Dynamics of Ritual Reflexivity in the Alevi Cem of Istanbul

in Religion and Society
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The Alevi cem is a communal ritual that is performed weekly among members of a major religious minority in Turkey. Although formerly celebrated exclusively in rural village communities, this ritual became publicly accessible at the end of the 1980s when Alevi cultural associations were opened in the urban centers of Turkey. Since it was made public, the cem has undergone significant changes in the internal dynamics of its performance and in the formal design of its liturgy. By addressing multiple audiences in its urban milieu, the performance of the cem reveals moments of ritual reflexivity. Based on ethnographic research at a cultural association in Istanbul, this article focuses on a cem performance that led to ruptures and mishaps in the presentation of some ritual acts. We analyze the ritual leader’ s response to these incidents and the theoretical implications of this account for the study of ritual reflexivity.

Contributor Notes

JENS KREINATH received his PhD from the University of Heidelberg and teaches socio-cultural anthropology at Wichita State University with a focus on the anthropology of religion and linguistic anthropology. He is co-editor of The Dynamics of Changing Rituals (2004) and Theorizing Rituals (2006) and is editor of The Anthropology of Islam Reader (2012). He has published articles in the Journal of Ritual Studies (2012) and Visual Anthropology (2012) on the semiotics of ritual, the history of anthropological theory, and the formation of concepts in the study of religion. His current research is on inter-rituality and inter-religious relations among ethnic minorities in the context of saint veneration at shared pilgrimage sites in Hatay, Turkey. E-mail: jens.kreinath@wichita.edu

REFIKA SARIÖNDER has degrees in sociology (University of Bogaziçi and Bielefeld University) and in psychology (Wichita State University) and has conducted ethnographic fieldwork on Anatolian Alevis in Istanbul and Berlin. Her current research is on domestic violence shelter workers as part of her dissertation project in the Community Psychology Program at Wichita State University. Her publications include articles and chapters on gender issues and religious minorities of Islam, and she is the co-editor of Mythen der Kreativität (Myths of Creativity) (2003). Aside from participating in interdisciplinary and international projects at research centers of German universities, she has presented papers at national and international conferences. E-mail: rsarionder@gmail.com

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