In an increasingly authoritarian Turkish context that precludes any serious chance of making tangible political gains, challenging common conception of ‘the political’ may expand our understanding of power dynamics. Attempting to track power relations outside the most official, legitimate, conventional and formalised forms of politics provides alternative and sharper insights into how the political is being reframed and how actors retain, uphold, perpetuate or transform their capacity for agency. In an interdisciplinary perspective, but drawing mainly on anthropological literature and methodology, the issue addresses four questions – both empirically in the Turkish case and more conceptually: politicisation, visibility, social stratification and domination.
Rethinking Power in Turkey through Everyday Practices
The Discovery of Ottoman Feminism
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.
The Myth of a Long ‘Special Relationship’
Kilic Bugra Kanat
Turkey’s relationship with Israel has been mixed since the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948. Although Turkey was one of the first Muslim countries to recognize and initiate diplomatic relations with Israel soon after, improving bilateral relations never became a priority. During the Cold War years, the two main determinants of Turkish-Israeli relations were their status as pro-Western countries in the region and the Arab-Israel conflict, which directly and indirectly influenced Turkish foreign policy toward Israel. Efforts to improve relations during the Cold War were constantly interrupted by the Arab-Israel conflict and by Turkish public opinion regarding Israel’s regional policies. Until the restoration of full diplomatic relations at the ambassadorial level following the 1992 Madrid Conference, secret diplomacy between the two countries was the norm. Attempts at forming a Turkish-Israeli alignment were short-lived during these years.
Pınar Melis Yelsalı Parmaksız
Modernization in Turkey started in the late Ottoman period as a social critique and took shape when the Turkish Republic was established as a modern nation-state in 1923. Women’s emancipation, which was inherent in the ideas of modernization, was one of the most important components of the Republican reforms. Subsequently, the reforms were implemented to attain women’s emancipation in a nationalist context. This article discusses the specific characteristics of the nationalist solution to gender issues in Turkey’s modernization. My argument is that the organization of political power as well as family life in Turkey rested on paternalism, meaning the father’s symbolic and actual power over others. Paternalism in Turkish modernization on the one hand provided a basis for justification of the authoritarian rule of the state and on the other hand enabled women to become modern, though the limits of their modernity were determined by the paternal authority. I focus on paternalism in the single-party years of the Republic and also discuss the current policies of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party, AKP) rule regarding gender and modernization, to show that the concept of paternalism remains relevant to understanding the gender regime in Turkey.
Conflicting Spaces and Gendered Boundaries of Modernity and Islam in Contemporary Turkey
Mahiye Seçil Dağtaş
As Islamic discourses and practices gain increasing public visibility in Turkey and redefine the gendered boundaries of the state, officers' clubs have become the ideal national 'public sphere' of the military and therefore the site in which female citizens' bodies are displayed as the secular markers of Turkey's modernity. Focusing on an anecdote from ethnographic research on wedding ceremonies held in military officers' clubs in Istanbul, this article explores how the competing discourses on modernity and secularism are manifested and contested concretely in specific gendered, corporeal, emotional and spatial practices in contemporary Turkey.
The Challenge of Turkish Lawyering Associations
Despite increasing subordination of the judiciary to executive authorities, Turkish cause lawyering associations are more assertive than ever in their defiance of forced closures and legal persecution. Why would activist lawyers ‘play the game’ of law when the legal system is being undermined? Focusing on the historical genesis of Turkey’s oldest activist lawyering association, the Çağdaş Hukukçular Derneği (ÇHD), I argue that Turkish legal activism results from not just clashing political causes but also the strategies attorneys are forced to adopt to effect change within an authoritarian-corporatist structure designed to constrict their activities. The ÇHD and similar groups are not merely extensions of the formal juridical order; they also constitute a grassroots engagement with the law that refuses to conform to the categories, narratives, procedures and ends of the state’s legal institutions.
Public Discourse in Interwar Yugoslavia on the Status of Women in Turkey (1923–1939)
After the establishment of the Republic of Turkey in 1923, Turkish women gained numerous political, social, and educational rights. Their rapidly improving status was a frequent topic in the public discourse of the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes (SHS)/Yugoslavia during the interwar years. One can find numerous comments in Yugoslav newspapers and journal articles, monographs, diaries, travel accounts, and other texts of the period on the contrast between the status of women in the “traditional,” “conservative,” theocratic Ottoman Empire and the status of women in the “modern,” “liberal,” secular Republic of Turkey. The Yugoslav media compared the status of Turkish women with the position of women’s rights in Yugoslavia. Through the analysis of interwar Yugoslav public discourse on the status of women in contemporary Turkey, this article aims to reveal the Yugoslav public’s perception of women’s issues through the prism of Turkey as Europe’s “Other” and their self-perception.
This article describes and analyzes the complex relationship between Turkey, Germany, and the European Union over the past half-century. It asks why numerous other countries have jumped the queue and managed to gain entry, whereas Turkey has been left knocking at the door, presented with increasing obstacles through which it must pass. The role of Islam is examined as a motivating factor in the exclusion of Turkey. Also, the historical memory of the Ottoman Empire's relationship with Europe is discussed. The mixed reception and perceived problems of integration of the large population of people from Turkey and their descendants who arrived in the 1960s as "guestworkers" is put forth as a key obstacle to Turkey's admission to the European Union. Contradictions in policies and perceptions are highlighted as further impediments to accession.
the case of Turkey
Banu Nilgün Uygun
This essay explores the sexual-economic transactions between Turkish men and women from the former Soviet Union (FSU), focusing on Trabzon, a Turkish port town on the southeast coast of the Black Sea. I first provide background on 'the new migration' from the FSU to Turkey, paying particular attention to some of the political stakes in discussions of transnational sex work. I then explore these issues through the stories of two migrant women from the FSU who live in Trabzon. In these stories I highlight the ambiguity and complexity of sexual-economic transactions between local men and migrant women to show the inadequacy of the category 'sex work'. Finally, I turn to the demand side of the equation and consider the ideologies shaping the perceptions of local men. I situate them within the context of discourses of modernity in Turkey as they are reconfigured by Turkey's integration into global markets.
A Contribution to Discussions on Piety and Ethics
Drawing on an ethnographic research in some rural communities of Trabzon, Turkey, this article provides insights about the diversity of Islamic pieties and their relations to religious norms. An exploration of everyday Islamic practices in the area demonstrates how piety can take peculiar forms within which norms are both publicly and socially upheld and yet also hollowed out. Among Muslim men of ‘the Valley’ in Trabzon, piety emerges as an aggregate of reiterative practices exterior to the pious self. Highlighting the aestheticised and ritualised state of these engagements with Islam in the Turkish context allows discussion of the relationships among practices of piety, pious subjectivities, and ethics.