Markus Dressler's inquiry into the transformation of knowledge about religion in the Ottoman Empire starts in the early 19th century at a time when the Ottoman Empire underwent radical changes. The examples that he will show the audience date, with one pre-modern exception, from the period between the 1850s and 1920s. He is interested in how Ottoman-Muslim understandings of Islam and concepts related to it such as din/religion changed in the course of the dynamics of that period, generally described as a period of intensified modernization. His project seeks to trace evidence of how, gradually, a new semantic field of religion/din emerged that was clearly different from earlier notions, moving closer to the emerging world-religion discourse that developed in 19th century Western Europe in the context of colonial and imperial encounters. In his presentation Dressler will provide examples of this transformation and chart the historical dynamics that need to be considered to contextualize and explain it. This will also help to genealogically situate Kemalist secularism/laicism (Tr. laiklik), which was formulated and institutionalized in the 1920s and 1930s.
Markus Dresser has a Ph.D. in Religious Studies (Erfurt University), a Turkish doçentlik in Sociology, and a habilitation in Religious Studies (Bayreuth University). He currently works as senior researcher at the German Research Foundation’s Humanities Center Multiple Secularities: Beyond the West, Beyond Modernities at Leipzig University. He has published extensively on Alevism and questions of inner-Islamic difference, politics of secularism and religion, Sufism in the West, Turkish historiography, and religion and politics in Turkey. Books include Writing Religion: The Making of Turkish Alevi Islam (Oxford University Press 2013), and Secularism and Religion-Making (together with Arvind Pal-S. Mandair, Oxford University Press 2011). Recent articles include „Historical Trajectories and Ambivalences of Turkish Minority Discourse“ (New Diversities 2015) and „Rereading Ziya Gökalp (1876-1924): Secularism and Reform of the Islamic State in the Late Young Turk Period“ (International Journal for Middle Eastern Studies 2015).