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Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Explaining anti-Turkish attitudes in the EU - book excerpt

I just re-read an old post and saw that I promised to post excerpts from my book, Turkey and the European Union: Christian and Secular Images of Islam. That promise has fallen by the wayside but here is a short passage from the conclusion to the penultimate chapter, in which I have looked at depressing poll data regarding attitudes within the EU toward Turkey's EU bid and towards Turks in general. My explanation for the hostility is based on the historical examination in previous chapters:
Negative stereotypes of Turkey and Turks, of Muslims and Islam have a long history among Christians and in Europe, and have been repeatedly invoked in the ongoing attempts to create common Christian or European identities out of the diverse social fabric of the continent. The discursive and affective powers of this imagery were amplified by its inclusion in larger narratives that enabled their audiences to identify with a broader community, and to find a compelling moral purpose in its struggles against a typically inferior and/or dangerous Other. For these reasons, said images and the attitudes they evoked have become deeply embedded in European collective memory, understood not as the static recollection of a true past but as an evolving struggle to define this past, conditioned as much by contemporary realities as by the intersubjective meaning structures and categories left us by past generations.
The good news is that, while contemporary prejudice may be widespread on the aggregate European level of analysis, it is not ubiquitous. Although we have not had the space to illustrate this, the figures vary considerably between and within countries, with Austrians standing out as most skeptical in the 2006 Eurobarometer (81 percent of Austrians would say no to Turkey even if it complied with all the membership criteria), followed by Germans and Luxembourgers (69 percent). Swedes are the most supportive, followed by the Dutch and Slovenians (60, 55, and 53 percent in favor, respectively). 

UPDATE 2012-01-28: I changed the title of the post from "anti-Turkish stereotypes" to "anti-Turkish attitudes" because I realized that the latter is a better description of the argument. 

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