Women Preaching for the Secular State: Official Female Preachers (Bayan Vaizler) in Contemporary Turkey
Nearly one-third of Turkey’s official preaching workforce are women. Their numbers have risen considerably over the past two decades, fueled by an unforeseen feminization of higher religious education as well as the Directorate of Religious Affairs’ attempts to redress its historical gender imbalances. Created in the early Turkish Republic, the Directorate is also historically embedded in (re)defining the appropriate domains and formations of religion, and the female preachers it now employs navigate people’s potent fears rooted in memories of this fraught past. In the various neighborhoods of Istanbul, these preachers attempt to overcome conservative Muslims’ cautious ambivalence toward the interpretative and disciplinary powers of a secular state as well as assertive secularists’ discomfort and suspicion over increasingly visible manifestations of religiosity. Thus, the activities of state-sponsored female preachers are inescapably intertwined with the contestation of religious domains and authority in the secular Republic of Turkey and demonstrate an intricate interplay between the politics of religion, gender, and secularism in contemporary Turkish society.
Volume / Issue
Start / End Page
International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)