chapter  8
Religion or culture? Concepts of identity in the Alevi diaspora M A RT I N SÖKEFELD
Concepts of identity in the Alevi diaspora
ByMartin Sökefeld
Pages 23

This paper focuses on one of these two things which according to the Alevi Dede quoted above are at the core of Alevism: Cem. ‘Cem is the school of Alevism. Without Cem there is no Alevism,’ writes another Dede, Mehmet Yaman from Istanbul (1998: 5). In this chapter, I will explore the changes undergone by this Alevi ritual that parallel the processes of migration and the formation of diaspora. But my purpose is not a description and analysis of changing ritual. Rather I will discuss how a dispute about what Alevism means for Alevis in the diaspora or, to put it short, what Alevism is, is mirrored in discourses about cem and in the ritual practice. There is a fundamental disagreement among Alevis about what Alevism is, whether it is religion or culture. I will contrast the stereotypical representation of cem among Alevis with diasporic ritual practice and a case study of a particular cem in Hamburg. This enables me to point out a basic transformation in the character of the Alevi community.