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Dr. Gökçen Beyinli-Dinç

Senior Research Fellow


Areas of Interest

  • Gender and Religious History of Modern Turkey
  • Historiography
  • Postcolonial and Global History
  • Lived and Material Religion

The Battle of Superstition: Alevis and the Construction of Islamic Orthodoxy in Secular Turkey

My project examines how “superstition” was influential in shaping Alevi-Muslim difference in the Republic of Turkey from 1923 to 1966. In recent years, “superstition'” has been the subject of critical research as a “third category” alongside religion and secularism, particularly in relation to the modernity experience of East Asian countries. Although "superstition" (hurafe) has also become a disciplinary category of exclusion in modern Turkey, not enough attention has been paid to its role in the historical transformation of the country. Despite the bulk of studies on Alevis, the crucial changes during this period, especially in the late 1940s and 1950s, have not received much academic attention. I argue that Alevis could have become an essential part of the country's “legitimate religion”, but secular and “superstition” policies, more than religious ones, were crucial in winning the “battle of superstition” against Alevis. Inspired by Josephson-Storm's "Superstition, Secularism and Religion Trinary", I aim to extend the religious dimensions of Turkish secularism, which Markus Dressler has framed as a "religio-secular continuum", to include "superstition". In other words, I argue that the analysis of the construction of "Islamic orthodoxy" as "Sunni-Hanefi Islam" requires a new investigation into the history of Turkey with "superstition" as an analytical category and "secularity" as a concept situated within the framework of the "superstitious-religious-secular continuum". I draw on a wide range of archival sources, including previously untapped documents from the internal archives of the Diyanet (Presidency of Religious Affairs) and books written by Alevis themselves, which have been heavily criticised by Islamist circles. The study consists of the following parts:


  • Superstition as a discourse governing the boundaries between the secular, Islam and Alevism
  • The cultural inclusion of Alevis during the period of strict religious control (1923-1946)
  • Western research on the “revival of Islam” in Turkey and the manipulation of religious freedom (1950s)
  • A genealogical analysis of the exclusion of Alevis by focusing on two periods of sudden change (1947-9 and 1957-9)



2013 - 2014
2008 - 2011

Relevant Publications

  • Beyinli, Gökçen. “Reframing Turkey, Istanbul and National Identity: Ottoman History, ‘Chosen People’ and the Opening of Shrines in 1950.” Nations and Nationalism 28, no. 4 (2022): 1428–43.
  • Beyinli, Gökçen. İslam ve Sair Halk: Laik Türkiye’de Hurafeler, Türbeler, Kadınlar. Istanbul: Kitap Yayınevi, 2021.
  • Beyinli, Gökçen. “At Liberty under Occupation but Bound Hand and Foot in the Republic: Istanbul Women, Corruption and Moral Decay after the First World War (1918–1923).” International Journal of Regional and Local History 15, no. 2 (2019): 94–109.
  • Beyinli-Dinç, Gökçen. “Superstition, Folk Religion and Childbirth: Highlighting the World of Informal Midwives in Modern Turkey.” In Sacred Inception: Reclaiming the Spirituality of Birth in the Modern World, ed. Morag Martin, and Marianne Delaporte, 41–56. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2018.
  • Beyinli-Dinç, Gökçen. “The Law 677, Nationalization of Shrines and its Destructive Consequences: Shrine Keeper from the Late Ottoman Empire to the Republic of Turkey.” Cihannüma: Tarih ve Coğrafya Araştırmaları Dergisi 3, no. 2 (2017): 113–37.
  • Beylini-Dinç, Gökçen. “Taking Care of or Governing the Bodies? Village Midwifery Schools and Maternity and Child Welfare Clinics in Early Turkish Republic.” In Verkörperungen · Embodiment: Transdisziplinäre Analysen zu Geschlecht und Körper in der Geschichte [Transdisciplinary Explorations on Gender and Body in History], edited by Heidrun Zettelbauer, Stefan Benedik, Nina Kontschieder and Kathe Sonnleitner, 337–58. Göttingen: Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2017.
  • Beyinli, Gökçen. Elleri Tılsımlı: Modern Türkiye’de Ebelik. Ankara: Ayizi Yayınevi, 2015.
  • Beyinli, Gökçen. “Korunmuş fakat Dışlanmış: Dersimli Ermeniler.” In Müslümanlaş(tırıl)mış Ermeniler Konferans Tebliğleri Kasım 2013, edited by Altuğ Yılmaz, 366–81. Istanbul: Hrant Dink Vakfı Yayınları, 2015.
  • Beylini-Dinç, Gökçen. “‘I may come, stay or leave, but only when I want!’: Mapping the Long History of Women’s Resistance in Turkey.” Powision, 16 (2015): 45–47.
  • Beylini-Dinç, Gökçen. “Sınırları Aşmak: Türkiyeli ‘Lâik’ Kadınların ‘Dindar’ Tercihi Dinî Nikâh.” In Dinlerde Nikah, edited by Ömer Dumlu, 411–22. Istanbul: Ensar Neşriyat, 2012.
  • Beylini-Dinç, Gökçen. “İslam ve Homofobi: Tarihsel Bir Perspektif.” In Heteroseksizme Karşı Gökkuşağı, 90–100. Istanbul: KaosGL, 2011.