Intimate Publics, Public Intimacies

Natural Limits, Creation and the Culture of Mahremiyet in Turkey

in The Cambridge Journal of Anthropology
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This article offers an ethnographic account of the culture of mahremiyet [intimacy and privacy] in Turkey, not only as an institution of intimacy regulating everyday sexual relationships between individuals in public, but also as a system enabling the operation of social normalcies through the creation of boundaries and privileges. By probing the concepts of mahremiyet and fıtrat [creation or natural disposition], the article investigates how intimacy operates in religious, mundane and political registers, and delves into the intricate relationship between the intimate and the shared. It suggests that the culture of mahremiyet is deeply rooted in the ways individuals construct their sense of selves in relation to others, and imagine mahrem boundaries as natural, God-given, or fıtrî laws in their entanglement with gender. The use of the language of mahremiyet in contemporary politics not only enables what can seem to be a meta-cultural intelligibility that guarantees popular support, but also distances any critique as strange or foreign.

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