The persistence of a sacred patrilineage in contemporary Turkey: an ethnographic account on the Ulusoy family, the descendants of Hacı Bektaş Veli

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2012
Salman, Meral
This ethnographic study is on a sacred patrilineage, on the Ulusoy family members who are widely accepted by the Alevi Bektaşi communities as the descendants of the eponymous founder of the Bektaşi Order, Hacı Bektaş Veli. In line with the Shi’ite tradition, it is claimed that Hacı Bektaş Veli inherited the batin, the esoteric aspect of the knowledge and the type of spirituality of this knowledge - walaya, by genealogical chain traced back to Ahl-al Bayt, and therefore undertook an initiating and supervisory role over his adherents. As the progeny of Hacı Bektaş Veli, the Çelebis, namely the Ulusoy family, have also become the heirs of his sacred authority which was also inherited by their descendant through blood and transmigration. The Ulusoys have undertaken the role of spiritual guides and leaders of some other sacred dede (sacred guide) lineages called ocaks, as well as of the disciples of those ocaks, to regulate and supervise their life in accordance with the batin, divine knowledge. Thus, the purpose of this dissertation is to explore the maintenance and reproduction of the hereditary sanctity of the Ulusoy family during the Republican period during which, due to the secularization and modernization attempts of the Republic, the sanctity and sacred authority of the family has not been recognized as a social distinct category. To this end, I firstly examine the historical background of the family by situating the family in the Ottoman period. Having found out the continuities and ruptures in exercising of the sacred authority of the family over the disciples after the establishment of the Republic, I focus on the transformation of the sanctity and new forms of it by employing the concepts of space/place; kinship and, gender.