Thwarted agency and the strange afterlife of Islamism in militant laicism in Turkey

Christopher Houston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically engages with recent theoretical writing on the anthropology of secularism by way of studying the perceptions and consciousness of those whom I name 'militant laic actors' in Turkey. Beginning with their key conviction that the present Government of the Justice and Development Party (AKP) possesses a hidden mission to Islamize the country, I argue that rather than relating to the actual policies of the AKP, such a conviction reflects the mood and emotions of laic actors. This perception is not without a social context. It relates to both the enlarged political power of the AKP and to the relative thwarting of social agency experienced by militant laic actors. The paper concludes by noting certain insufficiencies in both Charles Taylor's and Talal Asad's work as frameworks for explaining the dynamics of secularism while making a case for the significance of the Turkish situation in contributing to wider debates in the anthropology of secularism.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)333-351
Number of pages19
JournalContemporary Islam
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Sep 2013


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