Legislating virtue, or fear and loathing in Istanbul?

Christopher Houston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Over the past decade or so, a number of secular critics and Muslim activists of the Islamist social movement in Turkey have described the political conflicts dominating Turkish social life in cultural terms, as a struggle between incompatible cultural orders. A rich variety of similes have been used to describe the clash and its protagonists: black and white Turks, Islamist untouchables, Turkey's Negroes, even transgendered secularists (Western souls in Turkish bodies). This narrative construction leads to a number of unhelpful generalizations, all of which serve to obscure the merging shades of grey between Islamists and secularists. It also overemphasizes the efficacy of the civilizing project of the Turkish state. The article argues that the term 'legislating virtue' better captures the complexity of contemporary political conflict.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)425-444
Number of pages20
JournalCritique of Anthropology
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2002
Externally publishedYes


  • Civilizing project
  • Construction of locality
  • Islamism
  • Orhan Pamuk
  • Republicanism
  • Subjectivity
  • Turkish fiction


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