Seminar: Ozan Aksoy – Hirsute politics: beards and veils as strategic signals of religiosity?
Title: Hirsute politics: beards and veils as strategic signals of religiosity?
Abstract: Are religious practices partly signals—observable actions meant to inform on unobservable “qualities”? If so, does the reliability of these signals depend on social and political incentives that favour the pious? We aim to address these questions with two research designs. First, we compare provinces where Turkey’s Islamic Justice and Development Party (AKP) just won the election in 2004 with the provinces in which AKP just lost. We find that women, including those who are non-religious, now veil far more in the former provinces than in the latter, while there is no significant difference between the two types of provinces regarding praying frequency. In a second research design, we extend our work to beards by comparing the West Bank and Gaza. While the two regions are similar in many aspects (culture, language, religion, etc.), Gaza has been ruled by an organisation which encourages Islamic mores, but the West Bank is governed by a secular one. We find that the two regions do not differ significantly regarding the prevalence of unobservable religious behaviours and beliefs. However, in Gaza veiling and beards are much more common than in the West Bank. Taken together and considering additional analyses, we interpret these results as evidence that religious practices could partly be strategic responses to policies which favour those who are or appear pious.
Bio: Ozan Aksoy is Associate Professor of Social Science at the UCL Social Research Institute, University College London. His research interests include cooperation, trust, and religious behaviour. He uses game theory, statistical and computational methods, and laboratory and natural experiments as research tools. He is the recipient of the 2019 Raymond Boudon Award for Early Career Achievement of the European Academy of Sociology. His recent work has been published, among others, in American Sociological Review, American Journal of Sociology, Social Forces, Nature Human Behaviour, European Sociological Review, and Sociological Science.
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