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may, 2024

29may01junNew Civilizationisms Network Workshop IHistoricizing Religion: Civilizationism in the Islamic Intellectual Field in Turkey

Event Details

This study examines the operation of the concept of civilization in the Islamic intellectual field (IIF) in Turkey as a founding principle of the civilizationist discourse of various Islam-based intellectual movements that emerged in the field since the 1960s, including the notion of Ottoman-Islamic civilization that became the foundational ideology of the ruling AKP when it came to power in 2002. In contrast to recent literature on civilization, which tend to treat the term either as a political model to replace the nation-state system, or a communal identity that is based on religion, I demonstrate that civilizationist perspectives and projects developed in the IIF take it almost exclusively as society-building projects that aspire to replace the Western-centric model of modernity, which has been adopted by the Republican regime formed in 1923 by Mustafa Kemal as the universal norm and the constitutive basis of the Kemalist modernization project.  I focus on two distinct ways in which the notion is used in the field. 1) Taking a normative approach, some writers use the notion as an ideal model for the creation of a virtuous society, which is often traced back to the Islamic scholar Al-Farabi (872-950), known as the Platonist/rationalist philosopher who developed the notion of civilization (medeniyet in Turkish) in his book Ahl al-Madina al-Fadila (“Virtuous City”). 2) In contrast, a more popular approach takes an historical/sociological perspective in conceptualizing civilization as a historically established societal order that is based on institutionalized systems of knowledge, and cultural, political, legal and economic practices. The latter approach often traces back its intellectual lineage to the Islamic historicist and philosopher, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), who has developed a historical account of the formation of societies that he refers to as “umran ilmi” (science of civilization), which is seen as the origin of modern sociology. I demonstrate how the second conceptualization of civilization has gained wide recognition in the IIF and has been used as the basis of a variety of different projects, particularly in the transformation of the academic system, as exemplified in the establishment institutes and programs titled The Civilization Movement Institute, BISAV Center for the Study of Civilization, or The Alliance of Civilizations Institute. Among these initiatives, of particular importance is Istanbul Civilization University, launched in 2010, and Ibn Haldun University in 2015, which was launched as one of the flagship universities of the AKP, as part of its civilizationist politics. Both of these universities incorporated Islamic sciences programs such as Fiqh or Kalam (philosophical study of Islamic theology) under their social science departments.


May 29 (Wednesday) 12:00 - June 1 (Saturday) 13:30


Beirut, Lebanon

Beirut, Lebanon