Alevi Religious Ceremony, Architecture, and Practice

Episode 299

Download the podcast
Feed | iTunes | GooglePlay | SoundCloud

In this episode, we approach the religious architecture of the Alevis, to examine how practice shapes architectural space and how socioeconomic change transforms such spaces. Many of our episodes on Ottoman History Podcast have focused on how monumental architecture, such as mosques and other buildings of religious significance, are tied to political transformation and expressions of political power and ideology. Taking a different perspective, our guest, Angela Andersen, researches the history and development of Alevi architectural forms in Turkey and abroad. Historically, Alevi religious practice and cem ceremonies took place in homes and other multi-purpose buildings, which could be configured as ad hoc meeting places for local communities during the communal cem ceremony. But with Alevi urban migration to cities in Turkey, Germany, and elsewhere, the creation of a "permanent address" for Alevis has emerged in the form of community centers providing a number of services, including designated rooms or halls for the cem. In this episode, we trace the genealogy of the modern cemevi to older contexts of Alevi religious practice and consider the role played by the cemevi in Turkey's new political landscape.

This episode is part of a series entitled "The Visual Past."

Stream via SoundCloud 

Contributor Bios

Angela Andersen focuses on the inter- and intra-religious interactions that take place via architecture in the Islamic world, in both the historical and contemporary contexts. Her current research engages the role and meaning of architecture for the Alevi minority, and the diversity of Islamic spaces for worship and practice.
Chris Gratien holds a Ph.D. from Georgetown University's Department of History and is currently an Academy Scholar at the Harvard Academy for International and Area Studies. His research focuses on the social and environmental history of the Ottoman Empire and the modern Middle East. He is currently preparing a monograph about the environmental history of the Cilicia region from the 1850s until the 1950s.
Shireen Hamza is a doctoral student in the History of Science department at Harvard University. Her research focuses broadly on the history of science and medicine in the Islamicate Middle Ages, and more specifically on the history of women's health.

Recommended Episodes
Ozan Aksoy #187
Kurdish Alevi Music and Migration
Ayfer Karakaya-Stump #148
Alevis in Ottoman Anatolia
Kishwar Rizvi #244
Neo-Ottoman Architecture and the Transnational Mosque


Episode No. 299
Release Date: 14 February 2017
Recording Location: Harvard University
Audio editing by Chris Gratien
Music: from - Katibim (Uskudar'a Gider iken) - Safiye Ayla; Istanbul'dan Ayva Gelir Nar Gelir - Azize Tozem and Sari Recep
Vinyl recording of "Hazin Hazin Ağlar Gönül" by Ali Ekber Çiçek digitized by Chris Gratien
Special thanks to Kara Güneş for permission to use the composition "Istanbul"
Images and bibliography courtesy of Angela Andersen


Pir Sultan Abdal holding the stringed instrument of the lute family, known as the saz or bağlama, Diyarbakir Büyükşehir Belediyesi Pir Sultan Abdal Cem Ve Kültür Evi, Diyarbakir, by Angela Andersen
Zakir (person in the liturgical role of hymnist during the Cem ceremony), Yenibosna CEM Vakfı, Yenibosna, by Angela Andersen
Ceremonial Cem space with central meydan, Garip Dede Türbesi Koruma Onarma ve Yaşatma Derneği (Garip Dede Cemevi), Küçükçekmece, by Angela Andersen 
Pir Salman burial and gathering place, Salman Dede, by Angela Andersen
Karacaahmet Cem Ve Kültür Evi, Istanbul, by Angela Andersen
Kırlangıç tavan (“swallowtail” lantern roof), Hacı Bektaş Veli Müzesi (Tekkesi), Hacı Bektaş, by Angela Andersen
Kerpiç (adobe) home of rural Alevi family, Karamahmut, by Angela Andersen
Cemevi interior with posters of Ali and Hacı Bektaş Veli, Adalar Cemevi, Adalar Cemevi Vakfı, Burgazada,  Princes’ Islands, by Angela Andersen  
Erikli Baba Kültür Derneği ve Cem Evi, Istanbul, by Angela Andersen
CEM Vakfı Sivas Şubesi Ali Baba Cemevi, Sivas, by Angela Andersen

Select Bibliography

Akın, Günkut. “Tüteklikli Örtü Geleneği: Anadolu Cami ve Tarikat Yapılarında Tüteklikli Örtü.” 
Vakıflar Dergisi 22 (1991): 323–354.

Andersen, Angela. “Acknowledgement as A Precursor to Heritage: The Alevi Muslim Minority 
and the Legal Recognition of Religious Architecture in the Turkish Republic,” International Journal on Cultural Property, Special Issue on Rights-based Approaches to Heritage, forthcoming.

Andersen, Angela. “Muslims Viewed as “Non-Muslims:” The Alevi Precincts of Anatolia,” in 
Mohammad Gharipour, ed., Sacred Precincts: Non-Muslim Sites in Islamic Societies. Leiden: Brill, 2015, 57-75. 

Andersen, Angela. “The Transfer of Turkish Bektashi Tekkes to Alevi Cemevleri,” in Michele 
Bernardini et al., eds. Proceedings of the 15th International Congress of Turkish Art Naples, 16th-18th September 2015, forthcoming.

Babayan, Kathryn. “The Safavid Synthesis: From Qizilbash Islam to Imamite Shi’ism.” Iranian 
Studies 27 (1994): 135-161.

Birge, John Kingsley. The Bektashi Order of Dervishes. Hartford: Hartford Seminary Press, 

Çamuroğlu, Reha.  “Alevi Revivalism in Turkey,” in Tord Olsson, Elisabeth Özdalga and 
Catharina Randvere, eds.,  Alevi Identity: Cultural, Religious and Social Perspectives, Papers Read at a Conference Held at the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, November 25-27, 1996. Istanbul: Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul, 1998, 79-84.

Dressler, Markus, "Alevis." Encyclopaedia of Islam Third Edition. Gudrun Kramer, 
Denis Matringe, John Nawas and Everett Rowson, eds.. Brill Online. 

Dressler, Markus. “The Modern Dede: Changing Parameters for Religious Authorities in 
Contemporary Turkish Alevism,” in Gudrun Krämer and Sabine Schmidtke, eds., Speaking for Islam: Religious Authorities in Muslim Societies. Leiden: Brill, 2006: 269–94. 

Gallagher, Amelia. “The Fallible Master of Perfection: Shah Ismail in the Alevi-Bektashi 
Tradition.” PhD diss., Institute of Islamic Studies, McGill University, 2004.

Goodwin, Godfrey. “The Dervish Architecture of Anatolia,” in Raymond Lifchez, ed. The 
Dervish Lodge: Architecture, Art, and Sufism in Ottoman Turkey. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1992, 57-69.

Hasluck, Frederick William. Christianity and Islam Under the Sultans, Volumes I and II. 
Margaret Hasluck, ed. New York: Octagon Books, 1973.

Hasluck, Frederick William. “Heterodox Tribes of Asia Minor.” The Journal of the Royal 
Anthropological Institute of Great Britain and Ireland 51 (1921): 310-342.

Imber, Colin H. “The Persecution of the Ottoman Shi´ites According to the Mühimme Defterleri, 
1565-1585.” Islam 56 (1979): 245-273.

Karakaya-Stump, Ayfer.  “Documents and Buyruk Manuscripts in the Private Archives of Alevi 
Dede Families: An Overview.” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 37 (2010): 273-286.

Karakaya-Stump, Ayfer.  “The Forgotten Dervishes: The Bektashi Convents in Iraq and Their 
Kizilbash Clients.” International Journal of Turkish Studies 16 (2010): 1-24.

Karolewski, Janina. “What is Heterodox About Alevism? The Development of Anti Alevi 
Discrimination and Resentment.” Die Welt des Islams 48 (2008): 434-456.

Köprülü, Mehmed Fuad. Early Mystics in Turkish Literature. Gary Leiser and Robert Dankoff, 
trans. and eds. London and New York: Routledge, 2006.

Mélikoff, Irène. Hadji Bektach: Un Mythe et Ses Avatars. Genese et Evolution du Soufisme 
Populaire en Turquie. Leiden: Brill, 1998. 

Ocak, Ahmet Yaşar. “Un apercu general sur l’hétérodoxie musulmane en Turquie: Réflexions 
sur les origines et les caractéristiques du Kızılbachisme (Alévisme) dans la perspective de l’historie,” in Krisztina Kehl-Bodrogi, Barbara Kellner-Heinkele, and Anka Otter-Beaujean, eds. Syncretistic Religious Communities in the Near East. Leiden: Brill, 1997, 195-204.

Shankland, David. The Alevis in Turkey: The Emergence of a Secular Islamic Tradition. London 
and New York: Routledge Curzon, 2003. 

Shankland, David. “The Buyruk in Alevi Village Life: Thoughts From the Field on Rival 
Sources of Religious Inspiration,” in Gilles Veinstein, ed. Syncrétismes et hérésies dans l’Orient seldjoukide et ottoman (XIVe-XVIIIe siècle). Paris: Peeters, 2005, 311-323.

Sökefeld, Martin. Struggling for Recognition: The Alevi Movement in Germany and in 
Transnational Space. New York; Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2008. 

Woods, John E. The Aqquyunlu Clan, Confederation, Empire: A Study in 15th/9th Century Turko-
Iranian Politics. Minneapolis & Chicago: Bibliotheca Islamica, 1976. 

Yaman, Ali. Alevilik’te Dedelik ve Ocaklar: Dedelik Kurumu Ekseninde Değişim Sürecinde 
Alevilik. Istanbul, Karacaahmet Sultan Derneği Yayınları, 2004. 

Yaman, Mehmet. Alevilik: Inanç, Edep, Erkân. Istanbul: Demos Yayınları, 2011.


Ottoman History Podcast is a noncommerical website intended for educational use. Anyone is welcome to use and reproduce our content with proper attribution under the terms of noncommercial fair use within the classroom setting or on other educational websites. All third-party content is used either with express permission or under the terms of fair use. Our page and podcasts contain no advertising and our website receives no revenue. All donations received are used solely for the purposes of covering our expenses. Unauthorized commercial use of our material is strictly prohibited, as it violates not only our noncommercial commitment but also the rights of third-party content owners.

We make efforts to completely cite all secondary sources employed in the making of our episodes and properly attribute third-party content such as images from the web. If you feel that your material has been improperly used or incorrectly attributed on our site, please do not hesitate to contact us.