Current Institutional Affiliation
Director, Krikor and Clara Zohrab Information Center, The Diocese of the Armenian Church of America (Eastern)

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2012
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, University of Chicago
What's “neo-” about “Neo-laicism?” Theological and Legal Developments in the Relationship of the Armenian Community of Istanbul to the Turkish State

The Armenians of Istanbul are currently encountering two aspects of what Turkish papers have dubbed “neo-laicism:” the return of properties to minority foundations and the internal “civilianization” of their communities away from established religious hierarchies. Yet if neo-laicism is just a reinvigorated Turkish secularism explicitly compatible with Islam, what makes it new? Through work at the Armenian Apostolic Church's Patriarchate in Istanbul and the Turkish and Armenian bilingual weekly newspaper Agos, this project interrogates the claim that neo-laicism is a relationship between politics and religion. It explores the apparent willingness of the Turkish state to incorporate various idioms and discourses concerning communal organization for minority groups. These varied discourses about collective life include categories such as charity, liturgy, and service. Through attention to these categories and a rich analysis of the legal developments in the return of properties to minority foundations, the project will interrogate how diversity of thinking about religion and community in a secular state might contribute to a new understanding of collective existence and state recognition of religious minorities.