The “Personality Cult” Problematic: Personalism and Mosques Memorializing the “Father of the Nation” in Turkmenistan and the uae

The “Personality Cult” Problematic: Personalism and Mosques Memorializing the “Father of... This article analyzes the role of mosques dedicated to the “father of the nation” under two personalistic authoritarian systems: Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan and Sheikh Zayed in the United Arab Emirates ( uae ). Critiquing “cult of personality” narratives as Orientalist and analytically weak, I emphasize the constructed nature of charisma, asking how such personalistic regimes produce the image of a coherent figurehead—and to what end. As a discursive device, the personalistic leader-as-icon appears in a range of authoritarian regimes, and it is materially inscribed in the symbolic landscapes to create the impression of unity among elites and the masses. To illustrate how this works, I draw on research in Turkmenistan and the uae from 2012 through 2014, including landscape analysis of two mosques memorializing the countries’ founding fathers: the Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque in the outskirts of Ashgabat, and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi. http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Central Asian Affairs Brill

The “Personality Cult” Problematic: Personalism and Mosques Memorializing the “Father of the Nation” in Turkmenistan and the uae

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Publisher
Brill
Copyright
© 2016 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands
Subject
Articles
ISSN
2214-2282
eISSN
2214-2290
D.O.I.
10.1163/22142290-00304002
Publisher site
See Article on Publisher Site

Abstract

This article analyzes the role of mosques dedicated to the “father of the nation” under two personalistic authoritarian systems: Saparmurat Niyazov in Turkmenistan and Sheikh Zayed in the United Arab Emirates ( uae ). Critiquing “cult of personality” narratives as Orientalist and analytically weak, I emphasize the constructed nature of charisma, asking how such personalistic regimes produce the image of a coherent figurehead—and to what end. As a discursive device, the personalistic leader-as-icon appears in a range of authoritarian regimes, and it is materially inscribed in the symbolic landscapes to create the impression of unity among elites and the masses. To illustrate how this works, I draw on research in Turkmenistan and the uae from 2012 through 2014, including landscape analysis of two mosques memorializing the countries’ founding fathers: the Turkmenbashi Ruhy Mosque in the outskirts of Ashgabat, and the Sheikh Zayed Mosque, in the outskirts of Abu Dhabi.

Journal

Central Asian AffairsBrill

Published: Oct 3, 2016

Keywords: personalism; cult of personality; charisma; mosques; symbolic landscapes; authoritarianism; nationalism; Turkmenistan; United Arab Emirates

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