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Accepted Paper:

Mourning and Melancholia in Alevi Theatre  
Rüya Kalıntaş (Kadir Has University)

Paper long abstract:

How does the Alevi community employ theater to transmit historical trauma and to deal with the post-traumatic feelings? My presentation will explore this question in the light of extensive archival and ethnographic research.

The Alevi religious minority makes up the largest religious minority in Turkey. The history of Alevis has been one of oppression and persecution, especially since the 16th century, as the followers of a local Islamic tradition under the hegemony of Sunni Islam in the Ottoman Empire. The Alevis were marginalized since then, and through the discourse of heresy, their exclusion and persecution were justified. In the face of such adversity, Alevis preferred to live as closed communities, isolated in the highest villages. The inception of the Republic of Turkey as a secular nation-state in 1923 was initially promising for them, but the regime remained implicitly Sunni Muslim. Thus, the Alevi community’s experiences of citizenship and belonging continued to be characterized by precarity as they occupied a category of ‘national abjection.’

The Alevi community engaged theatre into their struggle after they became politically active in the 1970s. The plays staged by Alevi community theatres and professional groups in Turkey and its diasporas have focused primarily on the histories of violence and persecution against Alevis. Most of these plays, often written by members of the community, have been re-enactments of specific traumatic events. Theatre is a way to challenge the official narratives of those traumatic events, to reveal what is systematically hidden and what is not told, and to fill the narrative gaps of the nation from the perspectives of marginalized and oppressed subjects. As such, theatre becomes a means of the perpetuation of grief, and it functions as a site for the transmission of post-traumatic feelings to the young generations of the Alevi community.

Panel P052a
Mediating Mourning: grief and justice beyond redemption I
  Session 1 Friday 29 July, 2022, -