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.
Max WeberEconomy and Society: An Outline of Interpretive Sociology (New York: Bedminster Press1968). See for example Steven Eke and Taras Kuzio “Sultanism in Eastern Europe: The Socio-Political Roots of Authoritarian Populism in Belarus” Europe-Asia Studies 52 no. 3 (May 2000): 523; Shmuel Eisenstadt Traditional Patrimonialism and Modern Neopatrimonialism (Beverly Hills: Sage Publications 1973); Anja Franke Andrea Gawrich and Gurban Alakbarov “Kazakhstan and Azerbaijan as Post-Soviet Rentier States: Resource Incomes and Autocracy as a Double ‘Curse’ in Post-Soviet Regimes” Europe-Asia Studies 61 no. 1 (2009): 109–140; Alisher Ilkhamov “Neopatrimonialism Interest Groups and Patronage Networks: The Impasses of the Governance System in Uzbekistan” Central Asian Survey 26 no. 1 (2007): 65–84; Rico Isaacs “Informal Politics and the Uncertain Context of Transition: Revisiting Early Stage Non-Democratic Development in Kazakhstan” Democratization 17 no. 1 (2010): 1–25; Rico Isaacs Party System Formation in Kazakhstan: Between Formal and Informal Politics (New York: Routledge 2011); Nicholas Kunysz “From Sultanism to Neopatrimonialism? Regionalism within Turkmenistan” Central Asian Survey 31 no. 1 (March 2012): 1–16; Marlene Laruelle “Discussing Neopatrimonialism and Patronal Presidentialism in the Central Asian Context” Demokratizatsiya 20 no. 4 (Fall 2012): 301–324; Juan Linz and Alfred Stepan Problems of Democratic Transition and Consolidation: Southern Europe South America and Post-Communist Europe (Baltimore md: Johns Hopkins University Press 1996); Lawrence Markowitz “The Sub-National Roots of Authoritarianism: Neopatrimonialism and Territorial Administration in Uzbekistan” Demokratizatsiya 20 no. 4 (Fall 2012): 387–408; Sébastien Peyrouse Turkmenistan: Strategies of Power Dilemmas of Development (Armonk ny: M.E. Sharpe 2012).
Henry Hale“Democracy or Autocracy on the March? The Colored Revolutions as Normal Dynamics of Patronal Presidentialism,”Communist and Post-Communist Studies39 no. 3 (2006): 307. See for example Laruelle “Discussing Neopatrimonialism” 301–324.
Barbara GeddesParadigms and Sand Castles: Theory Building and Research Design in Comparative Politics (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press2003) 51. See for example Rico Isaacs and Sarah Whitmore “The Limited Agency and Life-Cycles of Personalized Dominant Parties in the Post-Soviet Space: The Cases of United Russia and Nur Otan” Democratization 21 no. 4 (2014): 699–721.
See for example Michael Denison“The Art of the Impossible: Political Symbolism, and the Creation of National Identity and Collective Memory in Post-Soviet Turkmenistan,”Europe-Asia Studies61 no. 7 (2009): 1167–87; Helena Goscilo Putin as Celebrity and Cultural Icon (New York: Routledge 2013); Slavomír Horák “The Elite in Post-Soviet and Post-Niyazow Turkmenistan: Does Political Culture Form a Leader” Demokratizatsiya 20 no. 4 (Fall 2012): 371–385; Slavomír Horák “The Battle of Gökdepe in the Turkmen Post-Soviet Historical Discourse” Central Asian Survey 34 no. 2 (April 2015): 149–161; Abel Polese and Slavomir Horák “A Tale of Two Presidents: Personality Cult and Symbolic Nation-Building in Turkmenistan” Nationalities Papers 43 no. 3 (May 2015): 457–478; Jan Šír “Cult of Personality in Monumental Art and Architecture: The Case of Post-Soviet Turkmenistan” Acta Slavica Japonica 25 (2008): 203–220.
Natalie Koch“The Monumental and the Miniature: Imagining ‘Modernity’ in Astana,”Social & Cultural Geography11 no. 8 (2010): 769–787; after Laura Adams and Assel Rustemova “Mass Spectacle and Styles of Governmentality in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan” Europe-Asia Studies 61 no. 7 (2009): 1249–76.
Simonetta Falasca-ZamponiFascist Spectacle: The Aesthetics of Power in Mussolini’s Italy (Berkeley: University of California Press1997). See also a special issue of the journal Modern Italy (1999 vol. 3 no. 2).
Lorraine Dowler“Gender, Militarization, and Sovereignty,”Geography Compass I6 no. 8 (2012): 490–499; Cynthia Enloe Bananas Beaches and Bases: Making Feminist Sense of International Politics (Berkeley: University of California Press 2000); Natalie Koch “Security and Gendered National Identity in Uzbekistan” Gender Place & Culture 18 no. 4 (August 2011): 499–518; Iris Young “The Logic of Masculinist Protection: Reflections on the Current Security State” Signs 29 no. 1 (2003): 1–25; Nira Yuval-Davis Gender & Nation (London: Sage Publications 1997).
See for example Robert Bellah“Civil Religion in America,”Daedalus96 no. 1 (1967): 1–21; Carlton Hayes Nationalism: A Religion (New York: Macmillan 1960); Mark Juergensmeyer The New Cold War? Religious Nationalism Confronts the Secular State (Berkeley: University of California Press 1993); Mark Juergensmeyer “Nationalism and Religion” in Gerard Delanty and Krishan Kumar (eds.) The Sage Handbook of Nations and Nationalism (Thousand Oaks: Sage 2006) 295–306; Conor Cruise O’Brien God Land: Reflections on Religion and Nationalism (Cambridge ma: Harvard University Press 1988); Anthony D. Smith “The ‘Sacred’ Dimension of Nationalism” Millennium: Journal of International Studies 29 no. 3 (2000): 791–814.
Koch“Security and Gendered National Identity in Uzbekistan”499–518; Natalie Koch “Is Nationalism Just for Nationals? Civic Nationalism for Noncitizens and Celebrating National Day in Qatar and the uae” Political Geography 54 (2016).
James Bell“Redefining National Identity in Uzbekistan: Symbolic Tensions in Tashkent’s Official Public Landscape,”Ecumene6 no. 2 (1999): 183–213; Pierre Bourdieu “Social Space and Symbolic Power” Sociological Theory 7 no. 1 (1989): 14–25; Denis Cosgrove Social Formation and Symbolic Landscape (London: Croom Helm 1984); Denis Cosgrove and Stephen Daniels The Iconography of Landscape: Essays on the Symbolic Representation Design and Use of Past Environments (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1988); Sally Cummings Symbolism and Power in Central Asia: Politics of the Spectacular (London: Routledge 2010); James Duncan The City as Text: The Politics of Landscape Interpretation in the Kandyan Kingdom (New York: Cambridge University Press 1990); Benjamin Forest Juliet Johnson and Karen Till “Post-Totalitarian National Identity: Public Memory in Germany and Russia” Social & Cultural Geography 5 no. 3 (2004): 357–380; Geertz Negara; Geertz “Centers Kings and Charisma”; Joshua Hagen “Architecture Urban Planning and Political Authority in Ludwig I’s Munich” Journal of Urban History 35 no. 4 (May 2009): 459–485; Joshua Hagen “Architecture Symbolism and Function: The Nazi Party’s ‘Forum of the Movement’” Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 28 no. 3 (2010): 397–424; Natalie Koch “The Monumental and the Miniature: Imagining ‘Modernity’ in Astana” Social & Cultural Geography 11 no. 8 (2010): 769–787; Natalie Koch “The Violence of Spectacle: Statist Schemes to Green the Desert and Constructing Astana and Ashgabat as Urban Oases” Social & Cultural Geography 16 no. 6 (2015): 675–697; Pierre Nora Realms of Memory: Rethinking the French Past (New York: Columbia University Press 1996); Dmitri Sidorov “National Monumentalization and the Politics of Scale: The Resurrections of the Cathedral of Christ the Savior in Moscow” Annals of the Association of American Geographers 90 no. 3 (2000): 548–572; Lawrence Vale Architecture Power and National Identity (New Haven ct: Yale University Press 1992); Veyne Bread and Circuses.
Bülent Batuman“Minarets without Mosques: Limits to the Urban Politics of Neo-Liberal Islamism,”Urban Studies50 no. 6 (May 2013): 1097–1113; Alev Çınar “Imagined Community as Urban Reality: The Making of Ankara” in Alev Çınar and Thomas Bender (eds.) Urban Imaginaries: Locating the Modern City (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press 2007) 151–181; Kyle Evered “Symbolizing a Modern Anatolia: Ankara as Capital in Turkey’s Early Republican Landscape” Comparative Studies of South Asia Africa and the Middle East 28 no. 2 (January 2008): 326–341; Duygu Kacar “Ankara a Small Town Transformed to a Nation’s Capital” Journal of Planning History 9 no. 1 (2010): 43–65.
Sangeetha Swaroop“The World’s Largest Carpet: An Ode to Creativity and Exemplary Workmanship,”Al Shindagah(2008) available at: http://alshindagah.com/shindagah83/culture_2.htm (accessed January 24 2016).