Gender and Diaspora in the Making of Pious Subjectivity

Hale Inanoglu

Advisor: Amy L Best, PhD, Department of Sociology and Anthropology

Committee Members: Johanna Bockman, Peter Mandaville, Sumaiya Hamdani

Online Location, Meeting ID: 947 5155 2631 Passcode: 123123
October 16, 2020, 09:30 AM to 11:00 AM


This qualitative study on women in the Gülen movement explores Muslim feminine subjectivity in diasporic space. Drawing on thirty-one in-depth formal and many informal interviews and participant observation from May 2017 to June 2019 in an Eastern city in the U.S., I describe how movement women become pious selves through conversion and a moral career guided by mentors. Women’s understanding of their gendered selves is founded on a clear definition of fıtrat (natural disposition) based on Gülen’s teachings. In order to do movement work, women sanctify mundane activities in an “economy of gratitude”, a term I borrow from Hochschild (1989), which refers to a form of giving and receiving where men and women are equal in how they relate to Allah. This economy is coupled with an “economy of indebtedness” (White 2004) or what I call commitment through the exchange of debts. While an economy of gratitude is more concerned with internal states or the intentionality of participants, an economy of indebtedness is primarily concerned with establishing relations based on obligation and reciprocity that bind individuals to each other and as a group. In addition to how mentors link both economies, I identify the various framing processes of the movement in the diaspora: diagnostic, prognostic, adversarial and injustice (or victimization). I elucidate the framing processes of the GM and how women sustain their pious gendered selves through these frame shifts, with ultimate consequences for the Gülen movement’s survival and evolution in a Western public sphere. Throughout, I examine how women account for unequal access and opportunity hoarding in the movement. In understanding Muslim feminine subjectivity, both 9/11 and the graft probe culminating in the coup attempt on July 16, 2016 are events that play a crucial role. In addition to these events, I also underscore neoliberal governmentality in the form of governing responsible and self-enterprising subjects through a religious movement in my characterization of Muslim feminine subjectivity.