Tributes pour in for eminent sociologist Şerif Mardin

Published 08.09.2017 00:06

A funeral was held for Şerif Mardin yesterday in Istanbul while his students, among them a former prime minister, fondly remembered the prominent Turkish sociologist and political scientist who passed away at age 90 Wednesday.

Mardin had been under treatment at a hospital for illnesses related to old age when he passed away.

Dignitaries and the family of Mardin attended a funeral in Istanbul yesterday where his former students and colleagues eulogized him. The scholar, who was serving as a professor in Istanbul's Şehir University, was known for his work on the social evolution of modern-day Turkey.

"We will always fondly remember Mardin who has left behind an unparalleled legacy with his pioneering and breakthrough scientific studies in the areas of religion and modernization, civil society, ideology, and center-periphery relations in Turkey," a statement by Şehir University said.

The scholar was most recently the recipient of a Turkish Academy of Sciences (TÜBA) award given to academics and scientists known for their groundbreaking work.

Born in Istanbul in 1927, Mardin received his Bachelor's degree in political science from California-based Stanford University in 1948. He then went on to Johns Hopkins University for his graduate studies where he got his Master's degree in international relations in 1950. He then went back to Stanford and got his Ph.D. degree in political science in 1958.

Throughout his academic career, Mardin worked at Ankara, Boğaziçi and Sabancı universities in Turkey, and was also the chair of Islamic Studies at Washington-based American University for 10 years.

His works mostly deal with the modernization of Turkey, its socio-political transformation as well as politics and religion, mainly focusing on the late Ottoman and early Republican period of Turkey. His PhD dissertation titled "The Genesis of Young Ottoman Thought" was published by Princeton University in 1962. Former Prime Minister Ahmet Davutoğlu, an academic himself, was among funeralgoers and praised Mardin for leaving "a great legacy." "It is a great loss for academic circles. He taught the methodology of social sciences to a generation and introduced new concepts to them," Davutoğlu, who was a postgraduate student of Mardin, told reporters at the funeral.

Though his name was well known in academic circles, Mardin was probably known by the larger public after a 2008 interview where he spoke about "neighborhood pressure." A version of peer pressure, the notion was championed by the country's secular elite as, according to Mardin, people suffering from the pressure would feel ostracized in a predominantly religious society. The country's secular elite, fervent defenders of pressure on the pious or anyone they viewed as pious, clung to the notion that came barely nine years after the same secular elite orchestrated a witch hunt against Muslims that culminated in the collapse of the so-called "Islamist" government in Turkey. Mardin clarified in later speeches that though neighborhood pressure does exist, it cannot be attributed to any single segment of society and as a matter of fact, the entire society was "watching" each other.

Hakkı Öcal, another student of Şerif Mardin who is now an academic at İbn Haldun University in Istanbul, said Mardin is credited with introducing the Turkish sociology world to new concepts. "He studied religious sects for a long time and he was a person who strove to have pious people ‘make peace' with science, by proving that the religion and sects did not stall the progress of modern Turkey as claimed," he told Anadolu Agency.

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