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Defined on the edge of power: the Alevi identity through centuries of transition in Turkey




Yener-Roderburg, Inci Oyku

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Canberra, ACT : The Australian National University


This thesis will argue that one of the main challenges Alevis experience in Turkey is the lack of adequate historical credit afforded to them within Modern Turkish society. Though Alevis have a much older history than the Republic of Turkey, having occupied the region for centuries before the inception the modern Turkish nation-state, they still have a very specific relationship with the development of the secular Kemalist-Turkish identity. In fact, Alevis began to develop a novel and unique political identity, which embraced secularism in spite of deeply rooted religious convictions, during Turkey's National transition from the late Ottoman Empire (early 1900s) to the early multi-party era (late 1950s). Existing scholarship on Alevi identity often exclusively focuses on how they were perceived as a religious group during the Ottoman Era or on their increasingly marginalized political identity after the 1970s. However, this thesis will argue that these approaches fail to appreciate the "transition period" of Alevi identity, and how the transformation from being considered a strictly religious/ethnic identity within the Ottoman Empire to becoming viewed as vocal and political advocates of secularism from the early Republic is crucial to understanding contemporary Alevi identity. It will argue that past research has not paid enough attention to this transition, casting Alevi cultural and political identity as fragmented, rigid and impermeable rather than fluid and constantly evolving. To this end, this thesis will seek to demonstrate that Alevism has in fact evolved politically since the sixteenth century of the Ottoman Era, and validate why most Alevis became secular Kemalists during the early twentieth century Republican era of modern Turkey, with the Alevi identity maintaining a dedicated Kemalist ideology since then society at large.



Alevi identity, Alevis, modern Turkey, Ottoman Empire, minorities in Turkey, Kemalism, secularism, laicism, Turkey, political identity of Alevis




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Open Access

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