New book co-edited by Derya Özkul explores struggles of Alevis in Turkey

28 February, 2022

A new book edited by Derya Özkul of the Refugee Studies Centre and Hege Markussen of Lund University investigates the struggles of a minority group - the Alevis - for recognition in Turkey and the diaspora, and transformations in authority and traditional rituals.

The book is the result of years of work researching policies and conditions in Turkey and abroad. It features 14 detailed case studies that provide insights into the struggles for recognition and representation by Alevi communities in Turkey and the diaspora under the AKP administration.

The first section of the book explores the tensions between the Turkish state and Alevis’ agency. The chapters in this section introduce discussions about recognition, including Markus Dressler’s examination of the debates around the definition of Alevism; Murat Borovalı and Cemil Boyraz’s study of the ‘Alevi Openings’; Eray Çaylı and Besim Can Zırh’s analyses of the politics of collective memory based on the examples of the Sivas and Dersim massacres; and Ahmet Kerim Gültekin’s examination of the social dynamics in Dersim where Sunnis constitute a minority.

The second section turns to the processes in countries abroad. The book tracks changes over this period with a closer look at how Alevis have organised and made their claims vis-à-vis new states and societies. With a particular focus on Germany, Australia, France and the United Kingdom, the chapters in this section – by Martin Sökefeld, Derya Özkul, Ayça Arkılıç and Ayșegül Akdemir – show how Alevis have gained greater political recognition.

The third section – authored by Meral Salman Yıkmış, Ulaş Özdemir, Erhan Kurtarır and Nazlı Özkan – demonstrates how changing state policies and transnational contexts contribute to changes in practices, rituals and authorities.

In the epilogue, David Shankland calls for further research on Alevism in Anatolian villages to compare and understand how Alevi practices and rituals have changed (or resisted change) over time. In the final concluding remarks, Hege Markussen revisits central themes in the development of Alevi mobilisation from the perspective of visibility and points out achievements and blind spots in research on Alevism.

Derya Özkul and Hege Markussen (eds) (2022) The Alevis in Modern Turkey and the Diaspora: Recognition, Mobilisation and Transformation, Edinburgh University Press