ArticlesNo. 101, Fall 2017

From Coups that Silence Ezan-s to Ezan-s that Silence Coups!: Sonic Resistance to the 2016 Turkish Military Coup

In the early morning hours after the July 15, 2016 Turkish military coup, Turkish President Recep Tayyıp Erdoğan FaceTimed in to CNNTürk to issue an apparently desperate call for Turkish citizens to occupy city squares and “defend democracy.” Erdoğan’s call was loudly repeated by Islamic calls to prayer from muezzins synchronized nationwide via text message. Hearing these calls, thousands of Turks ventured out and collectively reclaimed urban streets and squares for Erdoğan’s government. This paper examines the process by which Islamic calls to prayer forged Turkish citizens into a unisonous body that claimed and transformed secular urban spaces, initiating an epochal neo-Ottoman shift in Turkish politics. I engage with this process via a hybrid virtual-physical ethnographic site derived from coup resistance, treating YouTube videos and contemporary Turkish media as both windows into on-the-ground resistance and sites at which Turks negotiate their political subjectivity. To unpack the role of sacred sound and affective embodiment in leading coup resistance and transforming space (Hirschkind 2006; Massey 2005; Thrift 2009), I employ Turino’s theories of Peircean semiotics and participatory music making. I argue that Islamic calls to prayer-led resistance not only turns the tables on the repressive sonic regimes of Republican Turkey, but also challenges understanding of twenty-first century nationalisms rising in the twittersphere. In the early hours of July 16, 2016, Facetime and text message laid the foundations, but it was Islamic calls to prayer resounding in streets and squares that forged citizens into a unisonous body capable of transforming secular urban space and the future of Turkish politics.