Date of Award

Spring 5-22-2021

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts (BA)


Julie Kleinman, Ph.D.

Second Advisor

Caley Johnson, Ph.D.


This paper explores the nature of secularism and how it is used and understood in France and Turkey. I argue that governments can reassert their authority over their citizens by controlling national identity and citizenship through the vessel of secularism. I assert that this process creates tensions between citizenship and identity that are sharply revealed when analyzing the discourse surrounding veiled women. This paper presents an overview of the relevant literature written about this topic, then moves on to compare France and Turkey by examining the history of secularism in both countries and how this term has changed over time. In my analysis, I highlight how the evolution of secularism suggests that the term has been shaped by domestic and global forces that have allowed both governments to redefine their national identity and citizenship criteria. I conclude that the flexibility of the term enables these processes to happen, paving the way for the debates about the Islamic headscarf to unfold.