How did he cut across multiple audience segments to bring them in front of the

How did he cut across multiple audience segments to

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was the secret of his magical "ratings"? How did he cut across multiple audience segments to bring them in front of the television set? This line of questioning led me to focus on moments of passionate intensity in Yaşar Nuri Öztürk's per- formance, when he assumed a "fighter frame" to lash out against the enemies of "real Islam." What brought diverse audience segments in front of the televi- sion set, and knit them together, I concluded, was the desire to watch him fight the perpetrators of "fake Islam"—the identities of whom invoked a shared fund of knowledge based on narratives of Turkish nationalism. The question of who "we" are and "what we stand for" as secular Muslims acquired facticity in the ongoing moral struggle between "real" and "fake Islam," even as the term, as an abstract concept and political practice, became more meaningless, implacable, and illusive. What seemed an impossible illusion to sustain—"we are all secular Muslims"—was fabricated in the heroic fight against "those" who benefited from "fake Islam." If the line of questioning I pursued led me to a more layered understanding of his "magical" relationship with audiences, it also revealed the terra incognito of my research. What about the way that his arguments underwent public cir- culation? During the course of my research I had become increasingly aware or the difference between the primary content of Yaşar Nuri Öztürk's "political sermons (addressed to viewers) and the way that his statements were selectively picked up and amplified as they entered public circulation. His "magical" tele- vision ratings and the "talk value" of his statements in public circulation were obviously linked. This link, however, was not a matter of temporal ordering in 246 Ayşe Öncü
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time (first one, then the other) but was politically defined and interactive. There existed (already) a range of controversies surrounding the centralized Director- ate of Religious Affairs in the political conjuncture of the late nineties. I risked the crudities of an abbreviated account in order to emphasize the preexistence of strategic interests (both dominant and subordinate) whose political agendas were at odds with the official policies of the Directorate. Within this politically charged context, the television persona Yaşar Nuri Öztürk proved to be a readily accessible signpost, lending concrete form to ongoing debates. His public ad- dresses provided a repertoire of statements likely to prove "controversial," which were immediately picked up, abridged in the journalistic catchphrases of the moment, and reproduced as the latest installment in an ongoing drama—Yasar Nuri Öztürk versus the Directorate of Religious Affairs. I termed this a "public text," because it provided a popular idiom of "circulation," one that allowed for multiple, divergent interpretations of what the Directorate stood for and whose interests it served.
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