Accepted Paper:

"Letters to the editor": youth, Islam, and media in Turkey  


Sam Kaplan

Paper short abstract:

This study on "letters to the editor" that religious and secular Turkish youth send to newspapers addresses the semiotic and epistemic interface between youth and Islam in Turkish media and society.

Paper long abstract:

What is the relationship between sexual identities and religious consciousness among Turkish youth? The case I study—"letters to the editor" that religious and secular youth send to national newspapers — explores the writing strategies and interpretative conventions that enter into discussions about sex.

Once exclusively associated with adult society, newspapers, organs of information and public debate, have become a forum in which Turkish teenagers critically reflect upon collective identities. Two newspapers, one religious, the other secular, publish a weekly section "Letters to the editor," exclusively geared to the youth. The letters, which straddle several genres - the confessional conversation, the social critique, and the didactic homily, provide an outlet for young men and women to explore and discuss intimate topics. Most letters center on contemporary forms of sexuality and sexual relations and their compatibility - or lack of - with Islamic ways of life. My discussion of these letters will draw out three interrelated issues: newspapers as an environment of situated learning; letter-writing as a socially mediated textual performance which provide Turkish youth agency, especially participation in public debates; and the ongoing centrality of religion in personal issues. All three issues open up a series of crucial questions for investigating how young people perceive themselves as active creators and subjects of society.

Panel W031
Children, youth and religion: visions of mutuality and diversity across generations