The Alevis in Turkey: The Emergence of a Secular Islamic Tradition

By David Shankland | Go to book overview

3

THE SUNNI VILLAGES

A model of rural integration

In Chapter 1, I suggested that the Sunni village population in the area is maintaining itself overall, but that some of their villages are growing larger, others smaller. I did not examine how it is that they have the potential to grow. The initial question in this chapter is therefore, 'How is it that some Sunni villages are able to survive and even expand as they come in increasing contact with the state and the outside world?'

Sirman has also studied this question. After examining a Sunni cotton-producing village in Söke, in the west of Turkey, she concludes:

Extension of roads, education and electrification especially in the west of Turkey has helped the integration of these communities into the social, economic and cultural life of the nation as a whole. Contrary to the experience of other similar communities in Turkey where change has produced massive upheavals … transition to commodity production in the Söke region has been rather smooth and has not destroyed the fabric of social relations within the community. 1

The argument by which Sirman reaches this conclusion is detailed and convincing; she explains that the household is able to take up cotton production without the relations of authority within it breaking down, that a complicated network of social and economic interaction between households maintains cohesion in the community and that the plenty resulting from their success ensures the village retains its population.

Like Sirman, we are also interested in investigating how it is that village communities are able to survive and expand, but our emphasis is different. Whereas Sirman conceives life in the village communities greatly in terms of how it reacts to changing economic conditions, we are interested also in why many Sunni men should continue to believe, why they should want the state to support the practice of their religion, and what enables the state to accommodate their desire. It is only by explaining these connections that we can understand why the Alevi continue to feel themselves a religious minority discriminated against by a majority for whom religion remains an integral part of social life.

-50-

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The Alevis in Turkey: The Emergence of a Secular Islamic Tradition
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations ix
  • Foreword x
  • Acknowledgements xi
  • Notes on the Text xiii
  • Introduction 1
  • 1 - Alevi and Sunni in the Republic of Turkey 13
  • 2 - The Sub-Province 33
  • 3 - The Sunni Villages 50
  • 4 - Susesİ 74
  • 5 - Religion, Ritual and Social Control 94
  • 6 - Social Change and the Alevi Communities 133
  • 7 - The Alevis, Evolving Identity and the State 154
  • 8 - Conclusion 173
  • Appendix 1 186
  • Appendix 2 193
  • Appendix 3 197
  • Appendix 4 204
  • Notes 208
  • Bibliography 225
  • Index 237
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