World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th – 24th 2010


SUFISM, NEO-SUFISM AND SPIRITUALITY IN TURKEY - 1/2: Social Change and Individual Endeavour (404) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 9.00-11.00 am

· NOT_DEFINED institution: Philipps Univ. Marburg, Centre of Near and Middle East Studies (Germany)

· NOT_DEFINED organizer: Béatrice Hendrich

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: SUFISM, NEO-SUFISM AND SPIRITUALITY IN TURKEY, This series of panels consists of two panels:
1. Social Change and Individual Endeavour,
2. Cultural and Social Memory.

The focus is on religion and religiosity in contemporary Turkey beyond mainstream religion like Sunni Islam as fostered by the Presidium of Religious Affairs. The series includes studies on Sufism in the broadest sense as well as research on non-Muslim religiosity or spirituality such as the Far East-oriented free meditation groups.
Even though Turkey has always been a country with a vivid and rich religious and spiritual life, interestingly research on non-mainstream religiosity remains to be restricted to minimum both inside and outside Turkey. Therefore, the aim of this panel is to bring together the few experienced researchers of this field in order to present and discuss their ongoing research and to single out not only new approaches and future projects, but also dead ends and practical constrictions in concrete research. Additionally, younger researchers will present their individual projects within the field and strengthen cooperation with the respective colleagues.

The panel pursues an interdisciplinary approach: Political Science, Religious Studies, Turkology and Ethnology are the disciplines represented in our panel so far. By means of interdisciplinary and internationality, the panel aims to overcome the scientific and communicative lacuna between different “schools” and disciplinary approaches. Almost routinely, Islamic Studies criticise Social Studies for a lack of knowledge regarding the facts in teaching, history, and rituals of the religious tradition that is the subject of study. On the contrary, Social Studies – and also Religious Studies - criticise Islamic Studies and Turkology for a tremendous lack of theoretical background and analytical instruments. This antagonism and silence between the disciplines has to be turned into a productive exchange of knowledge and approach in order to take on further challenges in the field.

The organizational forms, societal embedding and spiritual content of the respective groups are very sensitive towards any political or social change in Turkey. As relatively small and dynamic entities, they adapt to new circumstances and present solutions to new challenges in order to survive despite their precarious position. Moreover, the state influences the spiritual field via political and financial means. The outcome of this reflexive relationship may sometimes be observed in material objects as in architecture (restoration) and memorials, but is also often mirrored in intangible cultural productions. Additionally, general changes in social matters like the degree of gender equality or democratization of social relations find their ways into discourse and practice of sufic or spiritual groups. Hence, the interdisciplinary discussion of the societal change in general as well as the presentation of particular cultural productions will shed a light on the structure of this complex relationship.

The panel includes papers on historical phenomena and current developments. So far, the papers deal with Alevilik, Bektaşilik, Mevlevilik, and other tarikats, rooted or active in Turkey. However, further papers on biographical, theoretical, political or mystical questions are equally welcome.

Eventually, Barcelona provides an ideal platform for this panel not only because of the opportunities an international congress like WOCMES offers, but also because of the existence of spiritual activities in Barcelona like that of a Mevlevi group and some others. Therefore, this venue is an interesting vantage point for a spontaneous little field study of the panellists. The panel still accepts participants from different backgrounds and with differing approaches.

Chair: Catharina Raudvere (Univ. of Copenhagen, Section for History of Religions, Department of Cross-Cultural and Regional Studies)

Paper presenter: Fulya Atacan (Yıldız Technical University- Department of Political Science and International Relations, Istanbul), “Changing patterns of religiosity and Sufi Orders in Turkey”
In this paper how religiosity and Sufi orders has been changed due to immense socio-political change in Turkey will be analyzed.

Paper presenter: Benoit Fliche (CETOBAC, CNRS-EHESS-Collège de France), “Zöhre Ana, an Alevi prophetess”
Zöhre Ana is an Alevi “prophetess” who lives in Ankara. She has a charisma founded principally on therapeutic power. In this communication, I analyze her place and her authority in the contemporary evolution of Alevi spirituality in Ankara.

Paper presenter: Robert Langer (University Of Heidelberg, Collaborative Research Center 619 "Ritual Dynamics" Islamic Studies / Ottoman Studies), “Transnational Neo-Sufi Rituals: Oruç Rahmi Güvenç and TÜMATA in Turkey and Western Europe”
For years, Oruç Güvenç, his German wife Azize, and his loosely organised group of musicians, singers, and dancers (TÜMATA) from Turkey and various West-European countries is practicing a modern form of dervish ritual (Neo-Sufism), incorporating musical forms, songs, and dace practices from different parts of the Turkic world and several Islamic traditions. Focussing on the dance forms of the ‘Whirling Dervishes’ (Mevleviyye), but also practicing forms of modern western ‘Musical Therapy’ and ergo-therapy (like working with animals, such as e. g. dolphins), this ‘hybrid’ kind of complex ritual became very attractive to modernised citizens of Turkey as well as to West-Europeans. In this paper, the different roots of ritual practice and their application in varying contexts (such as İstanbul, Turkey, or Heidelberg, Germany) will be analysed according to their contextualised efficacy. Sources for this attempt are several participant observations, biographical data, publications and internal working materials of the Sufi group, and media coverage on their activities.