"About time" was this reviewer's response to a collection of essays reconsidering the Atatürk experiment in secularism and Western orientation some sixty years on. Essays, almost all by Turks, offer high-quality though overly jargon-laden discussions of such topics as architecture, women, and scholarship.
The book's highlight is undoubtedly an unassuming 12-page essay, "The Quest for the Islamic Self within the Context of Modernity," by Nilüfer Göle, an associate professor of sociology at Boğaziçi University in Istanbul. Göle establishes the enormous cultural chasm between the Atatürkists' Westernizing ideals and what had come before, then shows how today's Islamists are trying "to maintain an identity separate from that of the dominant West." In other words, rather than see Islamists as products of failed economies, she shows the acutely important cultural dimension of their effort. To illustrate these points, she looks in more depth at the question of the body, especially the female body, and contrasts the Western notions of care and exposure with the thoroughly different Islamic concepts. Göle concludes by noting the paradox of Islamic pop music and fashion shows—two signs indicating the ubiquity of Western modernity.
All this should be self-evident, but it is not; most analysts of Islam pay too little attention to culture in their fascination with material well-being. Göle has succinctly shown why they are wrong.