Struck by the contrast between the stale Turkey she had read about before reaching the country and the fresh one she found on arrival, Vuorelma turned this discrepancy into a book, where she minutely takes up this purported problem of media, political analysis, and public opinion. A more intelligible version of her title might read, "A Century of Foreigners Stereotyping Turkey."
The author, a researcher at the University of Helsinki, gives her point of view away already on page 3 by citing Edward Said and then never, ever deviating from his party line. For example, the texts she relies on about Turkey "are read not only as descriptions of the international but also as descriptions of the Western self." She takes far more interest in "the loose epistemic community of journalists, scholars, diplomats, and politicians" than in Atatürk and Erdoğan.
Vuorelma divides the era under study into five parts (to 1952, to 1991, to 2003, to 2011, and currently), but those matter less than "four narrative traditions" that she finds "already evident in the early 1900s" and still present now; this continuity "shows that the beliefs that they carry are deep-seated and enduring." Those traditions present
Turkey as a country that (1) "we" are potentially losing, (2) is standing at a decisive crossroads, (3) is led by strongmen who embody the state, and (4) is constantly threatened by a creeping Islamisation.
Sounds insightful, no? But, in a dramatic refutation of this thesis, Matthew deTar argues in his far superior study, Figures That Speak: The Vocabulary of Turkish Nationalism, that the continuities in Turkish history are real, not just the result of foreigners' limited understanding. As summarized in the blurb to his book,
If the surface of Turkish politics has changed dramatically over the decades, the vocabulary for sorting these changes remains constant: Europe, Islam, minorities, the military, the founding father [Atatürk].
Beyond her mistaken assumption, Vuorelma distorts writings in her sample to fit the four neat rubrics. As an example, take a 1994 National Interest article, "Islam's Intramural Struggle," that she discusses. I happen to know it well, being its author. Vuorelma asserts, "The beliefs that feature in the 'losing Turkey' narrative tradition are present in Pipes' analysis."
But a look at my article finds quite the opposite. I present (pre-Erdoğan) Turkey as a country flush with "Muslims confident to learn from outsiders, oriented toward democracy, and ready to integrate in the world." I portray Turkey as enjoying "a uniquely well-formulated and widely accepted philosophy of secularism" and serving as "the great success story of the Muslim world." More, "The Turkish model threatens to undermine the Khomeinist experiment much as the Western model ultimately undermined the Soviet experiment." I call on the Turks "to emulate the mullahs and disseminate their own ideas to the Muslim world" and for Washington "to encourage the Turks to stand strong." In short, I call on Turks to promote their ideas more forcefully. Where's the "losing Turkey" theme here? Only in Vuorelma's imagination.
Vuorelma has an ax to grind and, like too many academics, does not let petty facts get between her and the grinding stone.
 Syracuse: Syracuse University Press, 2022.