Alex Kreger

Andrew W. Mellon Postdoctoral Fellow in the Humanities

20232024 Forum on Revolution

Alex Kreger

Religious Studies

University of Texas at Austin, 2023

Alex Kreger is an anthropologist of religion, secularism, and sound. He earned his Ph.D. in Religious Studies from the University of Texas at Austin. His dissertation, “The Stringed Qur’an: Post-Islamic Reform and Musical Revival among Alevis in Turkey and Europe,” examines transformations in Turkish Alevi ritual life in response to the pressures of Islamism and transnational migration. His ethnographic research in Turkey and Europe has been funded by the Social Science Research Council and Fulbright Foundation. His article, “Wearing fire and chewing iron: Oaths of peace and the suspension of monotheism in contemporary Alevism” was published in 2022 in the journal Modern Asian Studies. He plays the Alevi lute saz and has performed with internationally recognized Alevi musicians in concert and ritual settings. He is also a pianist, composer, and improviser whose latest project, Mana, is a musical setting of text from Emile Durkheim’s The Elementary Forms of Religious Life.

"Nurhak, The Sun Will Never Rise Upon You": Revolutionary Ethics and Messianic Sufism in Rural Southeast Turkey

This research article will examine the relationship between revolutionary Marxist activism and Alevi Sufi messianism in Nurhak, a Turkish Alevi-majority town in southeast Turkey known for its revolutionary politics. The largest non-Sunni Muslim religious group in Turkey, Alevis follow a form of Sufism best described as post-Islam, or Islam after the messianic suspension of its scriptural oaths and doctrines. Alevis have responded to the Sunni missionary pressures of Turkey’s ruling Islamist party by initiating ritual reforms that combine their post-Islamic heritage rooted in late medieval messianic Sufi movements with modern formations of the secular. Many residents of Nurhak who were once outspoken Marxist revolutionaries are among the most vocal proponents of post-Islamic reform today. How did their subjective transformation occur—through what translations, persuasions, and experiences? This article will illuminate continuities between revolutionary Marxism and Sufi messianism by focusing on acts of translation—between bodies of saints and martyrs, discourses of Marxism and mysticism, and the ethics of the revolutionary and Sufi paths. Drawing on ethnographic research and interviews conducted during the turbulent period between the 2013 Gezi Park uprisings and the current economic crisis, it will investigate Nurhak residents’ shifting relationships to Islamic and socialist doctrinal texts and their trajectories of participation in ritual and musical practices. Through publication in a major interdisciplinary journal, this research aims to broaden scholarly understandings of the relationship between Islam and revolution, a subject that has typically been studied in relation to orthodox Islamic revival in contexts like Iran and Egypt.