Practices of Neo-Ottomanism: Making Space and Place Virtuous in Istanbul
How is public space defined in relation to questions of piety? What types of power and politics underpin these definitions and demarcate the possibilities of publicness in relation to religiosity? In the era of neoliberal urbanity and piety, these questions are global in a strong sense – from Falun Gong prayer sessions in Hong Kong to Hindutva organizers in Mumbai’s slums, from suburban American mega-churches to the problematic minarets of Switzerland’s mosques, urbanity and religion are increasingly entangled, both conceptually and politically. With this panoramic context in mind, this chapter examines how civil Islamic institutions in contemporary Istanbul can work to promote a novel, pious aesthetic of space and place in relation to secular ideologies of the city and spaces within it. For the purposes of this exploration, ‘piety’ identifies the nexus of practices, ideals, and sensibilities that constitute the discursive tradition of Islam (Asad, 1986); following Jürgen Habermas (1989) and his interpreters, I invoke the term ‘publicness’ to describe the abstract modes of sociality and discourse that define modern political subjectivity. My broad conceptual aim is to query how practices and categories of space and place form and inform the relationship between piety and publicness.