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2021 Conference of the ECPR Standing Group on Politics and Gender

The Convergence between Religion and Social Services: The Case of the Diyanet

Public Administration
Social Policy
Policy Implementation
Feyza Kalav
Middle East Technical University
Feyza Kalav
Middle East Technical University

The intersection between religion and social services has begun to be discussed since the mid of the 1990s. In recent years, religious bureaucracies (such as churches) and religious organizations have taken part in the field of welfare as social policy actors. In many cases, states support and even collaborate with these religious organizations. These developments have caused that secularism and modernism have been re-questioned. In the literature, the issue has been usually discussed in the context of the USA and Western Europe by emphasizing its relevance with the governance approach. However, in different parts of the world, it is possible to see the various forms of relationality between religion and social services.

The purpose of this study is to discuss the convergence between religion and social services for vulnerable social groups in Turkey. In this context, the paper will specifically focus on social services provided by the Presidency of Religious Affairs (Diyanet İşleri Başkanlığı or just the Diyanet hereafter) in the last decade. It seems that the scope of these relatively brand-new services has been expanding in recent years. What makes the case of Turkey different from the Western context in terms of the relations between religion and social services is that the implementer of these services, the Diyanet, is a state institution which is situated in Turkish Public Administration. Two questions will be raised in this respect: whether these services indicate a change in historical function of the Diyanet; and, if so, can activities of the Diyanet in social policy field be interpreted as a change in the state-religion nexus in Turkey. This paper draws on semi-structured interviews with senior bureaucrats and the content in publications of the Diyanet.
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