On 3 April 2013, Professor Asli Bâli presented her draft paper, A Kemalist Secular Age? Negotiating the Islam-Modernity Binary in Turkey, at the Constitutional Transitions Colloquium. Bâli is Assistant Professor of Law at the UCLA School of Law. A video recording of her presentation is available here.
Bâli’s article engages with the concept of secularity as articulated by Charles Taylor, whose account of the origins and evolution of the concept of secularity is based in the contingent cultural context of a largely European post-enlightenment trajectory. Bâli’s paper examines Turkish secularization policies that, while modeled on the West, were imposed indigenously and voluntarily (rather than through colonial compulsion). She finds evidence in the Turkish case of several of the forms of secularity described by Taylor, but suggests that examining secularity in Turkey highlights the incompleteness of Taylor’s narrative, which offers little analysis of critical encounters between East and West that were constitutive of both. Specifically, she argues that Taylor’s work does not provide an account of the diffusion of Western models of secularism in non-Western contexts – both through intellectual exchange and through institutional borrowing – and the alternative indigenous expressions of secularity produced through such diffusion. Bâli uses the Turkish case to show how the borrowed concept of secularity has taken an idiosyncratic trajectory and one that has produced an alternative framing of legal and constitutional debates on the definition and role of secularism.
During the colloquium session, Bâli discussed how the Ottoman Empire, the Turkish republic under Kemal and, more recently, Turkey under the Justice and Development Party (AKP) all undertook to define and regulate religion in different ways, in order to further their broader goals for the state. Bâli also described some of the ongoing debates in Turkey regarding how state institutions interact with religion, including the courts, the education system, and the civil service.
The final session of the Constitutional Transitions Colloquium, on 1 May, will feature Professor Andrew March of Yale University.