Skip to main content
×
Home
    • Aa
    • Aa

Legally Armenian: Tolerance, Conversion, and Name Change in Turkish Courts

  • Ceren Özgül (a1)
Abstract
Abstract

Over the last fifteen years, hundreds of Muslim citizens claiming Armenian descent have submitted petitions to Turkey's secular legal authorities asking for changes to both their name and religion in the public record. In this article, I discuss the name-change cases of Armenian return converts to further the debates on Turkish secularism and to critique the body of scholarship that welcomes the governing Justice and Development Party's legal reforms as a measure of growing religious tolerance. In the article's first part I analyze the historical foundations of the regulation of religion and name changes in Turkey by fully and explicitly engaging with law as a site where minority difference is constructed, authorized, and challenged. The article's second half offers an alternative reading of how tolerance functions as an aspect of the Justice and Development Party's reforms. Based on my investigation of specific legal forms of argument that converted Armenians and their lawyers put forward in today's secular courts, and how legal officers of the state respond to them, I demonstrate that legal reform has shifted the definition of religion as a marker of minority difference in legal space. I argue that the historical context of name change and religious conversion forces the limits of existing understandings of freedom of religion in Turkey, and that this renders visible historical injustices that cannot be resolved simply through the notion of “religious tolerance” in the courts.

  • View HTML
    • Send article to Kindle

      To send this article to your Kindle, first ensure no-reply@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about sending to your Kindle.

      Note you can select to send to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be sent to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

      Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

      Legally Armenian: Tolerance, Conversion, and Name Change in Turkish Courts
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Dropbox

      To send this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about sending content to Dropbox.

      Legally Armenian: Tolerance, Conversion, and Name Change in Turkish Courts
      Available formats
      ×
      Send article to Google Drive

      To send this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you use this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about sending content to Google Drive.

      Legally Armenian: Tolerance, Conversion, and Name Change in Turkish Courts
      Available formats
      ×
Copyright
Corresponding author
cozgul@umich.edu
Linked references
Hide All

This list contains references from the content that can be linked to their source. For a full set of references and notes please see the PDF or HTML where available.

Nadia Abu El-Haj . 2012. The Genealogical Science: The Search for Jewish Origins and the Politics of Epistemology. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.

Murat Akan . 2011. The Infrastructural Politics of Laiklik in the Writing of the 1961 Turkish Constitution. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 13, 2: 190211.

Talal Asad . 2006. Trying to Understand French Secularism. In Hent de Vries and Lawrence E. Sullivan , eds., Political Theologies: Public Religions in a Post-Secular World. Bronx, N.Y: Fordham University Press, 494526.

Eliane S Azevedo . 1980. Anthropological and Cultural Meaning of Family Names in Bahia, Brazil. Current Anthropology 21, 3: 360–63.

Marc Baer . 2004. The Double Bind of Race and Religion: The Conversion of the Dönme to Secular Turkish Nationalism. Comparative Studies in Society and History 46, 4: 682708.

Marc Baer , Ussama Makdisi , and Andrew Shryock . 2005. Tolerance and Conversion in the Ottoman Empire: A Conversation. Comparative Studies in Society and History 51, 4: 927–40.

Karen Barkey . 2008. Empire of Difference: The Ottomans in Comparative Perspective. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Ceren Belge . 2006. Friends of the Court: The Republican Alliance and Selective Activism of the Constitutional Court of Turkey. Law and Society Review 40, 3: 653–92.

Marcy Brink-Danan . 2010. Names that Show Time: Turkish Jews as “Strangers” and the Semiotics of Reclassification. American Anthropologist 112, 3: 384–96.

Laurence M Carucci . 1984. Significance of Change or Change of Significance: A Consideration of Marshallese Personal Names. Ethnology 23, 2: 143–55.

John Comaroff and Jean Comaroff . 2004. Criminal Justice, Cultural Justice: The Limits of Liberalism and the Pragmatics of Difference in the New South Africa. American Ethnologist 31, 2: 188204.

Jennifer Connolly . 2009. Forbidden Intimacies: Christian-Muslim Intermarriage in East Kalimantan, Indonesia. American Ethnologist 36, 3: 492506.

Susan Bibler Coutin . 1995. Smugglers or Samaritans in Tucson, Arizona: Producing and Contesting Legal Truth. American Ethnologist 22, 3: 549–71.

Selim Deringil . 2000. “There Is no Compulsion in Religion”: On Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire: 1839–1856. Comparative Studies in Society and History 42, 3: 547–75.

Selim Deringil . 2012. Conversion and Apostasy in the Late Ottoman Empire. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Mayanthi L. Fernando 2010. Reconfiguring Freedom: Muslim Piety and the Limits of Secular Law and Public Discourse in France. American Ethnologist 37, 1: 1935.

D. Bloxham and Fatma M. Göçek . 2008. The Armenian Genocide. In Dan Stone , ed., The Historiography of Genocide. London: Palgrave Macmillan, 344–72.

Gastón Gordillo . 2006. The Crucible of Citizenship: ID-Paper Fetishism in the Argentinean Chaco. American Ethnologist 33, 2: 162–76.

Ayhan Kaya . 2013. Europeanization and Tolerance in Turkey: The Myth of Toleration. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave MacMillan.

Syed Malik Khatib . 1995. Personal Names and Name Changes. Journal of Black Studies 25, 3: 349–53.

Dicle Koğacıoğlu . 2004. Progress, Unity and Democracy: Dissolving Political Parties in Turkey. Law and Society Review 38, 3: 433–61.

Michal Kravel-Tovi . 2012. Rite of Passing: Bureaucratic Encounters, Dramaturgy, and Jewish Conversion in Israel. American Ethnologist 39, 2: 371–88.

Ahmet Kuru . 2009. Secularism and State Policies toward Religion: The United States, France, and Turkey. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Lina Molokotos-Liederman . 2007. The Greek ID Card Controversy: A Case Study of Religion and National Identity in a Changing European Union. Journal of Contemporary Religion 22, 2: 187203.

Esra Özyürek . 2006. Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Politics in Turkey. Durham: Duke University Press.

Esra Özyürek . 2009b. Christian and Turkish: Secularist Fears of a Converted Nation. Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 29, 3: 398412.

Gyanendra Pandey . 1999. Can a Muslim Be an Indian? Comparative Studies in Society and History 41, 4: 608–29.

Ayşe Parla . 2011. Undocumented Migrants and the Double Binds of Rights Claims. Differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies 22 1: 6489.

Elizabeth A. Povinelli 2002. The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism. Durham: Duke University Press.

J. C. Scott , J. Tehranian , and J. Mathias . 2002. The Production of Legal Identities Proper to States: The Case of the Permanent Family Surname. Comparative Studies in Society and History 44, 1: 444.

Hootan Shambayati and Esen Kirdis . 2009. In Pursuit of “Contemporary Civilization”: Judicial Empowerment in Turkey. Political Research Quarterly. 62, 4: 767–80.

Mary Margaret Steedly . 1996. The Importance of Proper Names: Language and “National” Identity in Colonial Karoland. American Ethnologist 23, 3: 447–75.

Ronald Grigor Suny and Fatma Müge Göçek . 2011. Introduction: Leaving It to the Historians. In Ronald Grigor Suny , Fatma Muge Göçek , and Norman M. Naimark , eds., A Question of Genocide: Armenians and Turks at the End of the Ottoman Empire. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Anne Sutherland . 1994. Gypsy Identity, Names, and Social Security Numbers. PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review 17, 2: 7584.

Hans J. Trenz 2007. Reconciling Diversity and Unity—Language Minorities and European Integration. Ethnicities 7, 2: 157–85.

Meltem Türköz . 2007. Surname Narratives and the State-Society Boundary: Memories of Turkey's Family Name Law of 1934. Middle Eastern Studies 43, 6: 893908.

Uḡur Ümit Üngör . 2011. The Making of Modern Turkey: Nation and State in Eastern Anatolia, 1913–50. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Rubie S. Watson 1986. The Named and the Nameless: Gender and Person in Chinese Society. American Ethnologist 13, 4: 619–31.

Barbara Yngvesson and Susan Bibler Coutin . 2006. Backed by Papers: Undoing Persons, Histories, and Return. American Ethnologist 33, 2: 177–90.

Mesut Yeğen . 2004. Citizenship and Ethnicity in Turkey. Middle Eastern Studies 40, 5: 682708.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

Comparative Studies in Society and History
  • ISSN: 0010-4175
  • EISSN: 1475-2999
  • URL: /core/journals/comparative-studies-in-society-and-history
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *
×

Metrics

Altmetric attention score

Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 9
Total number of PDF views: 60 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 286 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between September 2016 - 23rd September 2017. This data will be updated every 24 hours.