This week’s interview/podcast is with Markus Dressler, author of the book “Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam.” The book examines how the idea of Alevism is an almost entirely modern concept, formed towards the end of the Ottoman Empire as part of efforts to integrate disparate Anatolian religious groups into the Turkish and Muslim nation.

Download a podcast of our conversation.

Here’s a transcript of the interview at the Hürriyet Daily News.

Here’s my review of the book.

Writing religion

Subscribe to the Turkey Book Talk podcast via iTunes, PodBean, or Soundcloud.

NB – I’ve also just created a Facebook page for the podcast, where I’ll be posting new episodes. Check it out here.


This week I spoke to Cengiz Şişman about his new book on the history of the Dönmes, a crypto-religious sect that first developed around Jewish messiah Sabbatai Sevi in cities around the Ottoman Empire in the 17th century.

Download a podcast of our conversation. Or listen below:

Subscribe to the Turkey Book Talk podcast via iTunes, PodBean, or Soundcloud.

Read an edited transcript of the interview at the Hürriyet Daily News.

And read my review of Şişman’s book, “The Burden of Silence: Sabbatai Sevi and the Evolution of the Ottoman-Turkish Dönmes.”

The burden of silenc


My interview this week was with Professor Michael M. Gunter, author of “Out of Nowhere: The Kurds of Syria in Peace and War” (Hurst).

Out of Nowhere

The slim book charts the Syrian Kurds’ rise to international profile since 2011, taking in their modern history under Ba’athist oppression, their development of “national conscience,” and ties between the PYD in northern Syria and the PKK in Turkey.

Download the interview in podcast form.

Please subscribe to the Turkey Book Talk Podcast via iTunes, via Podbean, or via Soundcloud.

Here’s the text of the interview at HDN.

And here’s my review.

This week I spoke to Ozan Özavcı about his book “Ahmet Ağaoğlu and the Genealogy of Liberalism in Turkey” (Brill), on the life of one of the most prominent intellectuals bridging the late Ottoman/early republican years.

Download the podcast of the interview here.

Subscribe to the Turkey Book Talk Podcast via iTunes, via Podbean, or via Soundcloud.

Here’s an edited version of the interview at HDN.

And here’s my review of the book.

If you’re interested in the subject, here’s my interview with Ankara University’s Alexandros Lamprou from earlier this year, discussing social engineering in the early Turkish Republic.

Turkey book talk

Finally, a shout out to my brother James Armstrong, who has designed the terrific icon for my podcast above. Follow him on Twitter and check out his great work at his website.

Turkey on the brink (again)

September 17, 2015

I’ve written a piece for New America’s Weekly Wonk newsletter about the current mess in Turkey. Unfortunately it’s not very optimistic:

“Turkey has been rocked in recent weeks by a fresh wave of violent clashes between its security forces and the militant Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). After each PKK attack on security forces, politicians and the media stress that Turkey stands “united” against terror, but rarely has the country been more bitterly divided…

“The situation now seems to be spinning out of anyone’s control … Turkey desperately needs unifying statesmen to rise above the political fray. Instead, it is heading into yet another needless and divisive election campaign. President Erdoğan faces a personal fight for his political survival. The AKP’s senior figures, enjoying legal immunity so long as they remain elected officials, are paranoid in the face of what they see as a stark choice: office or jail.

“With the stakes so high, what should we expect from the November elections? What if again no single-party winner is produced, forcing fresh coalition talks? Turkey’s major parties are essentially based on expressions of identity politics, so voters tend to shift allegiances very little. But Turkey is also a very unpredictable country, and the violence currently shaking it may also shake voter behavior in ways currently unclear. Do Turks agree with Erdoğan that only a strong AKP under his thumb can resolve the current unrest? Or do they think this instability is being cynically manipulated by the AKP? Can an election even take place in environment of such bloody instability? Whatever the answers, the fact that such questions are even being asked makes it difficult to be optimistic about Turkey’s short-term future.”

Read the whole thing at New America.

This week I spoke to Diana Darke, the author of “My House in Damascus: An Inside View of the Syrian Revolution.” The book describes her experiences after buying a 17th century courtyard house in the center of Damascus in 2005, including Syria’s descent into bloody civil war after 2011.

Here’s a link to my interview with Darke at the Hurriyet Daily News.

And here’s my review of the book from a couple of days ago.

House In Damascus


The interview is also available in podcast form. Download here.

Subscribe to the Turkey Book Talk podcast via iTunes (and while you’re at it do rate the show!)

Subscribe via PodBean.

I should say that the two things in the title are unrelated.

My interview this week was with Toni Alaranta of the Finnish Institute of International Affairs, discussing his new book “National and State Identity in Turkey: The Transformation of the Republic’s Status in the International System” (Rowman). In the book, Alaranta traces how the entrenchment in power of authoritarian political Islam in Turkey after 2002 was critically aided by the West’s misguided search for a “moderate Muslim democracy” after the end of the Cold War and the 9/11 terror attacks.

Read the interview at the Hürriyet Daily News here.

And read my review of the book here.


This also marks my first step into the world of podcasting. From now on I’ll be publishing these author interviews in audio as well as written form, through my new podcast “Turkey Book Talk.” The podcast will include some extra parts that didn’t make the written edit, as well as some fancy music, etc.

Click here to listen to the first episode (a work in progress as I’m still figuring out the best host, player, etc).

To subscribe to the feed, visit my PodBean page.

Subscribe via iTunes here.

Please spread the word to anyone you think may be interested, and do get in touch with any suggestions on how I can improve the podcast!


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