Beyond essentialism: negotiating Alevi identity in urban Turkey

Karaosmanoglu K.

IDENTITIES-GLOBAL STUDIES IN CULTURE AND POWER, vol.20, no.5, pp.580-597, 2013 (Journal Indexed in SSCI) identifier identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 20 Issue: 5
  • Publication Date: 2013
  • Doi Number: 10.1080/1070289x.2013.823088
  • Journal Indexes: Social Sciences Citation Index, Scopus
  • Page Numbers: pp.580-597


In Turkey, the Alevi cultural revival' of the 1990s has been followed by a multifaceted identity-formation process that involves conflicting religio-cultural agendas, intersecting discourses and differing politico-ideological affiliations. Lacking a focus, this process continues to trigger an enriching public debate on Alevi identity, which has been coined an enigma' and is considered to be associated with ambiguity' and ambivalence' by many. What lies beneath the veil of ambiguity has to do with the anti-essentialist' transformation of Alevism, which reaches beyond religious, cultural and political orthodoxies. As a result of diverse political loyalties, contestation of discourses on Alevi culture and identity and the equivocal character of the Alevi subject, the Alevis seem to be resisting essentialism. In urban Turkey, an anti-essentialist discourse potentially influencing Alevism, I argue, enables the Alevi self to act with a sense of reflexivity and to search for ways to avoid political, cultural or religious orthodoxies.