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Muslim Nationalism and the new Turks

Princeton University Press, November 2012

Turkey has leapt to international prominence as an economic and political powerhouse under its elected Muslim government, and is looked upon by many as a model for other Muslim countries in the wake of the Arab Spring. This book reveals how Turkish national identity and the meanings of Islam and secularism have undergone radical changes in today’s Turkey, and questions whether the Turkish model should be viewed as a success story or cautionary tale.
Jenny White shows how Turkey’s Muslim elites have mounted a powerful political and economic challenge to the country’s secularists, developing an alternative definition of the nation based on a nostalgic revival of Turkey’s Ottoman past. These Muslim nationalists have pushed aside the Republican ideal of a nation defined by purity of blood, language, and culture. They see no contradiction in pious Muslims running a secular state, and increasingly express their Muslim identity through participation in economic networks and a lifestyle of Islamic fashion and leisure. For many younger Turks, religious and national identities, like commodities, have become objects of choice and forms of personal expression.
This provocative book traces how Muslim nationalists blur the line between secular and Islamic, supporting globalization and political liberalism, yet remain mired in authoritarianism, intolerance, and cultural norms hostile to minorities and women.

Jenny's Essays

My reflections on places I have traveled, people I have known, and subjects that interest me, from the secret life of cancer to ice cream making. You can find the essays collected here:

The Winter Thief

(New York: W. W. Norton, March 2010)

January 1888. Vera Arti carries The Communist Manifesto in Armenian through Istanbul’s streets, unaware of the men following her. The police discover a shipload of guns and the Imperial Ottoman Bank is blown up. Suspicion falls on a socialist commune Arti’s friends organized in the eastern mountains. Investigating, Special Prosecutor Kamil Pasha encounters a ruthless adversary, Vahid, the head of a special branch of the secret police. Vahid has convinced the Sultan that the commune is leading an Armenian secessionist movement and should be destroyed, along with surrounding villages. Kamil must stop the massacre, but finds himself on the wrong side of the law, framed for murder and accused of treason. His family and the woman he loves are threatened. Exploring the dark obsessions of the most powerful and dangerous men of the dying Ottoman Empire, The Winter Thief also reflects the mad idealism of these turbulent times.

"White's best book to date..."
--Booklist, Starred Review

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The Abyssinian Proof

(New York: W. W. Norton, February 2008)

The Ottoman Empire is plagued by thefts of antiquities from mosques and churches that, within days, appear for sale in Europe. Among them is a reliquary, presumed lost for four hundred years and around which an elaborate and mysterious sect has grown. In Istanbul, magistrate Kamil Pasha is under pressure to break the smuggling ring as tensions between Christians and Muslims are aroused and riots feared. A mysterious adversary stops at nothing to get the reliquary first. With the Balkans aflame and Kamil’s personal life in upheaval, the search into the old neighborhoods where Istanbul’s crime rings reside may lose Kamil not only his position but also his life. Jenny White enters this time of distrust and turmoil, re-creating the gritty underworld of a dying empire.

The Sultan’s Seal

(New York: W. W. Norton, February 2006)

The naked body of an Englishwoman washes up in Ottoman Istanbul wearing a pendant with the Turkish sultan’s seal.




"CSI goes Ottoman Empire."
--Booklist, Starred Review

Islamist Mobilization in Turkey

(Seattle: University of Washington Press, 2002)

An accessible description of twentieth-century Turkey that explains the rise of Islamic politics in the 1980s and 1990s. Discusses Turkish urban life, the family, women and political activism, and new styles of veiling.

Money Makes Us Relatives: Women's Labor in Urban Turkey.

(Second Edition, London: Routledge, 2004)

A look into Turkish family life and the effect of Turkey’s economic reforms on women in the 1980s. Shows how women's home-based production for the global market in the 1980s is viewed as an extension of their domestic work -- highly culturally valued, but poorly compensated.

"Portrait of the Scholar as a Young Novelist"

A humorous look at the adventures of a scholar turned novelist.

You can find the entire essay at: