Under what conditions do global scripts resonate among ordinary people? Neo-institutional world polity theory has tended to sideline this question by privileging macro-comparative explanations of states’ adoption and social movement activists’ framing of global scripts. Adopting a negative case approach, we draw on concepts from cultural sociology to explain why global scripts fail to resonate among ethno-religious minorities in Antakya, Turkey. Antakya has been exposed intensely to global minority rights and multiculturalism discourses; it has been targeted by various ethnic movement activists, and its diverse population has long experienced stigma and discrimination stemming from Turkey’s model of nationhood. Yet, ordinary people there have seldom utilized global diversity scripts in their everyday struggles for recognition. Drawing on longitudinal qualitative fieldwork between 2004 and 2015, we find that global scripts fail to match people’s cultural schemas of perceiving and reproducing boundaries—their local repertoires of diversity—due to a deep-seated ambivalence toward the category of “minority.” This lack of resonance potentially weakens popular support for substantial policy reforms advancing minority rights and is one among several factors explaining why Turkey’s turn from an exclusionary to an inclusionary model of nationhood has remained largely ceremonial.
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Ninety percent of Christians are Orthodox; the majority of the rest are Catholic, Protestant, or Armenian Gregorian.
Numbers at the city level do not exist, but additional local population figures can be found in Ozgen (2015, 43).
The former is a heterodox Muslim community residing along Turkey’s southern Mediterranean coast (in the cities of Mersin, Tarsus, Adana, and Antakya), as well as in coastal Lebanon and Israel. While Alevis in Central and Eastern Anatolia speak predominantly Turkish or Kurdish, Alawis in Antakya speak Arabic, and their religious practices are influenced by Arab Islamic culture. For example, they exclude women from religious rituals; they fast for thirty days in Ramadan; and they worship at mosques or tombs of Alawi saints rather than at a cemevi (a house of gathering for Turkish and Kurdish Alevis). Notwithstanding distinct doctrinal orientations and communal identities, both Alawis and Alevis share grievances of stigma and exclusion.
See Table 4 in Appendix.
Similar to “extended fieldwork,” LQR takes various forms, such as continuous research in a single community, follow-up visits to the original site, or re-interviewing the same informants periodically. What sets LQR apart is the “deliberate way in which temporality is designed into the research process making change a central focus of analytical attention” (Thomson et al. 2003, 185).
See Appendix for the Turkish language local and national media sources, local ethnic organizations, and the interviewee profiles.
Class background (measured by educational attainment and professional occupation), rather than gender, age, or geographical location, created the greatest variation in responses. Educated and professional interviewees followed the national news and local initiatives, were more receptive to rights discourses, and a few were politically engaged. Working-class respondents were more skeptical of rights discourses; if not opposed to rights, these respondents were at least indifferent to them, suggesting that “rights were useful” albeit not something they were asking for.
Throughout the text, the number in parentheses denotes the year the interview was conducted: A (‘04) stands for a 2004 interview.
Such claims for individual rights might also be anchored in global scripts, notably in the standard package of liberalism that has characterized the post-war human rights regime. However, because we have focused on global diversity scripts (collective minority rights; multiculturalism), we did not explore the potential influence of other global scripts.
Akin to claims for equal citizenship rights, the “universalistic” strategy of boundary blurring might draw on global human rights tropes. But what is crucial for our argument is that both strategies are anchored in local repertoires of diversity such as “peaceful history,” “mosaic,” or “collective fight in the war.” As a consequence, global diversity scripts emphasizing categorical distinctions cannot resonate among ordinary people.
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We would like to thank Elisabeth Anderson, Elisabeth Boyle, Zachary Elkins, Fatma Müge Göçek, Eric Hamilton, Markus Dressler, Michèle Lamont, Kiyoteru Tsutsui, Gülay Türkmen-Dervisoğlu, our anonymous reviewers, and the editors of Qualitative Sociology for their insightful comments and valuable feedback. Thanks are due also to Büşra Mahmutoğlu for her meticulous research assistance and to Sinem Ilseven and Brian Pinaire for their careful copyediting. Earlier versions of this paper were presented at the workshop “Imagining and Regulating Ethnic and Religious Diversity in Modern Turkey,” held at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity (2016), as well as at the 113th Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association (2017), where participants offered helpful comments.
Funding for this research was provided by New York University Abu Dhabi’s Division of Social Science and by the Max Planck Fellow Group “Governance of Cultural Diversity—Socio-Legal Dynamics” at the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity.
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Ozgen, Z., Koenig, M. When Global Scripts Do Not Resonate: International Minority Rights and Local Repertoires of Diversity in Southern Turkey. Qual Sociol 45, 149–187 (2022). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11133-021-09504-0