Canadian Arab Friendship Association Graduate Award in Islamic Studies


Hande Gür
Ph.D. student, Department of Anthropology
Thesis Topic: Ancient Piety or Modern Spirituality?: Female Followers of the Mevlevi Islamic Order in Turkey and the West

My research project is an ethnographic study of the rise of Sufi practices among mainly young, middle-class women of Turkish origin living both in Turkey and in the West. A growing anthropological literature has shown a rising trend of women who participate visibly in spiritual communities. However, as some recent studies argue, many modern Muslims do not relate to Islam primarily through piety and indeed might be ‘impious’. Still, both these trends tend to overlook women who actively participate in Islamic communities without assuming a timeless ideal of piety. This project aims to point to a relationship to Islamic tradition that is active but that conceives of itself as neither traditionally pious nor impious. This study’s focus on women who are committed yet do not identifying as ‘pious’ Muslims will help cut through widespread dichotomies of ‘pious’ vs. ‘everyday’ Muslims in the literature. Similarly, its focus on women’s emerging forms of religiosity will bring nuance to a debate that often pits Islam against liberal women’s rights.