Dissertation Abstracts

The Persistence of a Sacred Patrilineage in Contemporary Turkey: An Ethnographic Account of the Descendents of Haci Bektash Veli, the Ulusoy Family

Author: Salman Yikmis, Meral , salman.meral@gmail.com
Department: Sociology
University: Middle East Technical University, Turkey
Supervisor: Mustafa Sen
Year of completion: 2012
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: Sacred authority , The Alevi-Bektas , Secularization , Ritual
Areas of Research: Religion , Family Research


This ethnographic study is of a sacred patrilineage, specifically, the Ulusoy family members who are widely accepted by the Alevi Bekta?i communities as the descendants of the eponymous founder of the Bekta?i Order, Hac? Bekta? Veli. In line with the Shi’ite tradition, it is claimed that Hac? Bekta? Veli inherited the batin, or esoteric knowledge and the spirituality that came with this knowledge - walaya, by genealogical chain traced back to Ahl-al Bayt, and undertook an initiating and supervisory role over his adherents. As the progeny of Hac? Bekta? Veli, the Çelebis, namely the Ulusoy family, have become the heirs of his sacred authority which was also inherited by their descendant through blood and transmigration. The Ulusoys have undertaken the role of spiritual guides and leaders of some other sacred dede (sacred guide) lineages called ocaks, as well as of the disciples of those ocaks, to regulate and supervise their life in accordance with the batin, or divine knowledge. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation is to explore the maintenance and reproduction of the hereditary sanctity of the Ulusoy family in the context of the Republic of Turkey. Due to the secularization and modernization attempts of the Republic, the sanctity and sacred authority of the family has not been recognized as a socially distinct category. To this end, I first provide a historical examination by situating the family in the Ottoman period. Having found out the continuities and ruptures in exercising of the sacred authority of the family over the disciples after the establishment of the Republic, I focus on the transformation of the sanctity by employing the concepts of space/place, kinship, and gender.