Parution: Chiara Maritato, Women, Religion, and the State in Contemporary Turkey, Cambridge University Press, 2022


Women, Religion, and the State in Contemporary Turkey

Chiara Maritato, Università degli Studi di Torino, Italy

September 2022





Tracing the centrality of women in the definition of Turkish secularism, this study investigates the 2003 decision to increase the number of women officers employed by the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet). It explores how, as professional religious officers, the female Diyanet preachers epitomize a pious, modern and highly educated woman whose role in society has been raised to prominence. Based on extensive fieldwork in Turkey, and drawing on a rich ethnography of the activities conducted by Diyanet women preachers in Istanbul, Chiara Maritato disentangles the state’s attempt to standardize a multifaceted female religious participation. In using the feminization of the Diyanet as a prism through which to understand the significance of a renewed presence of Islam in the Turkish public realm, she casts light on a broader reformulation of religious services for women and families in Turkey, and pinpoints how this pervasive moral support has been able to penetrate and reshape even secular spaces.

  • Uses the feminization of the Presidency of Religious Affairs (the Diyanet) as a prism through which to analyze the renewed presence of Islam in the Turkish public realm
  • Explores the significance placed on the role of female professional religious officers, as epitomizing the pious, modern and highly educated Turkish woman
  • Draws on a rich ethnography to illuminate the renewed presence of Islamic morality in the public realm of modern Turkey.


Reviews & endorsements

‘Combining detailed ethnographic observations with an impressive number of in-depth interviews, Maritato’s analysis provides insights into the complex dynamics of the feminization of the religious sphere in Turkey and shows how a discourse on modern and learned female religiosity can go hand in hand with policies reinforcing Islamization in the daily work of the female preachers of the Diyanet.’ Sevgi Adak, Institute for the Study of Muslim Civilizations, The Aga Khan University

‘Maritato provides a fascinating and insightful analysis of the role of female preachers of Diyanet in reconstructing the relation between the state and religion in contemporary Turkey. This book is an invaluable resource for those interested in multifaceted relationships between women, religion and state in Turkey.’ Hakkı Gűrkaş, Department of History and Philosophy, Kennesaw State University

‘A fascinating analysis of religion as bureaucracy and the professionalization of traditional religious activity. Turkey’s female preachers are civil servants in a state agency that historically managed religion in order to protect secularism, but now insinuates Islamisation from above. Yet in their everyday activities, the female preachers are forging a new religious identity, one that combines piety with a modern working life and redefines the boundaries between state and religion. A must read for anyone who wishes to understand recent enormous changes in Turkish society.’ Jenny White, Institute for Turkish Studies, Stockholm University

‘This is a must-read work on religion, religiosity, society, and the state in contemporary Turkey. Maritato (Univ. of Turin, Italy) provides unique insight into these complex dynamics through in-depth interviews and observations. Highly recommended.’ B. A. Yesilada, Choice

Table of Contents

1. Introduction
Part I. Transitivities: Women, Religion and Turkish Secularism:
2. Religion, a state affair
3. Pious women and the secular state
Part II. Women in the Diyanet: Forms and Meanings:
4. The Diyanet’s policies towards women
5. Vaizeler’s invitation: the mosque as a place for women
6. Achieving public piety through the Vaizeler’s sessions
7. Religious counselling and moral support for women and families
Part III. Reassessing Women, Religion and the State:
8. Listen to the battlefield: female preachers within a secular state
9. Concluding remarks.

Chiara MaritatoUniversità degli Studi di Torino, Italy
Chiara Maritato is a Postdoctoral Research Fellow at the Department of Cultures, Politics and Society, at the University of Turin. She has conducted extensive fieldwork in Turkey, and is the author of articles in journals including Religion, State & Society and Turkish Studies.

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