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Secular Heretics: Exploring the Affects of Turkish Secularization Reforms on Alevi Communities in Anatolia (1923-1938)

Author: Andrew Wickersham (University of Arizona)

  • Secular Heretics: Exploring the Affects of Turkish Secularization Reforms on Alevi Communities in Anatolia (1923-1938)

    Articles

    Secular Heretics: Exploring the Affects of Turkish Secularization Reforms on Alevi Communities in Anatolia (1923-1938)

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Abstract

While most recent historiography on Turkish secularism has distanced itself from earlier European attempts to equate it with American understandings of religious freedom, scholarship on Alevis—Turkey’s largest religious minority group—remains stalled in this older tradition. Historians need to take a more critical approach to how Turkish Alevis experienced the secularization reforms of the 1920s with the understanding that not all aspects were emancipatory. In this paper, I will examine how Alevi communities responded to the enactment of Law 677 “Concerning the Closure of Tekkes, Zaviyes, and Türbes and the Prohibition and Abolition of a Series of Titles Related to the Maintenance of Sufi Institutions” in 1925. I argue that while Alevis supported some aspects of secularism, their vision for what the secular state should be constituted an alternative vision to Kemalist laicism. This difference marked Alevis as “secular heretics” in the eyes of the state. Just as religions seek to enforce uniformity of practice and belief, I argue that the Turkish state targeted alternative conceptualizations of secularism in order to promote conformity to the ideological "orthodoxy."

Keywords: Turkey, Secularism, Alevis

How to Cite:

Wickersham, A., (2022) “Secular Heretics: Exploring the Affects of Turkish Secularization Reforms on Alevi Communities in Anatolia (1923-1938)”, Footnotes: A Journal of History 5, 77-91.

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Published on
17 Mar 2022
Peer Reviewed