Europe and Turkey: Does religion matter?
Ever since Claude Lévi-Strauss, a social anthropologist, introduced the term “l’égo et l’autre” it has become very fashionable to apply the “Self” and the “Other” to international affairs as well as to history. Shortly thereafter, concepts such as “identity politics” or the “politics of identity” began to fill research agendas. Although there is nothing wrong with mapping identities, it has certain methodological drawbacks for scholarship. Many times overemphasizing identities, in an effort to neatly categorize them, results in defining peoples and events based solely on ethnic/racial, national, or religious straitjackets. This is not very different from applying the principles of classifying botanical fauna to the human fora, which does not necessarily contribute to our knowledge, especially in geographies where religious/linguistic/ethnic identities overlap. Cosimo de Medici (“The Great,” Duke of Florence, banker, 1519–1603), one of the great men of the Renaissance once said, “I am human, so nothing about humanity is alien to me” (quoted in Çaykara 2005: 373). His statement makes sense today only if we remember the connection between the word “other” and its Latin version “alienus.” Today, despite all the hype of globalization, humanistic and political cosmopolitanism is absent. The fast pace of our world also brings about simplistic and categorical sociopolitical descriptions that are often hostile and divisive.