A VOICE OF THEIR OWN: MUSIC AND SOCIAL COHESION IN TURKISH ALEVI LIFE
Pinkert, Melanie Terner
Witzleben, J. Lawrence
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This dissertation examines the role that music has played in the expression of identity and revitalization of culture of the Alevis in Turkey, since the start of their sociocultural revival movement in the late 1980s. Music is central to Alevi claims of ethnic and religious difference—singing and playing the bağlama (Turkish folk lute) constitutes an expressive practice in worship and everyday life. Based on research conducted from 2012 to 2014, I investigate and present Alevi music through the lens of discourses on the construction of identity as a social and musical process. Alevi musicians perform a revived repertoire of the ritual music and folk songs of Anatolian bards and dervish-lodge poets that developed over several centuries. Contemporary media and performance contexts have blurred former distinctions between sacred and secular, yet have provided new avenues to build community in an urban setting. I compare music performances in the worship services of urban and small-town areas, and other community events such as devotional meetings, concerts, clubs, and broadcast and social media to illustrate the ways that participation—both performing and listening—reinforces identity and solidarity. I also examine the influence of these different contexts on performers’ musical choices, and the power of music to evoke a range of responses and emotional feelings in the participants. Through my investigation I argue that the Alevi music repertoire is not only a cultural practice but also a symbol of power and collective action in their struggle for human rights and self-determination. As Alevis have faced a redefined Turkish nationalism that incorporates Sunni Muslim piety, this music has gained even greater potency in their resistance to misrecognition as a folkloric, rather than a living, tradition.