The research questions that I engage with are at the intersection of comparative politics and global affairs with a particular focus on the role of Islam in politics. I have three main research agendas, all related to my thematic emphasis of Islam and politics: State policies toward religious minorities; comparative analysis of religion, secularism, and democracy; and religion and public goods provision.
State Policies toward Religious Minorities
In my first research agenda, I examine the impact of the international context on state policies toward religious minorities. My forthcoming book, Alien Citizens: State and Religious Minorities in Turkey and France (Cambridge University Press), examines how and when international pressure exerts change in institutions of state-religion relations in Turkey and France. In this book, I compare Turkey and France concerning the impact of international context on their treatment of religious minorities, Christians in Turkey, and Muslims in France. My article in Comparative Politics (2014), entitled “International Pressure, Domestic Politics, and Dynamics of Religious Freedom: Evidence from Turkey,” through an in-depth analysis of Turkish state policies toward Christian minorities, demonstrates how domestic actors strategically and normatively use international pressure to change state policies in the domestic realm. Additionally, in collaboration with other colleagues, I have two works in progress on Christian minorities in Jordan and Turkey (with Turan Kayaoglu), and Muslim minorities in France and the United States (with Bryan Brooks).
Religion, Secularism, and Democracy
In my other research agenda, I address the relationship between religion, secularism, and democracy in the Middle East. I seek to explore the impact of Islamic actors on regime change by examining their interactions with international context, domestic socio-structural factors, and political institutions. In my article published in Political Science Quarterly (2014), I demonstrate the impact of “timing” in democratic consolidation. This article, entitled “Critical Junctures as Catalysts in Democratic Consolidation: The Case of Turkey,” focuses on the complicated relationship between Islam, secularism and democratic consolidation in Turkey in the last decade. In another article, published in Uluslararası İlişkiler/International Relations (2016), I examine the conditions under which domestic ideological shifts produce ideology-based foreign policy. In this study, titled, “Ideology and Foreign Policy: A Comparative Analysis of Kemalist (1930-1939) and Islamist (2011-2015) Foreign Policies in Turkey,” I analyze why Kemalist elite pursued a cautious and pragmatic foreign policy in the 1930s while the Islamist elite implemented an ideology-based foreign policy in the first half of the 2010s. This study, which attempts to explain this variation, argues that those governments with low risk of being overthrown in domestic politics tend to pursue an ideologically-induced foreign policy if international environment offers a larger maneuver room to act. I am working on a book manuscript, titled, Two Tales of Islamism: The Rise and Fall of Muslim Democracy in Turkey. This manuscript analyzes the last two decades of Turkish politics to identify conditions under which Islamists pursue democratic or authoritarian policies. In another project supported by a research grant, I am examining the historical roots of the problem of authoritarianism in the Middle East. This study, by critically examining Islamic intellectual and political history, as it relates to governance and political development, is a unique one that combines Islamic theology and philosophical traditions with state institutions and social structures.
Religion and Public Goods Provision
In my final research agenda, in collaboration with Carolyn Warner, Christopher Hale, and Adam Cohen, I examine how religions, in general, and Catholicism and Islam, in particular, contribute to public goods provision. We conducted research using experiments and case studies of mosque and parish communities in four European countries. Based on this project I co-authored co-authored a book, Generating Generosity in Catholicism and Islam: Beliefs, Institutions and Public Goods Provision (Cambridge University Press, 2018). I also co-authored two articles, titled, “Religion and Public Goods Provision: Experimental and Interview Evidence from Catholicism and Islam in Europe” (Comparative Politics, 2015), and “Microfoundations of Religion and Public Goods Provision: Belief, Belonging and Giving Catholicism and Islam” (Politics and Religion, 2015). This project did not only look at historical, theological and faith-based traditions of giving in Catholicism and Islam but also analyzed the impact of social and political factors on the giving of Catholics and Muslims.
Interdisciplinary Collaborations on Religion and Human Development
In addition to these research questions, I engage in interdisciplinary collaborations on the relationship between religion and human development, especially on pressing issues such as peace, education, and economic development. In an article, “Ethnic Conflict and Gender Inequality in Education: The Case of Turkey” (Turkish Studies, 2018), I and my co-authors Jody Neathery-Castro and Selin Akyuz examine the role of ethnic conflict in gender inequality in education in Turkey. In a multi-authored (with Ian Pelletier, Leif Lundmark, Rachel Gardner, Gina Scott Ligon) article, we examine the strategies of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and Syria) in recruiting militants and suggest counter-messaging instruments. This work, titled as “Why ISIS’s Message Resonates: Leveraging Islam, Sociopolitical Catalysts, and Adaptive Messaging,” was published by Studies in Conflict and Terrorism (2016). In another project, which was funded by the University of Nebraska, I work with my student, Zahra Yasin, about the impact of violent conflicts on girls’ education in Afghanistan.