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Feminism and Feminist History-Writing in Turkey

The Discovery of Ottoman Feminism

Serpil Çakır

The formation of a feminist consciousness and memory in Turkey coincided with a historical period in which both social movements and academic studies proliferated. Towards the end of the 1980s, the increasing number of women's organisations and publications began to impact upon both the feminist movement and academic research in the area of women's studies. This, combined with the expansion of the civil societal realm, has resulted in many topics and issues related to women becoming part of the public discussion, thereby contributing to the development of a new feminist consciousness. This article discusses the impact of the work in the field of women's history and the ensuing discovery of an Ottoman feminism on the formation of such a feminist consciousness and memory in Turkey.

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Elif Mahir Metinsoy

Ordinary women are among the least known subjects of Ottoman Turkish historiography. One of the most important reasons for this lack of information is that the Turkish archives are not organized in such a way that researchers can easily access documents on ordinary women. However, the difficulty in finding women’s voices in historical documents is only one part of the problem. Whereas conventional Ottoman-Turkish historiography prioritizes the acts of those holding power, most Turkish feminist historiography focuses on the organized activities of elite and middle-class women rather than ordinary women due to various paradigmatic and methodological restrictions. This article explains these limitations and proposes less conventional methods for conducting research on ordinary Ottoman women, who were important actors on the home front during World War I. It discusses theoretical approaches, methodology, and alternative sources that can be used to conduct research on women in the Turkish archives. It also presents some examples of ordinary Ottoman women’s voices and everyday struggles against the violence they suffered during World War I, using new, alternative sources like women’s petitions and telegrams to the state bureaucracy as well as folk songs.