is an Arabic
word, adopted into Turkish
which usually translates into "neighborhood". It is an official administrative unit in many Middle Eastern
countries. In the Ottoman Empire
the mahalle was the smallest administrative entity. The mahalle is generally perceived to play an important role in identity formation
, with the local mosque and the local coffee house as the main social institutions. Mahalle lays at the intersection of private family life and the public sphere. Important community-level management functions are performed through mahalle solidarity, such as religious ceremonies, life-cycle rituals, resource management, conflict resolution, and the like.
The mahalle is represented to the municipality and government by its Muhtar. 'Muhtarlik' (the office of Muhtar) has been designed as the smallest administrative office, with representative and enforcement powers at the local level. However, in some cases, the muhtar acts as not only the representative of the government towards the community, but also the head of the community towards the government; subverting official government policies through intricate face-to-face mahalle-level relationships.