Mentor Mustafa

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Dr. Mentor Mustafa


Dissertation title:



The thesis is an historical and ethnographic account of the post-communist reconstitution of Albanian Bektashi Sufi practices and community life in the aftermath of a state-based program of radical atheistic secularism. The study is based on 12 months of intensive anthropological fieldwork (9 months in 2007 and shorter research trips between 2005 and 2011) and archival research.

The Bektashi Muslims were once closely associated with and supported by the Ottoman state. Since then they have suffered many reversals in fortune. The most severe attack on the Bektashi occurred in communist Albania. Public manifestations of religion and its institutions were entirely dismantled and many spiritual leaders killed or exiled. Nonetheless, survivors now claim that Bektashi devotees secretly believed in and revered the sacred shrines despite efforts by the authoritarian state to do away with all expressions of religious life.

Providing both historical and cultural context, the thesis uses ethnographic fieldwork data based on observation, interviews and life histories collected from within the Bektashi community. These document and explore the group’s various efforts at community building and regaining legitimacy. In particular, it describes the rebuilding of devastated Bektashi lodges (tekke), the configuration and management of sacred spaces, the ways of becoming Bektashi as reflected in conversion narratives, and the emergence of new saintly authority figures. The penultimate chapter is about religious observance, investigating in depth how the present community of leaders, followers, and guests interact within sacred spaces during pilgrimages, paying special attention to the ambiguities of spiritual authority in the postcommunist setting.

The study of present-day religious observance and community building shows that despite their efforts, the Bektashi today are experiencing difficulty establishing order within their own ranks and in winning real support in Albanian society as a whole. The small gains in reclaiming lost authority and access to their now lost economic estates reflects the legacy of atheist secularism and corruption, which coincides with wide spread suspicion of authority figures, including religious authorities. Albanian postcommunist religiosity coincides with a more “Western European” pattern of secularism that is generally characterized by a much diminished level of religious observance.


Doctor of Philosophy in Anthropology from Boston University (2015), Master of Education from Salem State College (2006), Master of Arts in Anthropology from University of Arizona (2002), and Bachelor of Arts in Archaeological Sciences from Boston University (1999).

Courses Taught

  • Islam and the Muslim World (Amherst College)
  • The Mystical Tradition of Islam (Amherst College)
  • Anthropology of Muslim Cultures and Politics (Boston University)
  • Anthropology of Religion (Boston University)
  • Introduction to Cultural Anthropology (Curry College, Boston University)
  • Children and Culture (Boston University


  • Cora du Bois Fellowship, Harvard University.
  • Muslim Studies Fellowship, Boston University
  • American Council of Learned Societies
  • Earhart Research Fellowship
  • IREX Individual Advanced Research Opportunities Fellowship



Mustafa, M., A. Young, M. Galaty, and W. Lee. Spatial and Temporal Patterns in Kinship Relations: Marriage, Descent and Feud. In: Light and Shadow: Isolation and Interaction in the Shala Valley of Northern Albania, pages 85-106. Edited by M. Galaty et al. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press at UCLA.

Lee, W. E., M. Lubin, E. Ndreca with Contributions by M.L. Galaty, Mentor Mustafa, and R. Schon 2013 Archival Historical Research. In: Light and Shadow: Isolation and Interaction in the Shala Valley of Northern Albania, pages 45-84. Edited by M. Galaty et al. Los Angeles: Cotsen Institute of Archaeology Press at UCLA.


“What Remained of Religion in an ‘Atheist’ State and the Return of Religion in Post-Communist Albania.” MESS and RAMSES II, Mediterranean Ethnological Summer School, vol. 7: 51-76. Eds. Jaka Repič, Alenka Bartulović and Katarina Sajovec Altshul. Zupanic’s Collection nr. 28. Ljubljana: University of Ljubljana, Faculty of Arts.

“Giving Ottoman Otherness a Local Flavour: The Bektashi Order of Dervishes in Contemporary Albania.” Austrian Academy of Sciences Working Papers in Social Anthropology, Volume 3: 1-29. Eds. Andre Gingrich and Helmut Lukas. Online publication:

Mustafa, M. and A. Young. “Feud Narratives: Contemporary Deployments of Kanun in Shala Valley, Northern Albania.” Anthropological Notebooks XIV(2: Contributions to Albanian Studies): 87-107. (Online link:


“The Bektashi Ecumenical Experience: Heterodox Islam, National Identity, and Modernity in Post-Communist Albania.” Online publication:

Mustafa, M., and G. Clark. “Quantifying Technological Continuity: ‘Ain Difla Rockshelter (Jordan) and the Evolution of Levantine Mousterian Technology.” Journal of Eurasian Prehistory, 5(1): 47-83.


Galaty, M., O. Lafe, Z. Tafilica, W. Lee, M. Mustafa, C. Watkinson, A. Young. “Projekti i Luginës së Shalës: Fushata 2005.” Shkodra në Shekuj 1: 232-238.