Practices of Islamic Political Knowledge Production in Turkey: Between Local and Universal

By Talha Koseoglu
Submitted to Session P4726 (Provincializing Political Theory: Islamic Intellectuals and the Production of Knowledge in Turkey, 2017 Annual Meeting
Pol Science
Turkey;
Islamic Thought;
Based on an analysis of ongoing debates on the notions of political legitimacy and consent in leading Islamic journals in Turkey, this paper asks how Muslim intellectuals conceive of their own practices of knowledge production and whether they define their activity as part of the field of political theory as it is practiced in Western academia. Do they consider their intellectual activity as locally/Islamically relevant or as contributing to a universal body of knowledge? How do they posit themselves vis-à-vis Western political theorists? How do they qualify their intellectual activity in relation to knowledge produced within Western academia?

This paper seeks to present positions of Muslim intellectuals within the field of political theory by examining their debates on the sources of political legitimacy and the idea of consent that have appeared in influential Islamic journals in Turkey since the 1980s, such as Divan, ?slamiyat and ?slami Ara?t?rmalar Dergisi. It analyzes the extent to which Islamic and secular notions and theories of the state influence the debates on political legitimacy among Muslim intellectuals. In so doing, the paper aims to map out local and universal aspects of Islamic political thought in those debates in terms of both the sources they draw on and their political theoretical conclusions.

Muslim intellectuals in contemporary Turkey extensively engage in re-discovering and re-interpreting traditional sources of Islamic political thought with references to, and in light of, debates in the tradition of Western political thought. These new practices problematize not only the dichotomy of local and universal knowledge but also the classical Orientalist and Islamist positions regarding the incompatibility of the two traditions of thought. This paper argues that these new Islamic knowledge production practices are responses of Muslim intellectuals to the universalist claims of Western knowledges, and that they offer, at varying degrees, spaces for comparative type of political theorizing rather than representing a version of Islamization of knowledge that aims to isolate Islam from other knowledge traditions. The paper seeks to contribute to the emerging field of Comparative Political Theory by discussing whether political knowledge that is produced by non-Western intellectuals in general and Muslim intellectuals in particular qualifies to be political theorizing in its own terms, and whether this intellectual activity is of comparable value to political theories that are produced within Western academia.