Turkey: the three nations theory

Several decades ago, definitions of and”nationand” pursued the biologically concrete distinguisher, like and”blood,and” or referenced various heredity concepts such as and”ethnicity.and” Scholars such as Benedict Anderson, however, offer abstract definitions that are more articulate in the context of the current political and sociological realities. To Anderson, a nation is an imagined community. Thus, rather than admit the biological or heritage concept, Anderson argues that a nation is a socially constructed community and its members are those who perceive themselves as part of a distinct group. Paul James, in his oft-quoted and”Nation Formation: Towards a Theory of Abstract Community,and” also theorizes and”nationand” as an abstract social construct.
Following this line of thinking, one may argue that Turkeyand’s once primordial and”Turkish nationhoodand” tenet is nowadays giving way to three abstract nationhood concepts. Thus, three new abstract nationhood constructs — Kurds, secular Turks and religious Turks — are replacing the traditional primal Turkish nationhood.
A Western diplomat recently told me that he has visited the Kurdish provinces in southeastern Turkey. According to his personal account, many young Kurds talk about Turkey as a foreign country. There is no doubt that there is an emerging imagined Kurdish community. This new nationhood has many primordial dynamics, such as and”ethnicityand” and and”territory.and” This growing Kurdish nationhood links itself also with the Kurds in Iraq and Syria. Many Kurdistan Workersand’ Party (PKK) members are the key actors in the fight that is being waged against the Islamic State in Iraq (ISIL) in northern Syria. Thus, the term and”Kurdistanand” today refers to the average Kurd who is not a Turk.
The second imagined community is and”secular Turks.and” The secular Turks, who espouse various forms of secularism that include practices such as moderate liberalism, publicly express their wish to part ways in daily life with religious Turks. The secular Turkish community is critical of the emerging imagined Kurdish community, and extremely against the Islamization of the public sphere and the state. Since Turkey failed to create a social contract during the last century, hope for conciliation between the secular and religious Turks is in vain. The emerging secular Turkish nation has a territorial aspect, too. It largely exists in big cities and on the western shores of Anatolia. But the boundaries of the secular Turkish nation are defined more by practices in daily life. Yet, surprisingly, it has many political seeds in it. Like the Kurds, the secular Turkish nationhood has the Alawite dynamic within it as a key aspect.
The third imagined community is and”religious Turks.and” This community follows its nation-building hero, Recep Tayyip Erdogan. Its members definitely demand the Islamization of politics and the public sphere. They act in sympathy with the global network of Islamist groups. They hate the West, of course. Like the Kurdsand’ transnational dynamic, the religious Turkish nation dreams of a transnational Islamic political union. The ultimate goal of the religious Turkish nation is to have a global empire organized around its leadership.
Since the boundaries between the three emerging imagined communities are in the process of formation, there are still gray areas. Elites and groups in those gray areas are extremely unhappy about the current crisis in Turkey, but they are small in size and capacity. However, in the event of huge social and political crises, the people in the gray areas are likely to play an important role.
The Turkish system is likely to generate a crisis on the boundaries of these three imagined nations. They are three completely different groups with different priorities and worliews. Turkey has only one exit: developing a new social contract that keeps each group happily within its frame. Is it possible? Any successful new social contract should be somehow administratively federalist in regards to Kurds, and be consociational (or consociationally democratic) in regards to the division between secular and religious citizens. Though different in detail, both the religious and secular models court a society highly divided as ethnic, religious and other-segments strands.

SOURCE: Today’s Zaman