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Theory-consuming or Theory-producing?: Studying Turkey as a Theory-developing Critical Case

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Case studies of Turkey are typically read and cited as narratives of the Turkish case itself, suppliers of case-specific data, or at best, applications of more general theories. They are not perceived as theory-testing, producing, or even informing exercises. While this tendency partly results from the institutional, geographical–cultural, and methodological biases of extant social sciences, scholars may also be to blame for neglecting theory-development or for producing descriptive narratives. How can Turkish Studies scholars successfully contribute to general theory-development in their respective disciplines? The main value of Turkey for producing theory may lie in its rare combination of many qualities and in its temporal and regional variations. Thus, this article argues that, besides small-N and large-N comparative studies, the most promising way Turkish Studies can engage in theory-building may be by examining Turkey as a theory-developing critical case, i.e. as a crucial or, pathway or within-unit comparative case. For this, scholars would carefully design their studies as theory-infirming, theory-confirming, or theory-producing crucial case studies, utilize temporal and cross-sectional comparisons, and pay special attention to causal mechanisms, sequences, and processes. By using evidence from publications that draw on the Turkish case, the article shows that, since the 1990s, scholars have produced more research published in highly ranked journals of comparative politics, international relations and area studies. They also generate more single case studies with general theoretical ambitions and more visibility but so far with unclear actual theoretical impact. The article discusses some qualities of Turkey which make it a promising critical case for theory-development and how studying it this way can also help to achieve a better understanding of Turkey itself.
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Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Political Sciences and International Relations, KoƧ University, Istanbul, Turkey

Publication date: October 2, 2014

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