Cover of And Then We Work for God by Kimberly Hart
And Then We Work for God
Rural Sunni Islam in Western Turkey
Kimberly Hart


304 pp.
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Cloth ISBN: 9780804783309
Paper ISBN: 9780804786607
Digital ISBN: 9780804786683
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Turkey's contemporary struggles with Islam are often interpreted as a conflict between religion and secularism played out most obviously in the split between rural and urban populations. The reality, of course, is more complicated than the assumptions. Exploring religious expression in two villages, this book considers rural spiritual practices and describes a living, evolving Sunni Islam, influenced and transformed by local and national sources of religious orthodoxy.

Drawing on a decade of research, Kimberly Hart shows how religion is not an abstract set of principles, but a complex set of practices. Sunni Islam structures individual lives through rituals—birth, circumcision, marriage, military service, death—and the expression of these traditions varies between villages. Hart delves into the question of why some choose to keep alive the past, while others want to face a future unburdened by local cultural practices. Her answer speaks to global transformations in Islam, to the push and pull between those who maintain a link to the past, even when these practices challenge orthodoxy, and those who want a purified global religion.

About the author

Anthropologist and filmmaker Kimberly Hart is Assistant Professor of Social-Cultural Anthropology at the State University of New York College at Buffalo. Her award-winning film, A Wedding in the Yuntdag, is based on footage collected during fieldwork (2000-2001).

"This ethnography about the religious life of Sunni Muslim women living in two small rural communities in western Turkey is based on research carried out by the author (anthropology, SUNY Buffalo) from 1998 to 2010. The result is a detailed, nuanced presentation of the different ways that the villagers interpret and experience Islam the religion, as they negotiate the competing claims of orthodox Islam and their local spiritual practices and cultural traditions. . . . Recommended."

—A. Rassam, Choice

"In this poetic and powerfully written ethnography, Kimberly Hart shatters common assumptions about rural Islam in Turkey. And Then We Work for God not only reveals that there is no one traditional Islam, but thoughtfully uncovers how the practice of rural Islam is intimately connected to changing visions of the state and religion in the rest of Turkey and the world."

—Esra Özyürek, University of California, San Diego

"Illuminating how people negotiate uncertainty in times of change, And Then We Work for God is a powerful story of village life and local transformation in the midst of shifting national and global concerns."

—Amy Mills, University of South Carolina