Desexualization of Gender: The Concept of "Can" As an Opportunity for the Equality of Alevi Woman?

Friday, 20 July 2018: 16:15
Oral Presentation
Elif YILDIZLI, Westphalian Wilhelms-University of Münster, Germany
Gender equality is central in Alevism and is defined as the article of faith. However, the public and private discourse is implicitly shaped by a certain concept of "Alevi woman". In the secular space the role of Alevi woman is defined by gender and sex (following Butler) in order to reproduce patriarchal and cultural values. But in the religious space neutrality of the sexes is underlined by the concept of "Can" (soul) that means de jure that there is no gender separation. The Alevi ritual is being carried out together by women and men together. In the secular world, however, the Alevi woman still struggles for equality. For example, family honour is still defined by women's body (sex).

Taking a closer look at the "Can"-principle, it should be noted that it’s not adequately practiced in the religious sphere because women are not allowed to lead a Cem (Alevi ritual). Nevertheless the "Can"-concept is a resource for participation of Alevi women, because of its de-sexualizing function. This concept of equality is raised as a positive modern feature of the Alevis in contrast to "anti-modern Sunnis" in the public discourse. Even for Alevis the rigid dogmatic, man-controlled secular space, as well as religious space, proved to be a fallacy.

The question of equality of the "Alevi woman" is a theoretically as well as an empirically relevant question regarding the fact that scientific work about this topic forms a desideratum. The talk concentrates on making the religious concept of "Can" theoretically useful for the discourse of the "(unequal) role of women in Alevism" and to investigate how the desexualization of gender with the concept of "Can" could be a resource-function of religion in the broadest sense.