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Hüseyin Kurt

PhD in History

I am a doctoral candidate at Northeastern University studying the Ottoman empire, modern Middle East, modern Europe, and World history. I am interested in state-religion relations in imperial settings and nation-states. Currently, I work on my dissertation project: “Strategies of Survival: Popular Piety and Subaltern Publicity of Islamic Revival in Early Republican Turkey, 1925-1960.” I investigate how the subordinate strata of the Turkish nation-in-the-making outside major urban centers of Anatolia survived the repressive regulations and aggressively secular measures of the Kemalist state from 1925 until 1960. From a subaltern perspective, I examine religion-state relations focusing on Said Nursi’s Nur community as a case study for a social history of religious life in the early Turkish Republic. I analyze the ways in which religious commonfolk resisted the top-down imposition of Kemalist cultural experiments and their strategies to re-shape cultural and religious policies of the state in the long run. I also analyze the contributions of ordinary people to the Republic of Turkey in its transformation into a more pluralistic political entity than before as well as to republican values. These values included self-improvement, self-initiative, public opinion, collective decision-making, popular sovereignty, the national identity of Turkishness, active citizenship with civil and human rights including but not limited to the freedom of conscience and the right to practice religion, dedication to the nation, as well as participation into the collective good. My research demonstrate that Nurcus’ struggle to survive as a group of pious people in a hostile secular regime, whose way of life and strong beliefs in the Afterlife were at odds with the positivist teachings of the Kemalist education system and public policies, forced Nurcus to configure certain workable but non-confrontational strategies. By this way, they could bypass state intervention into their religious lives but keep public peace for a potential rapprochement in the future with the state. Thus, Nurcus negotiated the character of national identity and secularism, and contributed to the democratic experience of the Turkish Republic during the multiparty regime in the 1950s. I received my B.A. in International Relations from Istanbul University focusing on diplomacy and world politics. I earned two Master’s degrees; one in Islamic Studies from Hartford Seminary in Connecticut and the other in Ottoman & Modern Middle East History from State University of New York, Binghamton. I engaged in religious work at Bloomfield Muslim Community Center in Connecticut before coming to Northeastern University to study World History. I am an avid fan of public history and fond of visiting historical sites around me.

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Cohort: 2017

Research Interests: Social and religious movements, intellectual and cultural history, knowledge and reform in the Muslim world, Islamic political thought, and global history of constitutionalism.  

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