Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic Sibiu/ September, 2007

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Galina Oustinova-Stjepanovic

Sibiu/ September, 2007.
Political Cosmology of Sufi Bektashi Turks in the Republic of Macedonia.

This project aspires to investigate the relations between religion and politics in the everyday lives of Bektashi Turks in Macedonia. Large numbers of Turks started to arrive in Macedonia in late 14th century following the tides of the Ottoman expansion into the Balkan region. By the 19th century, several military defeats, internal economic and political strife within the Ottoman Empire and the emergence of nationalist movements for independence among the fledgling nation-states in the Balkans accelerated the Ottoman withdrawal from the region. Today’s territorial Macedonia passed to Serbia in 1912-13, then, was incorporated into the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes. Those Turkish populations who stayed behind were offered a constitutional protection first by the Royal Kingdom of Yugoslavia and later by the socialist Yugoslavia, although different privileges and rights were repeatedly bestowed and revoked. Although many Turks migrated to Turkey or geographically Western countries, especially after the Second World War, some Turkish communities persisted. Now, there are around 170 000 to 200 000 Turks living in Macedonia.

Mainly, Ottoman Turks professed Sunni Islam of Hanafi legal school. Religion played a crucial administrative role in the Ottoman days and formed the basis of the millet system that divided Ottoman populations according to their religious rather than ethnic affiliation. However, ‘Islam’ in the Balkans was never monolithic. In addition to Sunni adherents, many Sufi orders established their tekke, lodges, in Macedonia. Bektashiyya is one of such orders. Bektashis were initially employed by the Ottoman government to supervise the religious and military training of famous Janissaries, fearsome colonizing troops of the Ottoman army. The juridical disputes between Hanafi ulema, religious experts, and Bektashi mystic ideology generated tensions and open hostilities between conflicting authorities. As a result, Bektashis were persecuted and eventually outlawed. In response to official and popular stigmatization, Bektashi developed a strategy of taquiyah, i.e. secrecy and dissimilation as a means of protection.

Bektashi ritual practices are characterized by syncretism of Shi’a, Sunni and Judaeo-Christian elements. Although Bektashi spiritual leaders, murshid, trace their powers and knowledge from Gabriel through Ali, worshipped by Shi’ites, recitations during prayers and mystical interpretations, including numerology and divination, are formulated not only on the basis of the Quran but also the Gospels and the Torah. In addition to the religious fast of Ramadan, Bektashi abstain from food during the month of Moharrem but colour the eggs during Orthodox Easter season. Bektashi have rather lax attitude to women’s veiling and, what’s more, men and women can participate in joint prayers without ritual segregation. Prayers are usually accompanied by singing of Bektashi hymns and counter-clockwise whirling of dervishes. I have not encountered a written mention of witchcraft and sorcery among Bektashi but it is possible to assume that certain practices, like amulets, are as widespread as elsewhere, for example in Bosnia.

Diverse forms of Islams in Macedonia tend to intersect with ethnic identifications. Thus, Bektashi orders consist of ethnic Turks, Albanians, Roma and Torbeshi (Macedonian-speaking Slav Muslims). In my research, I focus on Turkish populations because of their positionality between Macedonian and Albanians politics that dominate current political scene in the country. ‘Islam’ is becoming rapidly politicized because it has been closely linked with Albanian armed struggle to claim political and cultural rights in 2001. Following the break-away from Yugoslavia in 1991, Macedonian state pursued the policy of homogenization and naturalization of the Macedonian nation often to the disadvantage of other ethnic groups. Military confrontations between Albanian paramilitary troops and the state forces that ensued have resulted in displacement of several villages and a marked geographical and social polarization between Albanians and Macedonians. For the past decade, the radicalization of Albanian politics and fears of Albanian irredentism have been on the priority list of the Macedonian government. Turkish political motivations and demands for greater representation have been addressed but not entirely to the satisfaction of the Turkish activists who are concerned that ‘Albanization’ of Muslims in Macedonia will lead to the erosion of specifically Turkish rights to education, freedom of religion and political say in the Macedonian state affairs.

What has captivated my attention in Macedonia with regard to Turkish populations is their ostentatious political passivism, the impression that was strengthened by a couple of recent publications on the subject. I could not recall any news reports or newspaper articles about Turkish vociferous claim-making in the country. Certainly, there are efforts, for example, to promote the registration of Turkish religious organizations but most studies conducted in Macedonia demonstrate that Turks express loyalty to the Macedonian state, are generally satisfied with their current position although some lament the loss of the ‘minority status’ in 1991. At the moment, I am trying to research forms of being political that do not inevitably mean involvement in a political movement. Following the critique of moral models in anthropology that privilege activism over casual, even unperturbed and intimate engagement with the state, I am looking for ways to understand the alternative ways in which religion and politics are experienced through cognition, bodies and emotions in everyday lives without lapsing into or endlessly reproducing the binary discourse of oppression and resistance.

My research operates with three conceptual frameworks: anthropology of religions, anthropology of the state and anthropology of embodiment. Within the first framework, I have been seeking to strike a balance between excessively psychological approaches to religion represented by Malinowski and encapsulated in an analytical term of ‘belief’ as an inner state, and a form of social determinism that can’t explain how collective representations become entrenched in selves. Instead, I will concentrate on material and discursive practices, ceremonies and rituals of religious adherents. Theories of practice, performativity and orchestration of rituals in anthropology highlight a crucial corporeal rather than intellectualist dimension of religion, but I still find it difficult to apprehend the presence of the divine in phenomenological realities of people. I am inspired by a controversial debate around Levy-Bruhl’s argument about the experiential presences of the ‘supernatural’ in people’s lives. I am trying to relate his understanding of the participation of the divine in quotidian environment to the postulates of the philosophical school of pragmatism about the radical empiricism of the divine. When divinities are real in the sense that people engage in ritualized or ad hoc relations with them, then human and non-human spiritual actants, in Bruno Latour terms, inhabit an experiential realm constructed through translations, negotiations and numerous articulations between them.

However, the Manchester school of the anthropology of religion has demonstrated that it is impossible to treat religion in isolation from other social and political fields. Here, I would like to investigate the imbroglios between political and religious microprocesses, embodied practices and epistemologies, that is interpretations, framing, knowledges, articulated ideas and fantasies, in the mundane and markedly ritual moments in Bektashi Turks’ existence. Literature on political Islams tends to privilege cases of functional utilization of Islams in political struggles, for example, there are rife accounts of revisionist or reform movements in Islams that can also be found among Wahhabis in Macedonia and neighbouring countries. I think, as a result, the studies of Islams lean toward an ideological analysis of Islams while everyday practices and mediations are ‘blackboxed’. By contrast, I am interested in theorizing religion not as a tool of politics but as a way of creating realities and living in concrete fields of sociality and interaction between human, divine and state actants.

With reference to the state, the two avenues that I have to explore in detail are ways of being political through citizenship and embodiment, as well as empirical actualities of the state. I am not yet versed in anthropological publications on citizenship but, preliminarily, I am more interested in practical associations and matter-of-fact exigencies of being a citizen than in identity politics movements. Being political has been conceptualized outside social movements as a lot of ‘underprivileged and weak’ who can’t organize themselves and instead resort to sabotage and slacking down. Sometimes, the politics of less powerful are manifest in bodily symptoms, like illnesses or religiously infused embodied practices of possession, bewitchment and trance. These practices have been interpreted by anthropologists as forms of protest against macabre and repressive elements of the state. In fact, encounters with the state are intrinsic parts of citizenship. Conceptually, I do not construe the state as an individualized rational actor or a reified entity, or an abstraction, although it is reasonable to expect a degree of objectification and hypostatization of the state in common parlance. I would like to think about the state as enduring patterns, maybe structures, of relations, representations, ceremonies, human managers and imaginaries that are significant in the quotidian situations of Bektashi Turks existence. Moreover, the state incorporates but does not contain cultures, economies, social spheres, technologies, which can prove to be important variables of this project.

It is my effort to learn about and describe the pragmatics of being political and religious among Bektashi Turks. Under the extremely valuable intellectual guidance of my supervisors and professors, I have introduced an analytical model of political cosmology to continue thinking about the relations between religion and politics as a crafted reality populated by acting, thinking and feeling beings. I anticipate some criticism of the term for connotations of coherence or codification that glosses over conflict and ad hoc spontaneous assemblages. The same objections, rather hoary, can be directed at concepts like culture, totality or community. I adhere to the usage of political cosmology because I am striving to identify specific minutiae of religion and politics in order to understand how they assemble into a unified experiential and pragmatic reality of both the divine and the state. In this respect, I find Bruno Latour’s discussion of collectives and factishes, that is, processual fabrication and naturalization of reality, Roy Rappaport’s ecological model of reciprocity and participation of humans in their world, and pragmatist philosophy highly motivating. The methodological emphasis on the embodied and emotive mode of Bektashi Turks dealings with the divine and the state is derived from these conceptualizations. Nevertheless, there are still numerous blind spots in this proposal that require considerable further research and methodological sensitization, and much of the theoretical underpinnings will be modified by field research.

I have travelled to Macedonia several times and spent about three months with interruptions in Skopje, the capital city, and Ohrid, a southern town and overwhelmingly noisy resort by the lake divided between the states of Macedonia and Albania. One of the things that I found striking during my first visit was a neon-lit cross on the hill overlooking Skopje. Later, when travelling through the country I saw that dazzling white mosques and crosses are built to mark villages and districts of concentrated Muslim, usually Albanian, and Macedonian Christian denizens. Equally stunning are omnipresent national banners decorated with the Star of Vergina, the sun symbol of Alexander the Great, and the statues from the classical period of Ancient Greece, that stress the primordial origins of the state of Macedonia. It seemed to me that local communities and the nation-state were creating different and frequently conflicting narratives of identifications. These narratives are conspicuous enough for interpretation not only by the residents of the country but by hundreds of Greek tourists in places close to the Greek border who survey the architecture, savour local cuisine and might contest Macedonia’s cultural claims to the above symbols.

My knowledge of peoples and places in Macedonia accrues slowly, partly because I have been prevented from more profound engagement in research by the personal circumstances of my travel in the region. However, I tried to socialize with people in casual conversations at street markets, public transport or cafes. I also visited a few shops selling Islamic literature some of it published locally in Albanian and Macedonian or in Vienna in Bosnian. Veils and tapes with recordings of prayers were also available. I was also tongue-tied for the lack of linguistic competence in Macedonian and non-existent knowledge of Turkish. At the moment, I am devoting some time to the study of both languages. Most Turks in Macedonia are bilingual and mix Macedonian and Turkish in conversations with each other and had no objections to answering to my enquiries exclusively in Macedonian. However, at home Turkish is used as the main language.

In addition to acquiring at least some basic communicative skills in the coming year, I have to concentrate on the anthropology of Islams, especially Sufi orders. Bektashism is not the only form of Sufism in Macedonia. There are also orders like Helveti, Naksh-Bandi, Rufa’i, Qadiri, Malami, and I find it difficult at the moment to outline theological and practical differences and similarities between them. Therefore, I flounder with justifications of why Bektashis are a cogent case in point for my project. It is imperative that I learn more from primary and secondary sources about these orders, their philosophical, historical and lived aspects, in order to delineate with some clarity the unit of analysis. Also, I have made arrangements to travel to Macedonia in January or early February to investigate the possibility of conducting research in a rural or an urban setting, which will have implications for methodology.

Concluding, I would like to point at a few of many methodological puzzles that need further investigation. First, I think that the inverted methodology of observant participation adopted by phenomenologists can illuminate new perspectives on Sufism in Macedonia. It implies direct and embodied learning on behalf of an anthropologist of various skills, linguistic, social or ritual and maybe occupying a structurally-defined role, for example of a tea hostess at a tekke (this example is derived from the description of internal structure of a Sufi lodge elsewhere) that can ensure fuller participation in Bektashi lives. Second, Bektasis are well-known for more religiously egalitarian attitudes to women who can traverse masculine spaces conventionally out of bounds to women in other Muslim groups. Thus, I don’t believe that it is unavoidable that I will have impeded access to certain gendered events or thematic conversations, although I can’t discard this possibility. But, I definitely have to take into account the penchant for secrecy among Bektashi religious disciples, who use it as a historically grounded protective mechanism against stigmatization and ridicule. Finally, I am trying to rethink and delineate a unit of analysis that I have originally defined in terms of a ‘community’, in the sense of familiarity and we-ness. In this regard, I have been criticized for lack of attention to the dynamic and hierarchical aspects of Bektashi Turks neighborhoods.

My interest in emphasizing ‘community’ has been a consequence of a visit to a Bektashi Turk village called Kanatlarci. I arrived there on late Sunday morning to find a village of about one hundred households completely desolated. The bright green gate doors of all the houses I tried to enter were securely locked. While I was scouring the village for inhabitants I was accompanied by a loud popular Turkish tunes that emanated from a large house close to the centre of the village. I finally came across a middle-aged man who was tinkering something in the yard of a shabby brick house close to the old-looking mosque with a well next to it. He explained to me that there was a wedding taking place at that moment and almost the whole village was attending it. Later, I came across a couple traipsing in the direction of the wedding and holding a plastic bad with boxes of chocolates that I could only presume were a gift to the newlyweds. Even a short span of an afternoon in Kanatlarci and an equally brief visit to a Turkish neighborhood in the Albanian dominated part of Skopje suggested that community-based relations are important and I would like my research to reflect this, even if conflicts, tensions, badmouthing and similar are part and parcel of the everyday among Bektashi Turks.

Latour, B. (1999) Pandora’s Hope. Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, Massachusetts, and London: Harvard University Press.

Levy-Bruhl, L. (1985 [1926]) How Natives Think. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Rappaport, R. (1994) “Humanity’s Evolution and Anthropology’s Future”. In Borofsky, R. Assessing Cultural Anthropology. New York: McGraw-Hill, Inc. pp. 153-167.



Political Cosmology of Sufi Bektashi Turks in the Republic of Macedonia1.


  1. The Paradox

    1. Research Question

  2. Historical Introduction

    1. The Ottoman Empire and Nationalism

    2. Illinden Uprising

    3. Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes

    4. Royal Yugoslavia

    5. Socialist Yugoslavia

    6. Independent Nation-state of Macedonia

  3. Conceptual Frameworks

    1. Anthropology of Religion

      1. On the Reality of the Divine

      2. Sufism

    1. Cosmology

    1. Anthropology of the State and Politics

      1. Being Political and Citizenship

      2. The State, State Institutions and State Managers

    1. Embodiment and Emotion

  1. Methodology

4.1. Unit of Analysis and Location

4.2. Method of Practical Learning (participation/ phenomenology of practognosis)
1. The Paradox:

The conventional reference to ‘Islam’2 in Macedonia is made about essentialized and reified Islamic Religious Community (Islamska verska zajednica)3 that is described as traditional and historically established Muslim COMMUNITY in Macedonia. This prevailing representation of a monolithic Islamic Religious Community, with sporadic media references to a few radical splinters of Wahhabis and with no mention of the registered Islamic Dervish Religious Community outside of academic literature, obscures the dynamics of ethnic, habitual and ad hoc relations, alliances and rifts between diverse Islamic orders, including Sufi lodges, within the Macedonian social geography. Also, Islamic Religious Community is formally constituted as a communitarian political rather than religious body (Bowen 2003: 41) and by default as a unit of state regulations and politics. The paradox of the state and popular definitions of ‘Islam’ in Macedonia is that diverse religious modes of Muslim collectivities in Macedonia are culturalized as a homogeneous ‘tradition’ and at the same time institutionalized and politicized as Islamic Religious Community that is officially registered as a representative body of shared interests of all Muslims on the territory of the Macedonian nation-state. POLITICAL SYSTEM IN MACEDONIA (PARLIAMENTARY ORGANIZATION/ CONSTITUTION/ ETHNIC COMPOSITION OF MINISTRIES)

CENSUS OF 2000/ CATEGORIES/ ‘FINDINGS’ (but only on the territory of Macedonia, which perpetuates the function of the state as a container of society)

Within this scheme of affairs, Turkish groups living in the Republic of Macedonia are effaced from the governmental and media limelight preoccupied with the relations between Macedonian and Albanian formal and quotidian politics of precarious semi-consociational system established by the Ohrid Framework agreement (INCLUDE A BRIEF OUTLINE IN THE APPENDIX) in 2001. The attitude of Turkish communities to the tensions between Macedonian and Albanian modes of nationalism has been described as “political passivism of the minority” (Mandaci 2007: 10) that displays loyalty to the Macedonian authorities and foregrounds economic welfare and some cultural rights, like education, as publicly voiced concerns of Turkish denizens in the country. Some attempts have been made by the Turkish Democratic Party to push for the amendments to the Ohrid Framework to allow the adoption of the ethnic quota in the Macedonian parliament as it is envisaged by the constitution and potentially guaranteed by the ST.LOUGE SYSTEM of “plus 20 seats” for deputies of underrepresented minority groups (ibid. 15). Eventually, after some negotiations, three Turkish deputies were sent to the parliament. At the same time, gerrymandering of political authority to local Albanian councils further eroded Turkish influence in decision-making and power-sharing processes in municipalities with Turkish populations and indicates that links between DEVOLUTION and increasing DEMOCRATIC PARTICIPATION of all ethnic and religious groups are not self-evident.

The galvanizing paradox of this research is the relations and mediations between political and religious pragmatics in the everyday lives of many Bektashi Turks, Sufi MYSTICs and historical descendants of Ottoman Turks in Macedonia. What interests me is how a religious community engages with the state and the world of divinities despite ostentatious political passivism and a religious theology that fosters religious perceptions and practices characterized by a high degree of transcendence and inwardness (Netton 2000), the creation of anti-structures (Turner 1996) or even withdrawal into parallel spiritual lifeworlds. LIMINALITY In addition to the religious sequestering of Sufi Bektashi Turks within the predominantly Sunni religious landscape of Macedonia, Bektashi Turks occupy a historically liminal4 position of relative invisibility (Turner 2005 [1964]: 96-105) in-between oppositional politics of many Macedonians and Albanians within the Macedonian state. Their legal and social liminality (BUT THEY ARE SUBSUMED INTO THE OVERARCHING CATEGORY OF CITIZENSHIP – HOMOGENIZING AND INTEGRATIVE FUNCTION/ ALSO CONTROL. CF HURBON: NO DESIRE FOR TOTAL POLITICAL EXCLUSION IN PENTECOSTALISM IN THE CARIBBEAN/ PENTACOSTALISTS ARE STILL CITIZENS. APPADURAI AND HOLSTON ON EROSION OF NATIONAL CITIZENSHIP IN STATE/SPACE) within the state political structures and within an ‘orthodox’ Muslim community in Macedonia is accentuated by the ubiquitous folk stigmatization of Bektashi as dangerous and eccentric. The religiously stipulated propensity to the abnegation of the material world in dervish practices among Bektashi Turks coupled with formal political malaise and ambivalence, together with limited political mobilization, makes their complex case highly relevant to the understanding of the everyday modes of being political and religious through embodied subjectivities of Muslim mystics and through the “ethics of indifference” (Tonkiss 2003: 299), that is the capacity to remain unseen and impersonal in some social fields.

To capture the phenomenological connectedness between a Bektashi form of Sufism and the political existence of Bektashi Turks in the state of Macedonia, I seek to go beyond “moral models” (D’Andrade 1995: 399) of understanding political action in anthropological scholarship. By operationalizing concepts like oppression, hegemony, marginalization, demystification, D’Andrade suggests, some anthropologists pursue careers of critical denunciation of injustices and predicaments at the expense of epistemological clarity. It is often assumed that the only meaningful form of being political is “an activist relationship to the world, which is evidently culture-specific, if not gender-specific, and thus does not fulfil its claim to universality” (Joas 1996: 167). Thus, in addition to being ethnocentric and negative, moral models of political action ignore the possibility of “other politics” (Geertz ???) that “encompasses passivity, sensitivity, receptivity and imperturbability” (Joas 1996: 168). Finally, moral models disregard the crucial proposition that politics is produced in associations between humans and non-humans (Latour 1999) including divinities, which are assembled into empirical realms of human experiences. The way to account for other politics is to recognize that real worlds of politics and gods, that I dare dub a political cosmology, are processually and historically fabricated and inhabited by collectives of actants, again human and non-human (ibid.), and institutions that relate to each other through cognition, emotions and bodies. Therefore, methodologically, the interface between politics and religion should be studied through embodied and affective forms of sociality and their pragmatic consequences.

This proposal is an effort to re-humanize Islams in Macedonia by addressing a gap in broader scholarship that gives prominence to processes of the politicization and scripturalization of Islam but downplays the lived, religious and political, dimensions of the routine experiences of Muslim subjects. In other words, instead of looking at Islams as cultural systems in abstraction or political movements, I seek to recover the ways the political and the religious are experienced and captivate human minds and bodies and at the same time are produced and modified by people on day-to-day basis. For example, studies of political Islam neglect the fact that for many activist groups Islam is as much a political ideology as a religion (Roy 1994). Conversely, outlining historical and political contexts as a backdrop to religious aspects of Islam does not explain how the religious and the political interact and converge in minds and bodies, how they become praxis and experience. The research will be positioned within the frameworks of the anthropology of Islams, anthropology of the state and theories of embodied subjectivities and will seek to tamper excessively cultural or political, psychological or socially deterministic, studies of Islams. My analytic objective is to demonstrate how connections between the political and the religious are ceaselessly breaking into microprocesses and recombine into experiential wholes (c.f. Strathern 1994: 204-217) in the minds, discourses and practices of embodied and emotive selves residing in evanescent and intransigent historical structures and material environment. On a broader theoretical terrain, this project will contribute to the scholarship on the interplay between subjective and objective, micro and macro facets of people’s everyday actualities. Ethnographic field research and methodology will help me describe and interpret the contradictions and agreements of multiple engagements of embodied religious selves of Sufi disciples in the daily being-in-the-world of the political field, such as the state.
1.2 Research question


My research operates with a working hypothesis that keeping in mind the relational complexities and pragmatic exigencies of living in the today’s state of Macedonia as simultaneously embodied citizens and inward-oriented religious mystics, Bektashi Turks’ political and spiritual reality can be interpreted and anthropologically represented as political cosmology. Conceptually, I define political cosmology as a “factish”, a term coined by Bruno Latour to describe the processual fabrication of reality (1999: 266-292) through entanglement of KNOWLEDGEs, practices, actants and their environment. Thus, a factish carries connotations of a relational UNITY that is being constructed and at the same time is gradually gaining autonomy from its demiurges. This understanding of political cosmology resembles and is inspired by an “ecological model” of reciprocity between humans and their worlds (Rappaport 1994: 163-165). For Rappaport, the ecological model emphasizes participation (ibid.: 165) as an ordering principle of human interaction with a broader Cosmos. The ecological model in anthropology engulfs not only relations of human organisms to their biological interlocutors, and complex material infrastructures, like cities, but also congregations of humans and other actants, for example divinities, that otherwise might remain confined to metaphysical existence. Indeed, the cosmological order of reality postulates “radical empiricism” of the divine and their contiguity with other cosmological elements (Frankenberry ?: 336-351), such as the political or its most intellectually and practically formidable manifestation: the state. The nub of this argument is that political cosmology describes an organic (Dewey) clutter of the divine (the NUMINOUS in Rudolph Otto) and the political that are experienced in equally real practical situations.

(explain clearly whether political cosmology is an analytical model, etc. beginning to look like it is a given entity to be discovered. HOW CAN I AVOID USING PC AS A LABEL?)

How is political cosmology produced and how does it become an inhabited reality? What are the elements comprising it (categories, knowledges, human and non-human actants, institutions, events, concepts, intersubjective fantasies, practices and rituals, bodily techniques) and what are the relations between them? How does this reality become an emancipated construct or ‘factish’ that constitutes the materiality of relations and is entrenched in people’s selves? How is political cosmology naturalized into a phenomenological lifeworld of everyday interactions and mundane encounters of people, divinities and the state? In what ways does political cosmology engage Bektashi Turks’ bodies and minds in concrete everyday workings? How can political cosmology be studied cognitively in meanings, interpretations and representations, but also emotively and bodily in practices and actions? What political and religious selves are produced and what practices are germane to people’s positionality within political cosmology? What kind of politics and religious socialities are fostered and perpetuated within this political cosmology and how do they relate to each without losing their specificity? And what are the methodological implications for understanding the interactions between the political and the religious through embodied participation?

ANIMISM: belief that humans share the world with invisible beings (Tylor)/ compare to PC.

What religious and political notions/ CATEGORIES and practices underwrite and produce EXPLANATION OF A UNITY/ ECOLOGICAL MODEL AND A COLLECTIVE

Fieldwork research will substantiate, modify and empirically flesh out the analytical notion of political cosmology, a congruent political and religious lifeworld constructed and inhabited by Bektashi Turks. Although I usher a holistic understanding of political cosmology, it should not be misinterpreted as a coherent system or undifferentiated totality. Totality often implies internal cohesion and ossified stability of representations. Even more cogently, Frankenberry points that totality easily slips into monism of a single governing force, for example a philosophical principle of Abstract Mind or repressive mechanisms of state power. Therefore, my conceptual assumption that the term political cosmology is an analytic tactic to help me think about reality of Bektashi Turks politics and religion as orchestrated but volatile entanglement of actants, structures, “imaginaries”5 (Strauss 2006: 322-344), intersubjective meanings6 and concrete practices in tangible environments that incorporate “the freak occurrence, the anomaly, the unrepresentative figure, the nonrepeating pattern, the impermanent and unremarked cultural form” (Malkki 1997: 87). Political cosmology is conceptualized as a profoundly social edifice that consists of messy lived realities (Kapferer 1997: xiv) populated by embodied political and mystic religious subjects. I think about political cosmology as potentially chaotic (Kapferer 1997) structures, that is, historically enduring and culturally transmitted embodied practices and categories of thought (Bourdieu 1992), such as secrecy, trickery and camouflage associated with Bektashi Turks mode of Sufi Islam.

This research aspires to address bewildering questions of production and experience of reality that unavoidably foist a revision of concepts such as agency, structure, creating and imagination, knowledge. At the same time, I will work with two mansions of this reality, the religious and the political, which are neither autonomous nor conflated in daily lives. Each mansion challenges me to apprehend their concrete manifestations. In the frame of anthropology of religion, I have to tackle the theological and pragmatic specifics of Islams, even more pointedly of Sufi Islams in the region, the problematic of the divine, mystic and syncretic in Bektashi perceptions and practices, such as ritual, trance and secrecy. In the attempt to deal with the political, I will investigate the issues of being political and theories of the state and related concepts such as citizenship and nationhood. Finally, the reality of the political and the religious cannot be studied as a disembodied reification. Under the intellectual spell of pragmatism and phenomenology, I will look for ways to approach the religious and the political not only through minds but also bodies and emotions of Bektashi Turk selves in their quotidian world.

INTERPRETATION/ MEANINGS AND ACTION (stress action otherwise I repeat the mistake of interpretive and cognitive anthropology).

2. Historical Introduction: the case of Macedonia.

The events of the 19th century accelerated the ebbing of the Ottoman power, a reversal of its triumphant expansion in the later mid-14th century when Macedonia, parts of Greece and Albania were conquered, followed by complete incorporation of Bulgaria and transformation of Serbia and Wallachia into Ottoman tributaries (CDRSEE 2005: 27-29) . The 19th century witnessed several revolts against the Ottoman Empire, the Greek war of Independence and numerous attempts by the Empire to restructure its internal socio-political organization through the Tanzimat reforms. Earlier, the imperial subjects were administratively arranged into millets, territorial and social units based on religious confession rather than ethnic identification (Glenny 1999: 70-72). The divisions that promoted the superiority of Muslims over ‘infidels’, were enforced by a number of measures such as the observance of a strict dress code, a bodily marker or a regulation of movement and the relative physical height of Muslims towering over Christians when the former could use horses proscribed from the use among Christians . For example, the imperial restrictions issued in 1631 prohibited Christians from wearing silk, satins and bright colours. A historical description of people in Plovdid dated 1553-1555 documents that Bulgarians could only wear grey and white cloaks and men had long locks of hair uncommon among shortly cropped hairstyle of Turks (all examples borrowed from CDRSEE 2005).

GEOGRAPHICAL DESCRIPTION OF MACEDONIA/ but not as a body of fixed facts.

NEO-REALISM/ LIBERALISM: STATE as an actor: rational individual (crit.)


19TH CENTURY: NATIONALISM IN THE BALKANS/ STARTING POINT/ justify periodization in terms of socio-political restructuring

A lingering assumption in political sciences is that the political presupposes a territorial state7 (Agnew and Corbridge 1995: 92). In the late 19th century territoriality of Macedonia that remained part of the Ottoman Empire till 1912 was historically an iffy political issue with parts of the geographical area of Aegean, Pirin and Vardar Macedonia claimed by several international powers and fledgling Balkan states. The Treaty of Berlin signed in 1878 foisted a frustrating territorial settlement in the Balkans that left all participants unappeased, including the grudging Russia, Austria and Hungary, Great Britain and others. Macedonia, parts of which had been previously lost to Bulgaria, was restored to the, nevertheless, ineluctably shrinking Ottoman Empire (Glenny 1999: 145-151). The newly demarcated borders of the independent states, like Greece, Montenegro, Romania and Serbia, could hardly ameliorate conflicting relations shaping politics in the region. Nor could linear borders obliterate and enclose multi-local economic and social forms of exchange and interaction (Kratochwil ???: 42) within allegedly self-contained territorial entities. For this matter, the myth of internal civil or economic coherence of the nation-state, and the local states specifically, could not be boosted and realized either (Brenner 2003: 1-25).

E.G. FROM MAZOWER: forms of social relations.



Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes



Recent independence, Is the state space being naturalized today? How?


The arrival of Bektashi Turks, adepts of a mystical Sufi cult, in current-day Macedonia can be traced to the 15th- 16th century when the militant aspects of Bektashiyya Sufi order were utilized by the Ottoman Empire that created Bektashi regiments and entrusted them, first, with the maintenance of religious knowledge in its army and later with command over initially celibate Janissary soldiers, the Ottoman elite troops (Glenny 1999: 4, Shaw 1976: 123). Other Sufi orders, such as Helveti, Naksh-Bandi, Rufa’i, Qadiri, Malami, were thriving in the Rumelian provinces of the Ottoman Empire (CEDIME-SE 2000), as the Balkans were called during the Ottoman reign. Partly because Bektashiyya Sufism was a mystical Sufi order dating back to roughly 1300, eventually their practices and views of Islamic spirituality clashed with the opinions of the Ottoman jurists, the order was outlawed and prolonged overt persecutions and hostility against Bektashiyya adepts gained in intensity (Baldick 1989: 115). Today, Bektashiyya Turks form a minor Muslim community among numerous Muslim groups in the Republic of Macedonia. The diversity of forms of Islams at the intersection with ethnicity is dazzling (Poulton 1995: 26-47). The Bektashi communities are comprised of Albanians and Turks and probably Roma and Torbeshi, a distinction enforced by the rules of endogamy (Svetieva 1993: 17-35). The ethnic mix of Bektashi groups raises some tensions in mosques where Albanian is a selected language of worship (CEDIME-SE 2000 :21). Both Bektashi Turks and Bektashi Albanians coexist with Hanafi Sunnites: Ghegh and Tosk Albanians, Turks, Macedonian-speaking Torbeshi, Pomacks, Serbo-Croatian speaking Gorani and Roma, Wahhabis and several Sufi orders with further internal divisions and ethnic overlaps. IMPORTANT TO CONSIDER THIS HETEROGENEITY IN ORDER TO DEMONSTRATE HOW POLITICAL COSMOLOGY IS CONTESTED. IT IS MOST PROBABLY CONTESTED INTERNALLY (E.G. CLASS, AGE, ETC.). CAREFUL HERE NOT TO CONSTRUCT BEKTASHI AS A BOUNDED COMMUNITY (because of the external/ internal dichotomy).

‘Islam’ in Macedonia tends to be conceived as highly ethnicized and politicized entity. It is conventionally associated with Albanian ethnic groups, especially in the aftermath of the armed conflict between Albanian paramilitaries and the state troops. Following the break-away from Yugoslavia, in 1990 the Macedonian state was redefined as a nation-state of Macedonian people from the state of Macedonian people and Albanian and Turkish minorities ­(Gallagher 2006). Many Albanians expressed their concerns about being denigrated to the rank of second-class citizens, the concerns that were aggravated by a tortuous and inconclusive struggle for the cultural rights to officially use the Albanian language or to fly a historical Albanian flag which was seen by the state as a clear sign of incipient Albanian separatism. When the tensions erupted in violent confrontations between Albanian paramilitaries and the government armed groups in 2001, the result was the relocation of ethnic Albanians and Macedonians from mixed geographical areas into places of high ethnic concentration and even segregation. POLARISATION IS A PROCESS OF INCREASING AGGREGATION OF THE MEMBERS OF SOCIETY INTO EXCLUSIVE AND MUTUALLY HOSTILE GROUPS (Leo Kuper 1977: 128 The Pity of it All. Polarization of Racial and Ethnic Relations).

Moreover, amidst earlier fears of the radicalization of Islam, Macedonian state is preoccupied with Albanian secular nationalism that has riddled the state for 15 years despite a series of surprising coalition governments formed between several Albanian and Macedonian parties, for instance between Macedonian nationalist party VMRO-DPMNE and Albanian radicals PDSh in the 2006 elections. Several laws have been endorsed aiming to curtail the possibilities of radicalization of Albanian Islam in Macedonia including a ban on religious education of Muslim youth under the age of 158 and unsuccessful efforts to impede the construction of mosques. Also, till recently the state has been hesitant to liberalize the Law on Religious Communities and Groups that designates a single religious community for each denomination (Article 8(2) of the Constitution 1998). Interestingly, the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Religious Community, who claim to be the exclusive representatives of Orthodox and Muslim believers respectively, put pressure on the government to maintain the law that circumscribes the actual diversity of religious denominations and practices. These laws, explicitly targetted at curtailing the influence of the Serbian Church in Macedonia, precluded the possibility of being formally recognized as a religious order, church or sect. Islamic Religious Community is not the only officially registered Muslim organization. Islamic Dervish Community located in the Roma district of Shuto Orizari and Bektashi Community in Tetovo administer their own offices and maintain an independent status, although the latter is not officially registered. Nevertheless, the dominant Islamic Religious Community insists on being the only legitimate body of regulation of Muslim affairs in the whole of Macedonia. To address specific interests of Sufi orders, taricates, the Council of Dervish Elders was created as a section within the Islamic Religious Community (CEDIME-SE 2000:18). Thus, the state’s legal framework subsumes the actual diversity of religious groups under the heading of a Muslim community with its Islamic Religious Community considered to be the interlocutor with the state on the issues pertaining Islam in Macedonia.

It seems that since the armed conflict in 2001, the Islamic Religious Community has been associated with specifically Sunni Albanian interests, especially due to its links with the Albanian Party for Democratic Prosperity (CEDIME-SE 2000: 19). The Muslim Religious Community that brings together Torbeshi, Turks, Bosnians and Roma remains unregistered (needs to be checked). The political representation of ethnic Turks is equally overshadowed by Albanian politics and the state’s balancing act against new violent conflagration and anxiety about Albanian separatism. Xavier Bougarel (online) explains that the former Party for Democratic Prosperity that articulated the joined interests of Muslim ’minorities’ in the country split soon after the country’s independence, and its Albanian splinter party PDSh, a coalition member today, advocates an increasingly radical agenda and intermittently finds itself in the government coalitions. However, Turkish communities do not share the Albanian bid for Macedonian-Albanian official bilingualism or the autonomy of Western Macedonian (the area of high concentration of Albanians). It is plausible to contend that today one of the reasons for the state’s renewed negotiations with the Macedonian Orthodox Church and the Islamic Religous Community to liberalize the Denomination Laws and to introduce religious education at schools is the state’s attempt to fragment and diffuse the political power of the dominant Albanian Muslim group (c.f. Mamdani 1996).

Increasing ’Albanization of Islam’ in Macedonia explains the double political and social ’marginality’ of Bektashi Turks as an ethnic and religious collectivity. It is not clear whether Bektashi Albanians find themselves more empowered through their ethnic and linguistic identification with the dominant Muslim group in Macedonia, but Bektashi Turks are excluded from the mainstream political and social processes by virtue of their ethnicity and religion. The suspicion of the Bektashi religious beliefs arises out of historical awarenes of the ’syncretism’ (for the archeology of the term Stewart 1999)of their practices that include Shi’a and Orthodox Christian elements. Thus, knowledge for Bektashi means spiritual knowledge transmitted through the chain from Gabriel, to Muhammad, Ali, the imams, Hajji Bektashi and then spiritual leaders, murshid, who are bestowed with healing powers and power to perform miracles (Trix 1993). The Bektashis often claim to be Sunnites but because of their worship of Ali and his sons they are seen as adherents of Shiism (Filipovic 1954). The mystical interpretations and recitations during the prayer are based on the interpretations of Torah, Gospels and the Quran accompanied by counter-clockwise whirling among ordained dervishes, singing Bektashi hymns and circular organization of prayer spaces. In addition to Ramadan, Bektashi Turks adhere to another fast during the month of Moharrem. Other food restrictions involve a taboo on shellfish, hare and rabbit. More, the Bektashis celebrate the New Year’s Day in the same way as Orthodox Slavs, prepare Easter eggs on Good Friday, but are also known to decorate their lodges with the Star of David and pare their nails of Friday in line with a Jewish tradition (McElwain 2004: 95-108). Another important element of Bektashi practices is reluctance to enforce veiling of women, who can in fact become dervishes and participate in mixed prayers with men. However, the mix of religious beliefs and practices among Bektashi Turks has a historical continuity with the Ottoman Empire where religious knowledge and power constituted a common field despite administrative division of religions into millet system. For example, Mark Mazower (2000: 59) provides a historical example of exorcism of vampires in Andrianople in 1872 that involved a Muslim hodja, an Orthodox priest and a Turkish sorcerer. The latter, as Mazower remarks, did the job properly. Moreover, this mix of incommensurable traditions demonstrates that ‘cultures’ are inconclusive yet are harmonized in practices and subjectivities (Lambek 1993: 392-404) in imperfect accommodation with each other (Gluckman 1965: 285).

Loyalty to the Macedonian regime and pragmatism of evaluations of the state in Mandaci. POLITICAL PASSIVISM/ thwarted attempts to enhance political representation.

  1. Conceptual Frameworks

    1. Anthropology of Religion

Origins/ social or psychological/ cognitive

Political cosmology as an analytical model will be linked to several of the theoretically-informed debates about socialization and psychological aspects of religious and political structures and subjectivities. Much of early anthropological scholarship hinges on discussions of origins and functions of religious phenomena. “Sociological imperialism” (Werbner and Basu 1998: 9) looks at the deterministic role of collective representations (Durkheim 2002: 34-49) in shaping individual subjectivities and defining ritual and daily forms of interaction within a ‘bounded community’. For Durkheim (ibid.: 38), “religion is an eminently social thing. Religious representations are collective representations that express collective realities”. This approach is oriented toward the functionalist explanations of social cohesion and modes of solidarity9 that it enforces (Hughes, Sharrock, Martin 1995: 162). While his approach spells the existence of encompassing structures or “impersonal frameworks” (ibid. 39), like ‘society’, and processes outside an aggregate of individuals, Durkheim came short of translating macro conditions into subjective consciousness or human praxis (Alexander and Giesen 1987). Foucault (1991), for example, considers the deterministic role of the objectified and institutionalized social conglomerations and power relations, such as the state, and their coercive role in the production of populations and subjectivities. His work examines the profound effects of social discursive and organizational practices on people’s subjectivities but in the end, like Durkheim, Foucault privileges the social macro reality over agentive minds, bodies and actions of individuals. The focus on institutionalized and capillary technologies of socialization implies that the state or religion is overwhelmingly involved in molding people’s subjectivities, to the effect that the broader scholarship on power and domination that derives from theories of social determinism leaves no leeway for agency independent of the localized repressive mechanisms or social control (Callero 2003).

Psychological studies of religions seek to establish a homology between individual psyche and social order as in the work of Culture and Personality School (Benedict 1934, also Boas on social psychology 2006[1936]). Clifford Geertz (1985: 6-15) suggests that Freudian theories and their application in anthropology construe religion as a symptom of individual or collective neurotic obsessions and a means to alleviate or cleanse anxieties through cathartic release of emotions or renunciation of instinctual drives (Freud in Hamilton 1995). Thus, psychological interpretations of the origins and salience of religions highlight human emotions like fear of death or anxiety as a root cause of religious or magical beliefs and practices, which provide society defined as a sum total of individuals with “means of intellectual, emotional, and pragmatic control of destiny and chance” (Malinowski 1973[1939]: 277). Despite a pronounced psychological bias, Freudian explanations of the origins of religions suffer from a circular logic because sublimation of ‘ontological’ desires creates a symbolic order that reinstates the social over the individual (Lacan 2001 [1957]). Simply, individual psychology is not independent or prior to larger social realities. For Weber, religious beliefs, specifically Protestant ethic, had a psychological function in creating social and economic order but diminished in significance with progressive rationalization (Morris 1987, Weber 1983 [1920]). Weber’s approach incorporates psychological aspects of religious individualism with its social and causal impact on the production of modern capitalist spirit (Barnard 2000: 82). His theories underlie many debates about secularization, privatization of religion and morality (Luckman 1996) and the correlation between an individual, especially a bourgeois individual, and society (Turner 1983).

One of the consequences of extreme social and cultural determinism and extreme psychologizing of religious phenomena is that religion is discussed in the abstract as a system of beliefs without clear content, inculcated or innate, rather than material and discursive practices and rituals, and intersubjective “patterns of meanings” (Geertz 1968: 95-99). This proposal labours toward the “dialectic between these poles” (Lambek 1993: 394). For example, the notion of political cosmology carries strong psychological overtones because it constitutes a reality of palpable cultural representations that are both cognitive and public (Sperber 1984: 73-89). But, this proposal also recognizes the conjuncture of religious traditions and subjectivities with broader socio-political forces. The inherent sociality of religions (Geertz 1968: 19) suggests that religions should be studied relationally, that is with reference to the materialized and subjectively experienced political and social structures. Sensitive to the political contextualization of religions, the anthropologists of the Manchester school, such as Gluckman, Turner and Mitchell, questioned the functionalist methodology of unearthing of symmetrical political and religious structures and stable political and religious systems and focused on ambiguities of processes, conflicts and social situations, such as events and dramas, embedded in external forces (Burawoy 2000: 17). Having rejected interpretations of social structures as a normative order, Gluckman’s work stimulated interest in more historical and dialectic patterns produced through overcoming of conflict and sustaining cooperation or “repetitive equilibrium” (1965: 279) and the processes of articulation and contradictions between disparate spheres of hierarchical social relations, such as, among others, kinship relations and state service (Werbner 1984). Duality10 of structures in a positive fit and/or endemic discord with each other also underlies Turner’s conceptualization of dialectically constitutive hierarchical structures and anti-structures of undifferentiated communitas (Turner 1966: 94-130).

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