Menue phone
all research fellows

Prof. Dr. Markus Dreßler

Areas of interest

  • politics of religion and secularism
  • inner-Islamic difference and Alevi studies
  • religion and politics in modern Turkey

The secular, secularity, and secularism in the late Ottoman period. A genealogical approach

My engagement with the genealogy of Turkish secularism is motivated by the question of how Islamic discourse, and notions of religion more broadly, far from merely constituting the distant and silent other of secularist discourse, were in various ways implicated in the formulation of Turkish secularism. In late Ottoman-Turkish intellectual discourses, distinctions between the secular and the religious as different, other, or antithetic, were not yet clearly formulated. In other words, these discourses offer us insights into the historical formation of the knowledge regime of religio-secularism, a notion by which I aim to draw attention to how the concepts of religion and the secular have been intertwined within the modern context as a binary pair with each always implicating the other. These intellectual discourses further provide us with insights into the role of nation-state formation in the conceptualisation of a non-religious, secular sphere in the late Ottoman-Turkish context. Against the background of late Ottoman historical experiences and political configurations, this work of conceptualisation was shaped by local religious and cultural traditions (Ottoman and Islamic concepts), as well as by modern European discourses that were locally appropriated.

This project will engage with the texts of selected late Ottoman and early Republican authors to trace how conceptualisations of the religious and the non-religious gradually formed into the Turkish discourse on secularism. The aims of the project are to (1) establish a more nuanced picture of the dynamics of cultural translation that accompanied the late Ottoman/early Turkish republican reception of Western work of distinction between religious and secular spheres, and (2) probe the possibilities and limits of translating Western concepts, such as the secular and its derivatives, into Ottoman-Turkish and Islamic - religious as well as non-religious - insights and sensibilities. This will contribute to a more complex understanding of the rapidly changing dynamics between religions and non-religious/secular insights during the hot phase of nation-building at the margins of European modernity.



Heisenberg Professor for Modern Turkish Studies, Institute for the Study of Religions, Leipzig University

2019 – 2020

Heisenberg-Program of the German Research Foundation (Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft, DFG), Modern Turkish Studies

2016 - 2019

Senior Researcher, HCAS “Multiple Secularities – Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities”, Leipzig University (Germany)

2015 - 2016

Assistant professor, Department of religious studies, University of Bayreuth (Germany)


Deputy professor, Department of religious studies, University of Bayreuth

2015 - 2016

Fellowship, Heidelberg Center for Transcultural Studies (declined) (Germany)

2014 - 2015

Deputy professor, Social scientific study of religion, cultural sociology, Georg-August-University Göttingen (Germany)


Habilitation, Religious studies, University of Bayreuth

2013 - 2014

Assistant Professor, Department of religious studies, University of Bayreuth

2011 - 2013

Associate professor, Department social sciences and humanities, Technical University, Istanbul (Turkey)

2011 - 2016

Visiting professor of Sociology, University of St. Gallen


Doçentlik (turkish equivalent to habilitation) in Sociology, YÖK (Turkish state certificate)


Research Fellow,Leibniz-Zentrum Moderner Orient, Berlin (Germany)

2008 - 2011

Assistant professor, Department of social sciences and humanities, Technical University Istanbul

2008 -2009

Senior Fellow in Residence, Research Center for Anatolian Civilizations, Koç University, Istanbul (Turkey)

2007 - 2008

Fellowship for Research in Turkey, American Research Institute in Turkey/ National Endowment for the Humanities

2005 - 2008

Assistant Professor (tenure track), Religion department, Hofstra University, New York (USA)


Visiting Assistant Professor, Religion Department, Oberlin College

2001 - 2002

Post-doctoral scholarship, German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD)


PhD, Study of Religion, Cultural and Social Studies, Max-Weber-Centre, University of Erfurt (Germany)

Relevant Publications

  • Dreßler, Markus. “Rereading Ziya Gökalp (1876-1924): Secularism and Reform of the Islamic State in the Late Young Turk Period.” International Journal for Middle Eastern Studies 47/3 (2015): 511–31.

  • Dreßler, Markus. “Turkish Politics of Doxa: Otherizing the Alevis as Heterodox.” Philosophy & Social Criticism 41/4-5 (2015): 445–51.
  • Dreßler, Markus. "Beyond Religio-Secularism: Toward a Political Critique," The Immanent Frame. Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere. February 25, 2014,
  • Dreßler, Markus. Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam. New York: Oxford University Press, 2013.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “Review: Christopher Dole: Healing Secular Life. Loss and Devotion in Modern Turkey,” Anthropos 108 (2013): 646–49.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “Der moderne dede: Religiöse Autorität im Wandel,” in „Ocak“ und „Dedelik“: Institutionen religiösen Spezialistentums bei den Aleviten. Edited by Robert Langer, Hüseyin Aguicenoglu, Janina Karolewski, and Raoul Motika, 241–66. Frankfurt/Main: Peter Lang, Europäischer Verlag der Wissenschaften, 2013. (rev. transl. of The Modern Dede, 2006).
  • Dreßler, Markus and Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, eds. Secularism and Religion-Making. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Dreßler, Markus and Arvind-Pal S. Mandair. “Introduction: Modernity, Religion-Making, and the Postsecular,” in Secularism and Religion-Making. Edited by Markus Dressler and Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, 3–36. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “Making Religion through Secularist Legal Discourse: The Case of Turkish Alevism,” in Secularism and Religion-Making. Edited by Markus Dressler and Arvind-Pal S. Mandair, 187–208. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “The Religio-Secular Continuum. Reflections on the Religious Dimensions of Turkish Secularism,” in After Secular Law. Edited by Winnifred Fallers Sullivan, Robert A. Yelle, and Mateo Taussig-Rubbo, 221–41. Standford: Stanford University Press, 2011.
  • Mandair, Arvind-Pal S. and Markus Dreßler. “Religion-Making,“ The Immanent Frame. Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere, 26. October, 2011.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “Public/Private Distinctions, the Alevi Question, and the Headscarf. Turkish Secularism Revisited,” in Comparative Secularisms in a Global Age. Edited by Linell Cady and Elizabeth Shakman Hurd, 121–42. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “Review: Alev Çınar: Modernity, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey. Bodies, Places, and Time. Minneapolis 2005.” Contemporary Islam 3/2 (2009): 201–03.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “Religio-Secular Metamorphoses: The Re-Making of Modern Alevism.” Journal of the American Academy of Religion 76/2 (2008): 280–311.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “On Turkish Laicism,” The Immanent Frame. Secularism, Religion, and the Public Sphere, July, 30, 2008.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “Muammer Kaylan: The Kemalists. Islamic Revival and the Fate of Secular Turkey. Amherst, NY 2005.” American Journal of Islamic Social Sciences 23/4 (2006): 120–23.
  • Dreßler, Markus."Turkish Alevi Poetry in the Twentieth Century: The Fusion of Political and Religious Identities." Alif: Journal of Comparative Poetics 23 (2003): 109–54.
  • Dreßler, Markus. “Gibt es einen islamischen Säkularismus? Zur alevitischen Kemalismus-Interpretation in der Türkei,” in Sendungsbewußtsein oder Eigennutz: Zu Motivation und Selbstverständnis islamischer Mobilisierung. Edited by Dietrich Reetz, 127–52. Berlin: Klaus-Schwarz-Verlag, 2001.