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Struggling for Recognition

Struggling for Recognition: The Alevi Movement in Germany and in Transnational Space

Martin Sökefeld
Copyright Date: 2008
Edition: NED - New edition, 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 302
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  • Book Info
    Struggling for Recognition
    Book Description:

    As a religious and cultural minority in Turkey, the Alevis have suffered a long history of persecution and discrimination. In the late 1980s they started a movement for the recognition of Alevi identity in both Germany and Turkey. Today, they constitute a significant segment of Germany's Turkish immigrant population. In a departure from the current debate on identity and diaspora, Sokefeld offers a rich account of the emergence and institutionalization of the Alevi movement in Germany, giving particular attention to its politics of recognition within Germany and in a transnational context. The book deftly combines empirical findings with innovative theoretical arguments and addresses current questions of migration, diaspora, transnationalism, and identity.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-014-2
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-vii)
  4. Pronunciation of Special Turkish Letters
    (pp. viii-viii)
  5. Acknowledgements
    (pp. ix-x)
  6. Introduction
    (pp. 1-15)

    This book is an ethnography of the Alevi movement in Germany. In Germany, Alevis form a section of the larger migrant population of Turkish origin. The Alevi movement in Germany developed since the late 1980s, paralleling a similar movement in Turkey with which it is closely related. At the center of the Alevi movement is a complex quest for identity that includes questions of self-identification as well as the issue of identification by others. The debate on identity and recognition therefore provides the basic theoretical framework of this study. An axiom of this framework is that such a quest for...

  7. 1 Identity and Recognition
    (pp. 16-36)

    These sentences are taken from the “Alevi declaration” (Alevi Bildirgesi) which was published in the dailyCumhuriyeton 6 May 1990, signed by a number well-known Alevi and non-Alevi writers, artists, and journalists, including Yaşar Kemal and Aziz Nesin.² The declaration was based on an earlier statement drafted by the founders of the “Alevi Culture Group” Hamburg that had been published in spring 1989 and promulgated especially on the event of the “Alevi Culture Week” in October that year. The two versions of the declaration mark the birth of the new Alevi movement and the transformation of Alevism from a...

  8. 2 Going Public
    (pp. 37-63)

    In this chapter I will narrate the passage of Alevism from a hidden to a public issue in Germany. In the course of this transition, Alevism was created anew in a number of aspects. Alevism was reconstituted in public space in the form of a social movement. I have to spell out why I conceptualize reconstituted Alevism as a social movement and not simply as a religious (or cultural) community. “Community” has recently been critiqued as a concept that accommodates too many different readings and interpretations, yet still signals a rhetoric of “interpersonal warmth, shared interests, and loyalty” (Baumann 1996,...

  9. 3 Organizing Alevis
    (pp. 64-92)

    I have introduced social movements as relatively uninstitutionalized collectivities engaged in contentious issues. I also emphasized, however, that social movements strive for one form of institutionalization or another in order to sustain themselves and to create a reliable and durable basis for their struggle. The efforts towards institutionalization in the Alevi movement resulted in the creation of new collective actors, the Alevi associations. These associations became the principal protagonists of the Alevi politics of recognition. Yet to speak about collective actors and collective action is potentially misleading. The emphasis on collective action must not result in obscuring individual action and...

  10. 4 Crosscurrents of Identification
    (pp. 93-115)

    The Alevi movement diversified into a number of different associations at the local and the translocal level. This diversification related to a number of contentious issues like Kurdish politics or specific ideas about what Alevism is. Alevis are subject to the play of intersecting differences (cf. chapter one): to identify as Alevi does not preclude the possibility—and necessity—to relate in specific ways to other identifications, to embrace or to reject them. Rather than answering all questions concerning one’s identity, the identification as Alevi opens up a broad discursive field of contesting claims of ethnic, regional, political, or religious...

  11. 5 The Politics of Memory: Sivas
    (pp. 116-144)

    Sivas’ı unutmadık, unutturmayacağız, anılarını yaşatacağız!”—“We did not forget Sivas, we will not allow it to fall into oblivion, we will keep its memory alive!” This call has been the motto of many commemorative ceremonies that were organized by Alevi associations after the Sivas massacre. Memory and its social relationships have become a prime object of interest in the social and cultural sciences after the writings of Maurice Halbwachs were rediscovered in the 1980s. Strongly influenced by Émile Durkheim and his idea of social representations, Halbwachs proposed that like ideas also memory was a social issue. Halbwachs (1985) coined the...

  12. 6 Ritual and Community: The Changing Meaning of Cem and Dedes
    (pp. 145-177)

    This chapter focuses on two central elements of Alevism:cemanddedesCemis the central ritual of Alevism anddedesare its religious specialists that, among other things, preside overcem. Bothcemanddedeshave been subjected to significant transformations in the course of the reconstitution of Alevism by the Alevi movement. Ever since Durkheim’sElementary Forms of Religious Life(1965 [1915]), ritual has been seen as an instrument for establishing and maintaining community. According to Durkheim, ritual creates a sphere in which the community is sacralized and turned into an object of worship, a sacred sphere in...

  13. 7 Recognition and the Politics of Migration in Germany
    (pp. 178-208)

    German studies of immigrants, and among them particularly studies on migrants from Turkey, have generally placed great emphasis on the “cultural baggage” that these immigrants brought to their new country of residence. Relating to Turks, cultural elements like a patriarchal family structure, a strict system of male honor, and Islam were pointed out as basic conditions that shaped their lives in Germany just as it was assumed that these conditions determined life back “home.” This research perspective paralleled the dominant political approach to migration in Germany, which maintains that migrants have to “integrate” themselves and according to which the ability...

  14. 8 Transnational Connections and the Claims of the Nation
    (pp. 209-252)

    Issues of national belonging are contested in Germany. For a long time, Germany was conceived as a “nonimmigration country,” actual numbers of migrants notwithstanding. Boundaries of the nation were discursive and conceptual rather than simply territorial and physical. The ensuing situation of migrants is a paradox: originally, labor migrants had been conceptualized as temporal “guests” that were meant to return to their “home country.” “Integration” of migrants was explicitly unwelcome. The maintenance of strong relationships with their “home country” was welcomed and taken for granted. Later, when migrants turned out to stay and to become permanent residents, the demand for...

  15. Conclusion
    (pp. 253-262)

    This work started from the idea that questions of identity are inextricably entangled with questions of politics, and that the concept of identity entails a dialogic relationship because identity calls for recognition. We have seen that the question of identity and recognition stands at the heart of the Alevi movement. The Alevi movement radically transformed Alevism by turning it into a public issue for which public recognition is demanded. Yet the claim for recognition is also voiced among Alevis themselves, demanding the recognition of Alevism by Alevis in specific manners, as, for instance, Islam or non-Islam, as religion or culture....

  16. Appendix 1: Organizations
    (pp. 263-264)
  17. Appendix 2: Glossary of Alevi and Turkish Terms
    (pp. 265-265)
  18. References
    (pp. 266-283)
  19. Index
    (pp. 284-292)