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The Politics behind the Veil

  • Aksoy O
  • Gambetta D
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Using a natural experiment, we find that in provinces where Turkey’s Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) just won the election in 2004, women, including those who are weakly religious or non-religious, now veil far more than in provinces in which AKP just lost, the more so the poorer they are. This effect, as we predict, does not occur for praying regularly which is more costly and harder to observe practice. We argue that veiling is higher in AKP provinces not only because of a generic aim to conform to the stricter mores fostered by the victorious party. We find that those who veil, particularly those in AKP provinces who are not pious, are more politically active than those who do not veil. This may be an indication that veiling could partly be a strategic response to policies, which favour those who are or appear pious. Our study suggests that observable religious practices may have their independent dynamics driven by the pursuit of instrumental goals. Our results also suggest that parties with a religious ideology have an advantage over their secular counterparts in solving the clientelistic information problem, for they can rely on religious symbols for screening and signalling.




Aksoy, O., & Gambetta, D. (2020). The Politics behind the Veil. European Sociological Review.

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