GRM 2010 GRM 2011

Abstract Details

Family Name:
First Name:
Dr. Mazhar
Title of Paper:
Turkey and Arab Gulf: Between Historical Ambivalence and Political Affinity
Paper Proposal Text :
Turkey occupies a very paradoxical status in the official and public imagination in the Arab world. Through historical narratives, Turkey (à la its Ottoman past) has been perceived as an imperial power which not only “dominated,” “marginalized” and “oppressed” the Arab population, but excluded them from the global process and flows of historical change and transformation. Through ideological narratives, Turkish “secular” political culture was seen as an “assault” on “Arab values” and societies and a bridge for western cultural imperialism. Yet examining recent public discourse in the Arab Gulf region, Turkey and its so called “Turkish Model” seem to acquire central significance in the debates about reform in the region as well as the future of Islam and modernity in politics. The “Turkish model,” mainly espoused by traditional (and some neo-traditional) Islamic discourse is conceived as a strategy to reconstitute Islamic traditions into modern civic and economic paradigms. In addition to the celebrated “Turkish Model” approach, Turkish popular TV series dubbed in Arabic Syrian dialect have generated a media revolution and captured the imagination of millions in the Arab world and the Gulf region in particular, with close to 85 million viewers watching the Noor soap operas finale. The dramatic increase in tourism from the Gulf region, for example, has been cited as one (of many) major outcomes of such popular culture impact on the region. However, and yet again, for some this is nothing but an instrument of soft power for Turkish cultural hegemony—a form of “cultural neo-Ottomanism.”
The purpose of this paper is to critically examine the public and popular discourse about Turkey and its cultural and historical impact on the Gulf region. In particular, the paper will assess the seemingly contradictory narratives about Turkey’s history in the Gulf region and its projected role in the future from two different perspectives: Islamic perspective and popular cultural perspective. One of the main objectives in this paper is to show that what appears to be a paradoxical view of Turkey in the Gulf region is, in fact, a reflection and a manifestation of a cultural and political ambivalence about national character, identity formation and social values in the Gulf region itself.