Vasfiye Betul Toprak is a PhD candidate in Sociology at UVA. Her research interests are in political authority, political myth, cultural theories of the state and modernity. Vasfiye received her B.A. in English Literature from Hacettepe University Turkey, and an M.A. in Global and Sociocultural Studies from FIU. Prior to joining UVA, Vasfiye worked as an English Instructor at various universities in Turkey.
Towards a Sociology of Political Authority: Contestations of Political Authority and Political Myth in Nineteenth Century Ottoman Empire
In my dissertation, I trace the making and unmaking of political authority, as distinct from power, violence, and force, in the nineteenth century Ottoman Empire. I specifically focus on the role of “political myth” in the constitution of political authority. I theorize political myth as the semiotic foundation upon which contestations of political authority take place and seek to demonstrate that whenever political authority is at crisis, there is always a political myth that is also at crisis. Political myth, in this dissertation, is defined as the work on a common sacred narrative (relying on the work of Chiara Bottici) through which individuals answer their need for significance and their need to know that the world is not indifferent to them. Through this analysis, I seek to reconsider theories of modernization as secularization and disenchantment, and hypothesize that modernization is a transformation in the space of political myth, rather than disenchantment. More importantly, I seek to demonstrate that political authority, whether modern or pre-modern has a mythical dimension.