Accepted paper:

Traditional healing and Utopian Turkish modernities


Robert Logan Sparks (Long Island University)

Paper short abstract:

Traditional healers in modern Turkey represent a particular encounter between the supernatural and the ideals of Kemalism, merging the mystical with a project for an ideal future.

Paper long abstract:

Classically, anthropologists have taken an interest in what is often termed 'traditional healing' particularly in Africa, where the discipline formed much of its early ideas and epistemologies. However, forms of what can be called traditional healing can certainly be found in secular and modernized environments where there is access to contemporary health care, such as the US and Europe. A woman by the name of Zöhre Ana, from Turkey's minority Alevi community, represents a particular case of a practice and community closely related to the genre of traditional healing, but situated in a Kemalist modernity that is highly utopian in outlook. The approach to this case is via a look at both the pasts and futures of a politically active secularist Alevi healer via the significant saintly and state-sacralised figures from both Alevi and Kemalist tradition that make up her cosmology and oracular context. The figures that Zöhre Ana claims to channel are well known and venerated figures from Alevism, but also include a number of secular 'saints,' all of which indicate a worldview in which the secular is sacred, one that paints its canvas with the brush of an ideal Alevi and republican past; The teachings and nefes (inspired songs) of Zöhre Ana also project a future into the political arena including explicit support of the main secularist Kemalist party in Turkey. This case will give us an opportunity to explore and expand our notions and definitions of 'traditional' healing, utopian ideals and multiple modernities.

panel Reli007
Ritual and the utopian past