[The Middle East Studies Pedagogy Initiative (MESPI) inaugurates its first PRAR Bouquet, a curated selection of from our Peer-Reviewed Article Reviews that highlights knowledge production around a specific theme or topic. This bouquet series uses MESPI’s Peer-Reviewed Articles Reviews to analyze and provide insight into trends in academia.]

This is the first of three bouquets of articles on the topic “Gender.” This bouquet will be followed by one on “Islamist Rebels and Women,” and, thereafter, “Masculinities and the Middle East.” Interestingly, in researching a potential bouquet topic, we noted that the majority of articles on gender (and the Middle East) published in over 130 journals during 2017 and 2018 concerned Palestine/Israel and Turkey, while almost none concerned Saudi Arabia.

Renegotiations of femininity throughout the constitutional debates in Turkey: representative claims in 2014 presidential elections
By: Sezen Yaras, Ahu Yigit
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (Volume 45, Issue 3)

Abstract: In August 2014, for the first time in the history of the Turkish Republic, the president was elected through a popular vote. The quest for a new constitution and revisions to the political system were the main topics that the three presidential candidates, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, Ekmeleddin Ihsanoglu and Selahattin Demirtas, raised during their presidential campaigns. Women’s problems and issues were among the central topics through which the matters of the new constitution and the revisions to be made in the system were addressed. Through a qualitative content analysis of the campaign material, this article maps the candidates’ approaches to women’s interests and the roles the candidates promised to play to promote these interests and roles. The findings indicate that motherhood, daughterhood, and sisterhood are the key terms through which the candidates formulated the ultimate purpose of their gender-related agenda. They simply blamed the existing constitution as the main cause of alienated motherhood, polarized daughterhood and complicit femininity respectively. Based on the analysis of these simultaneous calls for heightening-disavowal of certain femininities, the article argues that competing projects for the (re)establishment of the constitutional regime in Turkey can be construed as renegotiations of feminine attachments to political authority.

Intimate politics: strategies and practices of female Mukhtars in Turkey
By: Senem Yildirim, Burcu Ucaray-Mangitli, Hakki Tas
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (Volume 45, Issue 5)

Abstract: The dualistic separation between the public and private assumes natural and stable boundaries between these spheres. However, a perspective that relies on binaries may deprive certain groups, practices and processes associated with specific spheres from diverse experiences. For instance, women wanting to move from the private sphere and join the political public could not do that due to the domesticated nature of their roles and responsibilities. However, those who do manage to become agents of political activity do so by developing strategies and practices that are context specific. This article examines how the boundaries between the public and private are traversed in Turkish local politics through the mentioned context-specific experiences. It identifies the ways in which female mukhtars in Turkey engage in politics through practices of intimization as a political strategy, which accounts for the strategies and practices of degendering and regendering. The analysis of data from interviews with 20 randomly selected female mukhtars reveals that female mukhtars successfully navigate a versatile strategy of degendering and regendering. In this regard, they may highlight career-defined and gender-neutral attributes or valorize the masculine imperatives of the public domain. They may also affirm and assert their feminine qualities depending on the context.
Understanding ‘New Turkey’ Through Women’s Eyes: Gender Politics in Turkish Daytime Talk Shows
By: Yeşim Burul, Hande Eslen-Ziya
Published in Middle East Critique (Volume 27, Issue 2)

Abstract: Following the AKP’s second election victory in 2007, significant changes to the party programme and strategy evolved into the ‘New Turkey,’ a new, more abstractly defined discursive and operational space. This both redefined democratic practices and generated a backlash to gender equality and the status of women. As media is a powerful hegemonic tool, where political actors compete for influence, analysis of television daytime talk shows reflects similar gender role-making processes within Turkish society. We study one of the most popular shows in Turkey, hosted by Seda Sayan through ‘discursive governance’ and in which political actor discourses influence the public agenda through active sense-making, a process in which the media plays a critical disseminating and legitimating role, particularly in restrictive political settings. We argue that the show (now no longer broadcast) was a locus of discursive governance. Identity and habitus in the ‘New Turkey’ discourse strategically were projected in such shows, rendering formal policy change to affect behavioral shifts unnecessary. Seda Sayan’s show thus expressed a conservative and gendered public normative narrative, one that the AKP government has developed into a dominant normative order.

The Politics of Family Values in Erdogan’s New Turkey
By: Hikmet Kocamaner
Published in Middle East Report (Volume 48, Issue 288)

Abstract: Often peppered with religious references, “family values” rhetoric has become a trademark of President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan since his ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in 2002. His frequent encouragement of early marriage and criticism of childless women illustrate an ever-expanding repertoire of conservative pronouncements regarding gender, reproduction and the family. During an iftar dinner in 2014, for example, Erdoğan urged female college students not to be picky in selecting a prospective spouse “because our dear prophet advised us to get married and to procreate, so that he could take pride in the sizable presence of the ummah in the afterlife in comparison to other [religious] communities.” At a ceremony hosted by the Women and Democracy Association in 2016, he claimed that “A woman who abstains from maternity by saying ‘I have a job’ means that she is actually denying her femininity … She is lacking, she is an incomplete person, no matter how successful she is in the business world.”

Gender Perspectives of Transformational Leadership style & Leadership Effectiveness: A case study of Pakistan & Turkey
By: Nasiha Begum, Safia Begum, Aneela & Sabeena Rustam
Published in The Dialogue (Volume 13, Issue 2)

Abstract: The purpose of this study was to examine transformational leadership, gender role orientation and leadership effectiveness of male and female leaders within the context of education and health departments in Pakistan and Turkey. The study explored the relationship between or differences among these three primary variables. This research examined in detail the three leadership styles (Transformational, Transactional and Laissez Faire) with respect to gender (male and female), region (Pakistan and Turkey) and department (Education and Health). Surveys were sent to four hundred (n=400) male and female leaders in education and health departments. The survey instrument (Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire 5x short Form) consisted of 12 factors.  Among 12 factors, nine factors were employed to evaluate components of leadership style, while the remaining three factors were labeled as outcome measures. Out of nine leadership measures, there were five transformational leadership factors, (i.e. Idealized Influence Attributed, Idealized Influence Behavior, Inspirational Motivation, Intellectual Stimulation, Individualized Consideration); three transactional leadership factors, (i.e. Contingent Reward, Management by Exception Active, Management by Exception Passive); and one laissez-faire leadership factor.  The 45 statements of Multifactor Leadership Questionnaire were consisted of 36 items concerning leadership style and behaviour, out of which four items evaluate each of the nine leadership styles. Data analyses involved descriptive strategies, correlational analysis, logistic regression analysis, Chi-Square test analysis etc.

Turkey Psychoanalyzed, Psychoanalysis Turkified: The Case of İzzettin Şadan
By: Kutluğhan Soyubol
Published in Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East (Volume 38, Issue 1)

Abstract: Considering translation as a convoluted process of transformation between different cultures, this article scrutinizes the work of İzzettin Şadan, the initiator of psychoanalysis in Turkey. Through translations of the works of Western psychoanalysts such as Sigmund Freud, Ernest Jones, and others, Şadan attempted to produce a Turkish psychoanalytic canon. This canon nonetheless was bound to be different in form as it filtered through the cultural and socio-political structures of the early Turkish Republic. The article argues that Şadanian psychoanalysis accordingly engendered novel psychoanalytic meanings and conceptualizations. It also emerged to represent symbolically a resistance to, if not a break from, some features of Western (Freudian) psychoanalytic discourse, including those that relate to society and civilization. In sum, through a close reading of Şadan’s writings, the article demonstrates how the translation of psychoanalysis into Turkish involved in the process its reconfiguration to accommodate the cultural and socio-historical conditions of the early Turkish Republic.

Female Autonomy, Social Norms and Intimate Partner Violence against Women in Turkey
By: Okan Yilmaz
Published in Journal of Development Studies (Volume 54, Issue 8)

Abstract: The theoretical literature asserts that intimate partner violence against women stems from inequalities within the relationship, and it strengthens both male power and control, and female subordination. Using Structural Equation Modelling, this paper addresses the two-way relationship between intimate partner violence and female autonomy in Turkey. Consistent with the theory, we find that (1) violence has a significant and negative effect on female autonomy; and (2) the incidence of violence decreases with the level of female autonomy. We also find that intimate partner violence is an increasing function of the strength of men’s commitment to social norms upholding traditional gender roles.

Thinking Women, Feminism, and Muslim Identity through Bodies and Space in Turkey
By: Banu Gökarıksel
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 14, Issue 1)
Abstract: Not available

“It Used to Be Forbidden”: Kurdish Women and the Limits of Gaining Voice
By: Marlene Schäfers
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 14, Issue 1)

Abstract: Women’s rights and human rights projects in Turkey and elsewhere routinely construe and celebrate subaltern voice as an index of individual and collective empowerment. Through an ethnographic study of Kurdish women singers’ (dengbêjs) efforts to engage in their storytelling art in Turkey, this article questions the equation between “raising one’s voice” and having agency. It investigates two concrete instances in 2012, in Istanbul and Van, where Kurdish women publicly raised their voices. It shows that public audibility does not necessarily translate into agency, because these spaces, like most, discipline voices ideologically and sonically. Audibility is not a neutral achievement but an ideologically structured terrain that shapes voices and regulates whether and how they are heard and recognized. Voices routinely have ambiguous and even contradictory effects once they become audible in public. It is not simply a matter of “having a voice” or “being silenced.”

Making Mr. Gay Syria in Istanbul
By: Ayşe Toprak
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 14, Issue 2)

Abstract: Not available

Pembe Caretta: LGBT Rights Claiming in Antalya, Turkey
By: Bihter Tomen
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 14, Issue 2)

Abstract: This essay discusses the emergence, strategies, and challenges faced by Pembe Caretta (www.facebook.com/pembecarettalgbt), a grassroots advocacy group in Antalya, a major city in southern Turkey with a population of three million people. I conducted one-on-one interviews in a room at the back of an Antalya bookstore with eleven members (six women, four men, and one self-identified transsexual) between twenty and twenty-seven years old in the summer of 2014, finding participants with the help of LGBT activist friends. I asked about members’ involvement with Pembe Caretta, the difficulties faced by the group, and the challenges of LGBT activists in Turkey.

Kurdish women in the Kurdish–Turkish conflict – perceptions, experiences, and strategies
By: Marco Nilsson
Published in Middle Eastern Studies (Volume 54, Issue 4)

Abstract: This study analyzes how Kurdish women experience the violence and other consequences of the armed conflict raging between the PKK and the Turkish state. Interviews conducted in Istanbul, Ankara, and Diyarbakir suggest that Kurdish women experience the conflict both as members of an oppressed minority and as women. The study first focuses on identifying sources of conflict-related stress that are specific to women, such as the need to be silent to protect their families, and then analyzes the strategies that Kurdish women use to deal with this stress as women, including networking and education.

Government co-option of civil society: exploring the AKP’s role within Turkish women’s CSOs
By: Jessica Leigh Doyle
Published in Democratization (Volume 25, Issue 3)

Abstract: Mainstream academic and policy literature emphasizes the nexus between an active and vibrant civil society sector and greater political accountability. As a result, support for civil society has become central to international policy efforts to strengthen democracy in the Middle East North Africa (MENA) region. However, the empirical evidence presented in this article questions the validity of this assumption. Drawing on information gathered through 38 in-depth qualitative interviews with women’s organizations from across the seven administrative regions of Turkey, and key representatives from the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP), this article analyses the role of the AKP government in co-opting and influencing women’s organizations in Turkey. The results that emerge demonstrate that the government is actively involved in fashioning a civil society sector that advances their interests and consolidates their power. Independent women’s organizations report that they are becoming increasingly excluded from policy and legislative discussions, as seemingly civic organizations are supported and often created by the government to replace them. These organizations function to disseminate government ideas in society and to provide a cloak of democratic legitimacy to policy decisions. These findings and their implications have significant consequences for theory and policy on civil society and its role in supporting democracy.

Protesting gender discrimination from within: women’s political representation on behalf of Islamic parties
By: Mona Tajali
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (Volume 44, Issue 2)

Abstract: In recent decades, Islamic political movements, and their subsequent political parties, have been increasingly recruiting and nominating women to high-level decision-making positions despite the fact that the ideology they espouse often acts to dissuade women from assuming positions of political leadership. My ethnographic research on religious women’s activism in Iran and Turkey helps explain this unexpected trend by shedding light onto the role of Islamic party women in challenging the gender discriminatory attitudes and behaviours of their male party leaders. In particular, I highlight the role that a number of high-ranking Islamic party women with close ties to the ruling elites played in pressuring their male party leaders to address women’s political underrepresentation in formal politics. Women’s close ties to the ruling elites consisted of formal ties with key Islamic leaders that evolved thanks to women’s long-term devotion to the Islamic movement or learning at Islamic seminaries. I demonstrate that such close ties to the leaders, as well as the presence of a public discourse in favour of women’s increased access to politics, enabled influential Islamic women to leverage a form of ‘internal criticism’ as an important strategy to enhance women’s political rights and status from within the Islamic movements.

Political Parties and Women’s Rights in Turkey
By: Zehra F. Kabasakal Arat
Published in British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies (Volume 44, Issue 2)

Abstract: Political parties are important political actors, but they are seldom studied in relation to human rights. This article examines the human rights discourse of political parties in Turkey by focusing on women’s rights. The content analysis of party programmes issued by major political parties between 1923 and 2007 reveals significant differences and changes in parties’ approach to women, ranging from no mentioning of women to addressing women’s issues from a feminist perspective. Women’s rights and issues, once neglected practically by all political parties, have gained attention during the last few decades, largely due to women’s activism. While conservative, religious, and Turkish nationalist parties started to display a dualist approach that combines traditionalism with gender equality, social democrat, socialist, and pro-Kurdish parties increasingly employ feminist terminology and analysis.

Female Labour Force Participation in Turkey: The Role of Traditionalism
By: Burak Sencer Atasoy
Published in European Journal of Development Research (Volume 29, Issue 4)

Abstract: Turkey witnessed a remarkable transformation over the last century. However, the female labour force participation rate (FLFPR) stagnated around 30 percent, well below the OECD average. In this study, the determinants of female labour force participation are analysed with a special focus on the effects of traditionalism. Using probit and multinomial logit models as well as instrumental variable approach, the effects of traditional norms for 3 sectors and 5 job statuses are estimated. Widely used determinants in the literature such as own education, fertility, and maternity conditions are found significant with expected signs where own education has the biggest impact on labour force participation and employment. Finally, it is found that women who were raised under a traditional culture have a lower probability to participate in the labour force and find jobs. These detrimental effects are stronger in the services sector and among regular/waged workers.

The Social Life of Academic Discourse: Reflections on the Analysis of Piety Politics
By: Dunya D. Cakir
Published in International Journal of Middle East Studies (Volume 49, Issue 3)

Abstract: Examining the writings of prominent Islamist women intellectuals in Turkey, including Fatma Barbarosoğlu, Cihan Aktaş, Yıldız Ramazanoğlu, and Nazife Şişman, this article explores the repercussions of their intellectual activism for how scholars understand and study piety politics. These Islamist women intellectuals, whose discourse and subjectivities have been translated into analytical categories by scholars of piety politics, contest the terms of their encounters with academics and, more broadly, the conversion of Muslim women into objects of research. Their writings shed light on the complex interpretative interplay between academic and lay discourse when the objects of scholarly study speak back to social scientists. I argue that these kinds of critical engagements between Islamist women intellectuals and social scientific discourses attest to the mobility and circularity of social scientific categories, which have infused and reconstituted Islamist debates in Turkey. Rather than uncritically endorse or dispute these intellectuals’ interpretations of social scientific accounts, I leverage their claims to underscore the social life of academic discourse and to promote an enriched vision of piety politics and reflexive methodology.

Fair to Swear?: Gendered Formulations of Fairness in Football in Turkey
By: Yağmur Nuhrat
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 13, Issue 1)

Abstract: This article focuses on swearing in football chants in Turkey to demonstrate that fans construct a specifically masculine notion of fairness that diverges from the universalizing ideal of fair play. I argue that the Turkish Football Federation’s (TFF) clubs’ and mainstream media’s anti-swearing campaigns and policies, ostensibly to uphold fair play, miss how fans gender fairness by referring to the masculine ideal of the crazy/hot-blooded young man (delikanlı). In keeping with theorization on “ordinary ethics” in anthropology, this analysis illuminates how fairness and gender are co-negotiated in football in Turkey. In addition, this article critiques the mission the TFF ascribes to women fans, delineating them as naturally polite guardians of an imposed sense of fair play. I show that women fans have a complex relationship with “hegemonic masculinity” whereby they simultaneously take part in the specific masculine construction of fairness and oppose normative gender expectations, specifically in relation to language.

Gendering Landscapes of War through the Narratives of Soldiers’ Mothers: Military Service and the Kurdish Conflict in Turkey
By: Senem Kaptan
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 13, Issue 1)

Abstract: Despite being exempt from compulsory military service, women have been indispensable in their roles as mothers of conscripted soldiers in the conflict between the Turkish military and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). Based on in-depth interviews conducted with twenty women in Istanbul whose sons were deployed to the conflict zone and returned home without any injuries, this article examines how the conflict has impacted the mothers’ perception of national service, of the Kurdish conflict, and of the “East.” I argue that the women start to partly question the obligation to serve once their children are asked to become the potential victims, and perpetrators, of the conflict. But this questioning does not develop into a full-fledged critique of the service and ends up reinforcing the tropes associated with Kurds and the “East” as backward, unruly, and resistant to change. Thus they mostly justify the modernizing mission of the military.

Beyond Islamic versus Secular Framing: A Critical Analysis of Reproductive Rights Debates in Turkey
By: Ana Frank, Ayşe Betül Çelik
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 13, Issue 2)

Abstract: Reproductive rights are shaped by different political ideologies and remain a hotly contested policy issue in most parts of the world. In Turkey, the disputes concerning these rights have grown since 2002, when a conservative government assumed power. Analyzing how both governmental and civil society actors have discussed and framed reproductive policies primarily in reference to religion since the ascension of the Adalet ve Kalkınma Partisi (Justice and Development Party; AKP), this article focuses on debates that took place in 2012 about abortion and cesarean birth. The critical discourse and frame analysis, based on online speeches and media articles of these actors from November 2002 through 2014, reveal a remarkable diversity both in the interpretation of Islamic teachings and in a group of actors with similar ideological orientation. The article concludes by arguing for the need to move beyond the Islamic versus secular divide and to denaturalize and de-homogenize the role of religion in the public sphere.

Class and Habitus in the Formation of Gay Identities, Masculinities, and Respectability in Turkey
By: Haktan Ural, Fatma Umut Beşpınar
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 13, Issue 2)

Abstract: This article examines how gay men engage with masculine respectability in urban Turkey. Our analysis of twenty-four in-depth interviews in Ankara shows that gay men’s self-presentation generally conforms to the expectations of masculine appearance and behavior in their class-based social circles. Thus we argue that social class and habitus are important for the norms of masculine respectability with a marked difference between lower-class/traditional middle-class and professional middle-class milieus. While family-dependent gay men in the lower class and traditional middle class often conform to hegemonic masculinity through their “family guy” performances and limit their sexual desires, professional middle-class gay men mobilize their social, economic, and cultural capital to carve out a gay life where they can perform a “sophisticated” gay identity and participate in a gay community, albeit in certain permitted domains.

“War Is like a Blanket”: Feminist Convergences in Kurdish and Turkish Women’s Rights Activism for Peace
By: Nadje Al-Ali, Latif Tas
Published in Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (Volume 13, Issue 3)

Abstract: Despite the recent outbreak of violence and conflict, peace continues to be high on the agenda of the Kurdish political movement and many progressive Turkish intellectuals and activists. Based on qualitative research we conducted in Diyarbakır, Istanbul, London, and Berlin in 2015–16, we show that Kurdish activists have struggled to make the eradication of gender-based inequalities and violence central to the wider Kurdish peace movement, while Turkish women’s rights activists have increasingly recognized that the war against the Kurds, “like a blanket,” often papers over gender injustices. Both Kurdish and Turkish activists stress the necessity of understanding that a just and sustainable peace must include gender equality and that gender justice cannot be achieved in times of war. Thus feminist convergences in Kurdish and Turkish activism present peace and women’s rights as inseparable and generate the potential to challenge nationalist state power and the militarization of society.