1st Edition

Islamic Conversation Sohbet and Ethics in Contemporary Turkey

By Smita Tewari Jassal Copyright 2020
    172 Pages
    by Routledge

    172 Pages
    by Routledge

    The book evaluates on-going ethical conversations to learn how emotional communication is received, teachings are internalized, and a religious world-view is brought to life. Exploring how religious values saturate people’s consciousness to induce subtle shifts in moral and ethical sensibilities, this book is about people’s practices that illuminate how Islam is lived.

    Based on fieldwork conducted in Ankara between 2010 and 2016, the study enquires into people’s ethical, religious, and moral motivations through the use of the ethnographic method and "thick description". Conversations and interviews with officials, community leaders, students, entrepreneurs, professionals, and blue-collar workers were subjected to close scrutiny to foreground societal change and churning. To capture perspectives absent or deliberately overlooked in mainstream public discourse and scholarship, fieldwork was conducted in locations ranging from homes, offices, and university dorms to the shrines of saints. In listening closely to how people talk about their religious practices, the book addresses the question of how Islamic subjectivities are being forged in Turkey. The study unveils how people are pushed to re-think old practices and attitudes in the process of reinterpreting Islam in light of contemporary concerns.

    Filling a gap in the literature where micro-level, grounded analyses of culture and society are relatively rare, this book is a key resource for readers interested in the anthropology of religion and gender, ethnography, Turkey, and the Middle East.

    Introduction: Art of Ethical Conversation in Turkey 

    1. Reading the Risale-Nur in a Women's Sohbet 

    2. The "Modernity" of Zakat in Turkey 

    3. Healing the Social Body: Sohbet with Ankara’s Alevi Saint 

    4. Art of Dreaming: At the Tombs of Saints 

    5. Discourse in the Dorms 

    6. On Places of Worship and Diyanet


    Smita Tewari Jassal has just completed a tenure as Professor of Sociology in Ambedkar University, Delhi where she taught gender, theories and methods in social anthropology, culture, and courses on India. From September 2019, she will resume teaching in the Sociology Department at the Middle East Technical University, Ankara, Turkey. Her research interests include marginality, gender, religion, rural transformations, caste, collective memory, and cultural production. She has authored Unearthing Gender: Folksongs of North India (2012) and Daughters of the Earth: Women and Land in Uttar Pradesh (2001), and co-edited New Perspectives on India and Turkey: Connections and Debates (2017) and The Partition Motif in Contemporary Conflicts (2006).