114.3 Tradition and innovation in diasporic Turkish Alevi identity

Wednesday, August 1, 2012: 1:00 PM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Oral Presentation
Glenda BALLANTYNE , Social Sciences, Swinburne University of Technology, Hawthorn, Australia

Since the 1980s, Alevi communities in Turkey and across the diaspora have been engaged in an intense project of identity revival and a transnational quest for recognition. A number of its features make it a particularly interesting case of the rise of the salience of identity in social, cultural and political life in the contemporary era. The revival has involved a reconstruction of collective identity which itself traversed the shift from ‘ideological’ to identity politics characteristic of the latter part of the 20th century, its political context has been very influential, and it has faced challenges arising from its historical roots in an oral tradition largely practiced in secrecy .  These very characteristics have led a number of commentators to invoke the idea of the ‘invention of tradition’ to describe the processes involved. In this paper, I argue that overemphasis on this notion obscures important aspects of the revival, and suggest that the ‘multiple modernities’ approach associated with S N Eisenstadt and Johann Arnason offers a more comprehensive and insightful framework for its analysis. More generally, I argue that the paradigm of multiple modernities provides important insights about the relationship between tradition and modernity that are relevant to the analysis of collective identities more broadly.