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Intimate Publics, Public Intimacies

Natural Limits, Creation and the Culture of Mahremiyet in Turkey

Sertaç Sehlikoglu

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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Introduction

Why Revisit Intimacy?

Sertaç Sehlikoglu and Aslı Zengin

Intimacy is tightly bound up with notions of privacy, sexuality, proximity and secrecy, and with dynamics of sensual and affective attachments and forms of desire. It is therefore integral to the formation of human selves and subjectivities, as well as communities, publics, collectives and socialities. The articles in this Special Section all offer an anthropological inquiry into intimacy, seeking a conceptual formulation that might capture its actual operations, the ways intimacy is done in talk and action. They thus contribute ethnographically to ongoing anthropological debates about intimacy, and explore how multiple domains and forms of intimacies are defined, shaped, constructed and transformed across different social worlds.