Governmentalities of Alevi Cultural Heritage: On Recognition, Surveillance and "Domesticated Diversity" in Contemporary Turkey

Benjamin Weineck


Although Cultural Heritage as such has a rather positive connotation, bringing together notions of safeguarding and human creativity, critical investigations have underlined the various strategic, economic and political rationalities inscribed in this term.
In 2010 the UNESCO rendered the Alevi ritual sequence semah Intangible Cultural Heritage and as such it was inscribed in the Turkish National Inventory of Cultural Heritage – although Alevis are not recognized by the Turkish state and its Sunni-Turkist understandings of belonging. The celebration of an Alevi ritual as enriching Turkey’s ‘cultural diversity’ thus asks for an analytical approach that comes to terms with this tension of recognition, ongoing political surveillance and the very specific understandings of diversity that are put into play. With reference to Foucaults (and particularly Roses) approach to contemporary government as “governmentality”, Cultural Heritage can be grasped in its ambivalent (but not necessarily conflicting) nature as cultural self-fulfillment and governmental control. The paper thus enlarges the analytical scale of thinking about Cultural Heritage in its correlation with identity-formation, the politics of recognition and governance.


Alevis; Turkey; Diversity; Heritage; Governmentality; Ritual

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Benjamin Weineck is a researcher at the Universities of Bayreuth and Heidelberg. He studied Middle Eastern Studies in Mainz, Ankara and Heidelberg where he obtained his MA in Ottoman History in 2013. His current research is focused on both historical and contemporary issues of Alevism and the Alevis’ relationship to the Ottoman and the Turkish state.