What kind of questions motivate(d) my research? What have been my answers? Below are some examples from my past and present research
How do state policies that regulate the relationship between ethnicity and nationality change? This was the question I attempted to answer in my article, "Regimes of Ethnicity" (World Politics, 2011), and in my book, Regimes of Ethnicity and Nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey (Cambridge University Press, 2012). I developed the concept of "regimes of ethnicity", and the typology of three ethnicity regimes: monoethnic, antiethnic, and multiethnic. In my book explaining the concept and the tripartite typology, I examined Germany, Turkey, the Soviet Union and the Russian Federation, as examples of monoethnic, antiethnic, and multiethnic regimes, respectively. In addition to the typology, I also formulated a theory of ethnic regime change (between these three ethnic regime types), which my three case studies also exemplified, since the policies regulating the relationship between ethnicity and nationhood in Germany, Russia, and Turkey were significantly changed / reformed around the turn of the 21st century. I argued that three factors are separately necessary and jointly sufficient for ethnic regime change: For an ethnic regime change to occur, a counterelite that has the support of constituencies with ethnically specific grievances has to be in power (e.g., government/executive), this counterelite has to have a new discourse on ethnicity and nationhood (e.g., multiculturalism, Islamic ummah, etc.), and this reformist counterelite also has to have a hegemonic majority in politics (e.g, legislature) rather than a razor thin / narrow majority. When these three conditions are met, countries go through ethnic regime change, which is a very rare process in political history, since ethnicity regimes are particularly path dependent, resilient institutions that rarely change after the initial nation-building stage.
Why are the Turkish, Algerian, and Pakistani states persistently challenged, since their founding, by both Islamist and ethnic separatist movements, with some of these challenges resulting in extremely violent confrontations? This was the question I attempted to answer in my article, "Religion and Nationalism: Contradictions of Islamic Origins and Secular Nation-Building in Turkey, Algeria, and Pakistan" (Social Science Quarterly, 2015). I argued that "these three states were founded on the basis of an Islamic [and multiethnic] mobilization against non-Muslim opponents, but having successfully defeated these non-Muslim opponents, their political elites chose a secular and monolingual nation-state model, which they thought would maximize their national security and improve the socioeconomic status of their Muslim constituencies. The choice of a secular and monolingual nation-state model led to recurrent challenges of increasing magnitude to the state in the form of Islamist and ethnic separatist movements."
Does religion motivate and intensify nationalism, or does religion moderate and even suppress nationalism? This was the question I attempted to answer in my article, "Nationalism and Religion in Comparative Perspective: A New Typology of National-Religious Configurations" (Nationalities Papers, 2022). I argued that "different configurations of religion and nationalism depend on two critical conditions: the degree to which the dominant religious tradition is doctrinally supraethnic and institutionally transnational, and the religious identity of the main adversary in the constitutive conflict that culminated in national statehood." Regarding the first critical condition, if the majority religion in the nation is already doctrinally ethnic (e.g., Hinduism, Judaism, or Shintoism) and institutionally national (e.g., Anglicanism, Lutheran national churches), then religion is likely to motivate and intensify nationalism. If the opposite is the case, that is, if the majority religion is doctrinally supraethnic (e.g., Christianity, Islam) and institutionally supranational (e.g., Roman Catholic Church, Sunni Islam), then religion is likely to moderate and even suppress nationalism especially against other coreligionists living in different nation-states. Regarding the second critical condition, which is even more important, it matters tremendously whether the founding / constitutive conflict (often independence war) of nation-building was fought against adversaries of the same religion, or adversaries of a different religion. If the constitutive conflict was fought against adversaries of a different religion, then religion reinforces nationalism even if the majority religion is a very supranational one. In contrast, if the constitutive conflict was fought against adversaries of the same religion, then religion moderates and even suppresses nationalism because nation-building severed and separated people of the same religion to adversarial national communities. The intersection of these two critical conditions creates four types of religious-national configurations that I explain and exemplify from real cases including American, Australian, Dutch, English, Irish, Israeli, Japanese, Levantine Arab (e.g., Lebanese, Syrian), Mexican, Pakistani and Turkish nationalisms.