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“Traitor over a night”: on the critique and the fragility of privilege in the aftermath of Turkey’s coup attempt

27 November 2023

Author: Sertaç Sehlikoglu

Drawing on ethnographic research with the devout members of Gülen movement displaced in the aftermath of the coup attempt in 2016, this paper studies the existential crisis these formerly “proper Turkish citizens” have been experiencing after being targeted by the Turkish State. This existential crisis, as argued in this paper, is significantly informative in understanding how privilege-based ethical self-making emanates fragility. The paper, thus, both parallels Sunni-Turkish-ness with whiteness and provides a reading of ethical self-making processes the Gülenists developed vis-à-vis the notions of critique and comfort. It first looks closer at the two Islamic revivalist movements, Milli Görüş as the predecessors of Turkey’s ruling AKP (Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi/Justice and Development Party) and the Gülen Movement, their rivalry over claiming the canon and the ways in which they differ in their notions of politics, political Islam, and critique. Although critique and self-critique are integral components of ethical self-formation processes, Gülen movement takes a somewhat inconsistent approach in implementing them to the heteronomous layers of self. Meaning, that while self-critique is an essential part of ethical self-making, critiquing the movement itself, the state, nation, and ancestors (as they were imagined) are not seen as ethical acts. It concludes with an analysis of how this discrepancy results in a sporadic distribution of ethical self-formation, leading to an existential crisis.

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