cultural and scientific development went hand in hand with a nationalist interpretation of Westernization and secularization agenda. Parallel to those in other Muslim-majority contexts throughout the world, the reactions to this program has been diverse, which consisted of acculturation, selective adaptation and resistance by the intellectual agents in the Islamic habitus. In my research, I try to understand how the intellectual agents of the Islamic habitus in Turkey pursue alternative intellectual developmental programs, while striving for relevance and influence over national and international audiences. In my analysis, where I partially reconstruct the dynamic core of the Muslim intellectual-organizational space, I have found that non-governmental organizations with vibrant intellectual communities and projects, possess high volumes of intellectual capital, which merges Western-social scientific, humanistic and Islamic-scientific components, while resisting a fully “Westernized” agenda. In doing so, they outshine more conventional and unstructured platforms such as teaching-focused universities, higher learning-complementary NGOs and Islamic clergy-led networks.

Deniz Ilhan is a Ph.D. candidate at Stony Brook University, Department of Sociology in New York, and is currently working on his dissertation thesis tentatively titled Making Space in the Conversation: Muslims in Turkey’s Intellectual Field since 1980. Drawing on mixed methods, the study examines the intellectual output produced by select people, magazines, journals, educational think-tanks, and universities founded and directed by Muslims in the past three decades, and their interactions. The analysis aims to explain how intellectual agents position themselves and increase their influence over the intellectual space, while addressing national and transnational audiences. Since September 2016, Deniz has been co-facilitating the weekly Middle East and North Africa Salons held at the Center for Middle Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley. Before embarking on his recent project, he studied the relationship between distributive politics and dominant party formation in Turkey. Deniz has also worked as a research assistant for the Education Reform Initiative at Istanbul Policy Center of Sabanci University and received a master’s degree from the Ataturk Institute for Modern Turkish History at Bogazici University, in which he qualitatively explored the socio-cultural effects of globalization over high-ranking Turkish professionals in multinational corporations.

 cmes@berkeley.edu, 510-642-8208