Being Alevi in Turkey: discursive unity and the contestation of communal boundaries, 1980-2009

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(Thesis) M.A.
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This study investigates the ongoing reconceptualization of Alevi self-understanding within Turkey since 1980. Departing from previous historiography that has focused on the centrality of festivals for Turkey’s Alevi community, this thesis examines the way in which Alevis have come to achieve discursive unity through intra-communal concern for three critical issues, namely, the Religious Affairs Ministry, compulsory religious education in public schools, and Alevi houses of worship. This study further examines the deployment of an Alevi terminological repertoire that seeks to demonstrate Alevis’ close affinity with “universal values” for the purposes of distancing the community from the country’s Sunni population. Lastly, in exploring how being a “minority” in Turkey has been complicated due to negative perceptions of the 1923 Lausanne Treaty, this study suggests that the case of Alevis sheds important light on the fundamental contradictions of what it means to be a citizen in the contemporary Turkish Republic.
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