World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th – 24th 2010


SUFISM, NEO-SUFISM AND SPIRITUALITY IN TURKEY - 2/2: Cultural and Social Memory (440) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 11.30 am-1.30 pm

· 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: Mark Sedgwick (Aarhus University, Arab and Islamic Studies Unit, Department of the Study of Religion)

Paper presenter: Valeria Ferraro (Università degli Studi di Napoli “L’Orientale”), “Inscribing the Mevlevî heritage into the Turkish public memory”.
This paper aims to describe how the patrimonialization of the Mevlevî heritage, a process carried out both at national and international level, affected the survival of the brotherhood in post-republican Turkey. In particular, it reports how different actors (mainly associations linked to the ancient brotherhood) negotiated with the State and international actors (UNESCO) for successfully carving out a space for themselves in the public arena, making use of collective spaces (lodges converted in national museums, concert halls) and time (ceremonies). In particular, it will focus on specific cases as the involvement of the Çelebis’ foundation, established by the heirs of the brotherhood’s Master, Celâleddîn Rûmî (Mevlânâ) in the recent inclusion of the semâ ceremony into the UNESCO’s intangible heritage list and the activities promoted by them, and other Mevlevî-linked associations for the UNESCO’s year in honor of Rûmî (2006-2007).
Being a part of my PhD research, the methodological frame for this study heavily relies on memory studies’ approach, which considers both heritage and religion as integrative elements for the constitution of cultural and public memory, in combination with studies on Sufism in contemporary Turkey. Interviews made during the doctoral research, to both actors involved in the patrimonalization processes and Mevlevî associations’ representatives, will be presented in order to show how several “visions” of the Mevlevî tradition coexist together while the one proposed by the Çelebis acquired a certain recognition at “official” level.

Paper presenter: Zeynep Tüfekçioğlu (Justus-Liebig-Universität Giessen), “Sufism in contemporary Turkish Crime Fiction: The mystery of Şems-i Tebriz in Bab-ı Esrar”
Crime novels have become a major component of popular culture in many countries, including Turkey, as a glance at any bookshop or a bestseller book list would confirm. Although crime fiction has been part of Turkish literature since 1884, when Ahmet Mithat Efendi's Esrar-ı Cinayet (Mysterious Murder) was published, the production of the genre in Turkey has recently started to be taken seriously on an academic level for, an investigation of Turkish crime novels not only helps to identify burning social and political concerns, but also provides clues as to how they are construed by Turkish writers. The aim of my paper is to elaborate on one of these issues, namely religiosity in contemporary Turkish crime fiction. By focusing on Bab-ı Esrar (2008), the latest novel of Ahmet Ümit, who is one of the most prominent and popular writers of Turkish crime fiction, the study aims to show how the mysterious murders in the plot, which also reconstructs the murder of Şems-i Tebriz, functions as a possible ground to present Sufism in popular crime fiction. I hope that my analysis of the novel will demonstrate how contemporary Turkish crime novels bring about crucial questions regarding Turkish history and culture, while presenting alternatives to orthodox Muslim religious identity.

Paper presenter: Béatrice Hendrich (Philipps Univ. Marburg, Centre of Near and Middle East Studies), “Re-membering Sufism at Cyprus”
The Sufic revival in Turkey has made its way to Cyprus. The paper will discuss the relation between re-making and re-membering Sufism at Cyprus during the last years, but also the differences in this process in comparison with that in Turkey. Among others, the particular political circumstances may count among the factors that shape the respective memories and recent activities differently from those in other related regions.

Paper presenter:Philipp Bruckmayr (Institute of Oriental Studies, University of Vienna), "The particular will (al-irādat al-juz’iyya): excavations regarding a latecomer in kalām terminology on free will and its position in Naqshbandi discourse"
It is commonly known that the question of human free will in kalām was always a contested terrain, yet widely characterized by the usage of a shared terminology including most prominently the likes of kasb (acquisition), ikhtiyār (free choice), irāda (will) and qudra/istitā‛a (power/capacity). An often overlooked late development in this direction was the emergence of the notion of the particular will (al-irādat al-juz’iyya and similar formulations).
Although absent as a terminus technicus from classical as well as from the major “postclassical” Māturīdi-Hanafi works of the 14th-15th century, the notion of the particular will has become standard usage in many texts on the subject in Ottoman and post-Ottoman theology from the 17th century up to the present. Intriguingly, it seems as if the notion and concept of the particular will with its complement, the universal will (al-irādat al-kulliyya), became particularly prominent in Ottoman Naqshbandi discourse, which served to guarantee a common reliance on this terminology even among major Turkish scholars of the 20th-21st centuries such as Said Nursi (d. 1960) or Fethullah Gülen (b. 1924). Thus, seemingly unattached to issues of Sufism, the contemporary usage of the notion in question, seems to provide us with an example of how a discourse and its distincitve terminology, generated primarily within Turkey’s formerly most widespread Sufi tarīqa, has filtered into the works of the country’s most eminent figures of the state-induced post-tarīqa era. What is more this process, among others, seems to provide us with an unexpected indicator of the way the local Naqshbandiyya has influenced Turkish Islamic culture and doctrine as presented by non-tarīqa Turkish religious thinkers acquiring mass followings in the republican era. An influence mostly over-shadowed by the fact, that both the Turkish state as well as major independent actors such as the Gülen movement have chosen Rūmī and the Mevlevis as the historical ambassadors of Turkish Sufism and also of a Turkish face of Islamic culture in general.