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Identity and the Nur movement in Turkey: "trying to see the gray"

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2007
Wuthrich, Aimee M
This thesis analyzes the identity of the Nur movement in Turkey from the emic perspective on two levels, the group and the individual. Research was conducted through semi-structured, in-depth interviews with ten university students who identify themselves as Nur students. With regard to group identity, first, the emergence and function of the movement is considered in light of Norbert Elias's "Changes in the We-I Balance," concluding that the movement constitutes an important "survival unit" for the students, for some even taking the place of the nation-state. Second, an attempt is made to define the boundaries that exist vis-a-vis non-adherents, other Islamic groups, and between the sub-groups within the movement itself per Fredrik Barth and Thomas Hylland Eriksen's theories. Several important boundary markers are identified including such things as language, dress, value orientations, differing approaches to religion (rational versus imitative or emotional), social involvement, political involvement and attitudes toward the Risale-i Nur. Finally, the impact of the movement on one's individual identity is considered, utilizing Richard Jenkins's model of the internal-external dialectic. Regarding the external, it was determined that the "outside other" creates the need for identity negotiation and restricted interaction, while the "inside other" prescribes some important values, including education and nationalism. The internal half of the identity dialectic, it was concluded, is significantly shaped by one's interaction with the Risale-i Nur.