This book is an interdisciplinary contribution involving international relations, history, anthropology, architecture, geography, urban studies, regional studies, and political science. It can be used for scientific research purpose, but it also enables non-academic people to gain a deeper understanding of many archaeological and ethnographic historical sites not only in the post-Ottoman Empire but also in other parts of the world such as the Babri Masjid in Uttar Pradesh in India, the Catholic Church and Inka shrine in Cuzco, Peru, and the mosque and church in Mertola, Portugal.
This edited book also makes an important contribution about religious conflicts by employing different conceptual frameworks and theoretical approaches. For example, the last chapter of the book introduces Hayden’s theoretical model of “antagonistic tolerance” that can be used for the study of shared and contested religious sites. The model emphasizes a negative definition of tolerance and is applied to the settings where communities that identify themselves and each other as Self and Other live side by side for many generations but refuse to marry each other. When political hierarchy/dominance is clear between two communities, there is a possibility of peaceful co-existence. But in the absence (or demise of) political control, violence occurs and leads to the transformation of religious sites. Besides, the book uses such concepts as “religioscapes”, “secularscapes”, “competitive sharing”, “cultural fusion which can help to provide the basis for future inter-disciplinary scientific research.
The book is divided into two main sections. In the first section (consisting of the Introduction and Chapter 1) provides a strong conceptual and theoretical framework in addition to a summary of the methodological approach employed in the book. The second main section is mostly devoted to case studies that are accumulated into three different streams. The first stream (Chapters 2, 3 and 4) focuses on Cyprus, Bosnia and Algeria. The second stream (Chapters 5, 6, 7 and 8) includes four case studies from Palestine/Israel. The third stream (Chapter 9 and 10) is about dispute resolution and museumification.
This book deals with conflict resolution in general but puts an emphasis on cultural studies of conflict resolution in particular. The book makes some important contributions on politics of space and the conceptualization of the shared sacred sites. However, some important conflict resolution terminology and theories are overlooked. For example, some of the articles could have introduced the basic concepts of conflict resolution such as structural violence, escalation, hurting stalemate, chosen trauma, psycho-historical approaches and so on. Second, the book is generally based on the assumption that the legacy of the Ottoman Empire about sacred sites was ‘peaceful co-existence’. It may be true for inter-religious relations, especially in the case for the sacred sites of non-Muslim communities in the Ottoman Empire. But it is questionable when it comes to intra-religious relations, especially Sunni-Alevi relations in the Ottoman Empire. Most Alevi-Bektaşi and “heterodox Islam” members in Turkey have faced injustice and unfair treatment from the Sunni Ottomans. Although the book includes a chapter about the “museumification” of two important Alevi-Bektaşi sacred sites and their “dynamic secularization”, the first chapter by Karen Barkey could have better treated this intra-religious intolerance. Third, although the book is very rich in terms of new conceptual and theoretical tools, it could have benefited from alternative research methods such as surveys to measure attitudes, behaviours, and perceptions about sacred sites. In particular, religious communities and museum visitors could have been asked about how they perceive the selected sacred sites and how they understand such concepts as sharing, co-existence, indivisibility, centrality, vulnerability, malleability, heterodox, religioscapes, secularscapes and so on. Fourth, in the outline of the book, Anatolia is included as one of the comparative case studies (see the heading of the stream 1: ‘Comparisons: Cyprus/Bosnia/Anatolia/Algiers’).Yet, in that stream, there was no specific case study about Anatolia. While investigating the shared sacred sites in the post-Ottoman territories the book limits its focus to the case study of museum. Moreover, the case studies are heavily chosen from the case of Palestine/Israel conflict. The chapter about the Museum of Tolerance can be categorized as dispute resolution not conflict resolution since it mostly offers analyses from a legalistic perspective.
After reading this edited book, students of conflict resolution can more easily understand and explain tolerance, coexistence, and antagonistic tolerance. Also scholars of conflict resolution can use some chapters as theoretical and conceptual foundation for an inter-disciplinary course. This is an innovative work because it introduces new conceptualization and theorization of boundaries, spaces, identities, toleration and tolerance, and coexistence. Also, it offers an optimistic account about conflict resolution in respect to shared sacred sites because the authors believe that identities and boundaries are not fixed. So, there is a possibility of change that is hopefully towards more tolerance, coexistence and nonviolence.
This book is strongly recommended for both current and past students of anthropology, ethnography, cultural studies, religious studies, political science, conflict resolution and peace studies. It definitely is a major addition to the anthropo-conflict literature and opens new doors for future scholars and practitioners. I also recommend for Ph.D. students who have been searching for a dissertation topic. This book enriches your conceptual and theoretical framework for possible topics. I assume that there is no conclusion at the end of the book because there can/will be more editions of this book, including new research about the post-Ottoman territories. In the future editions and studies that complement this book, there can be more chapters about Turkey. Istanbul or Constantinople is a religioscape that has important sacred sites for the Orthodox Christianity and different Patriarchates. Since there are already two Turkish museums studied in the context of ‘secularizing the unsecularizable’ (Chapter 10), there may be no need to include the Hagia Sophia museum. But Istanbul can be a highly popular case study. Also, intra-religious tolerance, co-existence, sharing and boundaries can be studied within the Islamic context. However, the current violence–ridden and conflict-prone atmosphere of the Middle East may hinder the employment of on-site anthropological and historical methods. If there is a methodological chapter about historical methods, more scholars can apply the book’s conceptual and analytical framework into different case studies. Also, there may be more micro analysis to emphasize the diversity within particular identities so that diachronic and synchronic analyses could be included.
It should be noted that there has not been much scientific studies about sacred sites in the post-Ottoman territories in Turkey. The existing studies are mostly about the history of ‘sacred sites’ problem during the Crimean War of 1853-1856. Therefore, this study is a great contribution in this area. I recommend that this book should be translated into Turkish as the authors are filling a very important gap about this subject in Turkey. Ending with personal notes, the book personally touches me since it mentions places I have been to, such as Konya where I was born; Seyitgazi that is located near my father’s village, and Cyprus where I did my military service. Therefore, I believe that many people can easily find something for themselves in this book.