Turkey's most controversial religious figure is the Muslim cleric and author Fethullah Gülen, whose followers have established around one thousand schools in 135 countries. Since 2003, the Gülen-affiliated educational non-profit TÜRKÇEDER has organized the International Turkish Olympiad, a competition for children enrolled in the Gülen schools. The showpiece of this event is its song contest, in which students perform well-known Turkish songs before live audiences of thousands in cities all over Turkey and reach millions more via television broadcasts and the Internet. While the contest resembles American Idol in its focus on individual singers and Eurovision in its nationalistic overtones, the fact that the singers are performing songs associated with a nationality not their own raises intriguing questions about the intended message of the competition as well as about its publics. To answer these questions, I analyzed YouTube videos of the competition and examined YouTube comments, popular websites, and newspaper opinion columns. I conclude that the performers themselves are meant to feel an affinity with Turkish culture and values, while Turkish audiences receive a demonstration that Gülen's brand of Islam is compatible with Turkish nationalism. Moreover, the competition reaches a multiplicity of publics both within and beyond Turkey. While some of these can be characterized as essentially oppositional counterpublics, I find that, in the case of the Turkish Olympiad, the dichotomy between rational public and emotional or irrational counterpublic established collectively by such theorists of publics as Jürgen Habermas and Michael Warner begins to break down.
|Advisor:||Newhall, Amy, Betteridge, Anne|
|School:||The University of Arizona|
|Department:||Middle Eastern & North African Studies|
|School Location:||United States -- Arizona|
|Source:||MAI 54/05M(E), Masters Abstracts International|
|Subjects:||Music, Multimedia Communications, Near Eastern Studies|
|Keywords:||Counterpublics, Gülen movement, Publics, Song competitions, Turkey, Turkish schools|
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