Middle East Section
Oral Presentation Session
In the cultural and political landscape of an urban working-class neighborhood in Istanbul, the Menzil community of the Naqshbandi order has a strong reputation for “curing” the ill, and healing the drug and alcohol users, gamblers, and people with criminal records of theft and murder. Located at the nexus of the medical, political, ethical, and religious, these healing practices provide a relatively unexplored and fertile terrain of investigation in anthropology and social sciences. In this paper I ethnographically document stories of depression, drug use, and spiritual recovery among the Kurdish migrant workers of Istanbul. Through the analysis of these narratives and long-term participant observation at the Menzil community, I focus on the prevalence, historical roots, and healing practices of Islamic orders, with an eye to the ways people craft new forms of religious and political subjectivities in the context of dispossession, political violence, and substance abuse. Specifically, I explore the ethics and politics of these infrastructures that control the social body through healing and disciplining drug users’ bodies and souls. Departing from the anthropological literature that depoliticizes the study of everyday ethics, and the anthropologists of Islam, who turn the study of Islam into a critique of Western liberal secularism and its notions of agency, my work situates healing practices, moral economies, and ethical formations in Islamic orders of Turkey in a larger framework of political economy and history.