Catch-upSameer Rao HC ‘11 | March 11, 2010
Internet problems have kept me from posting as frequently as I would like, so unfortunately I’ve been spending most of this trip not working through the cultural negotiations that I would like to in this blog. I’ll refrain from the full update of things that I’ve seen in the last few cities.
One thing that I want to make note of is that everything I see go on in this country defies any attempts at essentializing or assumption. It ultimately seems so much like our own country, but always strangely different. I came up with a way of phrasing it that I think contextualizes it accurately (and in the only way I know how, sociologically), and that is to say this: This country embraces a different set of values and has a different social structure as a result, but it fits within the same structure as our country’s does. This is best illustrated in the example of how many young Turkish women don headscarves and seem to follow Islam slightly stricter than their parents might’ve. This action, which Americans might conceive of as reactionary or conservative, is actually rebellious in a country where secularism has been militantly enforced. Furthermore, in more conservative cities like Bursa, where we saw a performance of the famous Sufi “whirling dirvishes” two nights ago, more “traditional” life is often not the norm but is nonetheless a present force that might make a comeback in a few decades.
I find this particularly interesting considering that Turkey is trying to ascend to the U< a path at least partly complicated by the fact that most EU members look upon rising trends of conservative Islam in their own countries as something threatening to the fabric that European secularism stands on. Thus, a current government that is more favorable to open display of Islamic belief and religious laws within the country could complicate nearly everything. I wish I had more time or energy to unpack the issue in this post or others, but since it’s pretty obvious that I’m rambling I should stop now. I hope that these are issues I can talk about more with students at the university in Istanbul that we’re visiting, one of Europe’s premier schools.