In contemporary Turkey-a democratic, secular, and predominantly
Muslim nation-the religious healer is a controversial figure.
Attracting widespread condemnation, religious healers are derided
as exploiters of the sick and vulnerable, discredited forms of
Islamic and medical authority, and superstitious relics of a
pre-modern era. Yet all sorts of people, and not just the
desperately ill, continue to seek them out. After years of research
with healers and their patients in working-class neighborhoods of
urban Turkey, anthropologist Christopher Dole concludes that the
religious healer should be regarded not as an exception to Turkey's
secular modern development but as one of its defining figures.
Healing Secular Life demonstrates that religious healing
and secularism in fact have a set of common stakes in the ordering
of lives and the remaking of worlds.
Linking the history of medical reforms and scientific literacy
campaigns to contemporary efforts of Qur'anic healers to treat
people afflicted by spirits and living saints through whom deceased
political leaders speak, Healing Secular Life approaches
stories of healing and being healed as settings for examining the
everyday social intimacies of secular political rule. This
ethnography of loss, care, and politics reveals not only that the
authority of the religious healer is deeply embedded within the
history of secular modern reform in Turkey but also that personal
narratives of suffering and affliction are inseparable from the
story of a nation seeking to recover from the violence of its own
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