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Islam, modernity and foreign policy
Author: Ayla Göl

Turkish facing east is about the importance of Turkey’s relations with its Eastern neighbours – Azerbaijan, Armenia and the Soviet Union - during the emergence of the modern Turkish nation-state from the ruins of the Ottoman Empire. The originality of Turkey facing east lies in part in its theoretically informed analysis of history exploring the causal links between the construction of a modern nation-state, secular identity and nationalised foreign policy during the transition from an Islamic Empire to a modern state. The role of the Islamic legacy, territorial unity and national identity construction are re-examined in order to understand the complexity of a long historical and sociological process. Hence, the principal strength of this book is that not only it combines historical and theoretical arguments in order to provide a better understanding of the foreign relations of a Muslim country from a critical and interdisciplinary perspective but also applies the new approach to the analysis of Turkish foreign policy towards the South Caucasus between 1918 and 1921. Turkey facing east stands out with its original interdisciplinary approach to the critical analysis of Turkish transition and foreign policy making that offers perspectives on the extant possibilities for the particular transitional states resulting from the Arab spring uprisings.

Ayla Göl

Chapter 1 explains why a new interdisciplinary theoretical framework is necessary in order to explain the complexity of state transformation and foreign policy making when understanding a Muslim country’s engagement with European modernity. This is the first work within the literature of FPA that seeks to explain the role of foreign policy in modern nation-state building in relation to the candidate term ‘transitional’ states. After identifying the three pillars of the new framework - the study of foreign policy, transition to modernity and the ideology of nationalism – it explains why FPA has become the departing point of an interdisciplinary approach. The chapter then identifies the five main dimensions of foreign policy as a consequence of the transition to modernity in non-European societies.

in Turkey facing east
Ayla Göl

Chapter 2 explains why the study of modernity is chosen as the second pillar. In particular, the relationship between foreign policy and modernity is explored in order to understand the process of transition from an Islamic entity to a modern nation-state. The empirical concern of the chapter is to explain the essence of the Turkish modernisation: Turkey’s integration into Western international system was long duré that illustrates how the civilizational and normative aspects of European modernity can be compatible with Islam rather than a clash of competing Muslim and Western civilizations. It draws a particular attention to the alternative interpretations of modernity as multiple modernities and their implications for Turkish politics.

in Turkey facing east
Ayla Göl

Chapter 3 explains why the ideology of nationalism has become the third pillar of the new theoretical framework to complete an interdisciplinary approach to foreign policy of transitional states. One of the main aims of this chapter is to explore the connection between modernity and nationalism in order to combine this with the analysis of Turkish foreign policy. Afterwards, the second aim is to understand the emergence of Turkish nationalism as an unintended outcome of modernity and its impacts on Turkish foreign policy towards the East.

in Turkey facing east
Ayla Göl

Chapter 4, first, explores the goals of Turkish nationalist foreign policy; and then explains how the Wilsonian principal of ‘self-determination’ was interpreted in Eastern affairs at the end of Ottoman and Russian Empires as non-European powers. It highlights why other social movements – i.e. the rise of local congresses in Anatolia as a reaction to the Allied and the Bab-i Ali’s (Sublime Porte) plans – were crucial in applying the principle of self-determination to the emergence of the Turkish nation that is generally ignored in the Western literature on Turkey. The last section focuses particularly on the formulation of a nationalist foreign policy towards the Bolsheviks in the expectation of resolving the territorial clashes between Turkish and Armenian nationalist claims over their perceived historic homelands, and establishing an area of security in Turkey’s eastern borders.

in Turkey facing east
Ayla Göl

Chapter 5 continues challenging commonly accepted interpretations of Turkish politics in Western literature by questioning the rules of new diplomacy and war in the East between Ankara and Moscow. Based on evidence from historical documents and memoirs of key decision-makers, the findings of this chapter draw attention to a widely neglected aspect of Turkish nation-building: the conditions of a ‘tacit agreement’ between the new regimes in Ankara and Moscow against the West at the expense of small states in the East. It explains how Turkish nationalists skilfully engaged with war against Armenia and played the rules of diplomacy in Eastern affairs.

in Turkey facing east
Ayla Göl

The ‘Turkish question’ is historically related to the possibility of establishing an Islamist, socialist or nationalist state. This chapter emphasises the importance of another frequently neglected international event, the Baku Congress of 1920, which was as the First Congress of the Peoples of the East. It explores the extent to which the ideologies of Islamism, communism and nationalism were in competition when deciding the future of the Turkish state. In particular, it explains why the nationalist group was not the only potential ally of the Bolsheviks and why the Baku Congress became the first important international platform to discuss the Turkish question among the other issues of the Eastern peoples. It concludes by highlighting the leadership rivalry among the pan-Islamist Enver Pasha, Communist Mustafa Suphi and nationalism Mustafa Kemal to establish their authority in both domestic and foreign affairs.

in Turkey facing east
Ayla Göl

The final chapter focuses on the recognition of the modern Turkish nation-state by international society. It explores the extent to which Turkish-Bolshevik relations were based on their common struggle against Western imperialism. After analysing the causes of the historic rapprochement between the newly established governments of Ankara and Moscow, it particularly engages with the challenges of modern statehood – sovereignty, legitimacy, territoriality and national identity – during the emergence of modern Turkey as the first example of a modern state in a Muslim country.

in Turkey facing east
Abstract only
Ayla Göl
in Turkey facing east