The soundscape of Islamic populism
Auditory publics, silences and the myth of democracy
Focusing on the failed coup attempt organized by a faction within the Turkish Armed Forces on July 15, 2016, this paper examines the soundscape of Islamic populism (Hadiz, 2016) as embraced by Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) and its affective-auditory publics. Drawing on Althusser’s theories of ideology and interpellation concerning the Islamic call (Spadola, 2014), I explore AKP’s strategic use of Islamic sound as affect in governmentalizing urban space in order to understand the role that sound played in galvanizing support against the attempted coup. During the first twenty-four hours of the coup attempt, systematically regenerating discursive modes of Islamic rhetoric and sounds, utilizing the narratives of democracy, nationalism, and treachery to mobilize its publics, AKP re-cultivated the already existing polarized identity politics and recreated the sectarian spaces of belonging and otherness. I argue that AKP’s appropriation of sonic and aural qualities of Islam – particularly the public recitation of Sala (a form of Islamic call) – purposefully rechannelled the “ethical listening” (Hirschkind, 2006) of pious selves into a politically (re)functionalized listening in the populist reproduction of an Islamic soundscape. Such reproduction of the urban soundscape was responded to in a variety of ways by the mobilized auditory publics in service of the party while creating silenced private spaces of opposition.
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