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“I vote, therefore I am:” Rituals of Democracy and the Turkish Chief Rabbi

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Abstract

This article describes how the election and investiture of a chief rabbi in 2002 created a unique space for Turkish Jews to debate the meaning of democracy. I document current Turkish Jewish discourses about democracy by combining ethnographic observations of the election season with an analysis of the production and reception of local narratives (speeches, news articles, and interviews) about the process. I then analyze the election and inauguration as a “politics of presence” in which democracy is seen not only as a practice through which to debate ideas but a discursive move to represent collective difference in the public sphere. As such, this article contributes to discussions about the performative nature of minority politics and how these alternative discursive spheres relate to the broader contexts in which they occur.

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