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Lecture, Lecture series

Women and public space in Turkey: a gendered history of participation and democratic practices

Lecture by Selda Tuncer (Yüzüncü Yıl University, Van)

One of the foundational claims of the Turkish modernization process was to increase women’s access to the public sphere and their use of public space, promoting the equal participation of women and men in public life. Ever since the establishment of the Republic in 1923, in the context of powerful narratives on urban public culture using a perception of the Western/European model of modernization as a reference, new gender assigned codes of public behaviour for the citizens emerged. A paradoxical outcome of this process is that discourses on the increasing presence of women in public space went hand-in-hand with their strong affiliation with domestic life. Although women’s participation in urban public life was enhanced through new forms of education and professional employment, the relationship between women and public space was precisely controlled and regulated by different notions of domestication, especially in the micro-politics of daily life. Based on a critical feminist understanding of the Turkish modernity experience, this lecture focuses on the period between 1950 and 1980, a more mature phase of the Turkish modernization process. Selda Tuncer analyzes how middle-class women of different generations participated in new forms of everyday public life in the modernizing capital city. In contrast with trends of the scholarship on women and public space in the region focusing on veiled women, S. Tuncer devotes her attention to women struggling in their daily life in a society both predominantly Muslim society and organized according to secular principles. The lecture will thus explore how women’s urban experience and everyday participation were shaped by patriarchal traditions as well as social and moral codes of public behaviour that are intrinsic to both religious and secular ideologies.

Selda Tuncer is an assistant professor of sociology at Van Yuzuncu Yil University in Turkey. She worked as a research assistant at the Middle East Technical University in Ankara, where she also completed her PhD. As a doctoral fellow, she also studied at Humboldt University and Edinburgh University. Her dissertation was published in 2018 by I.B. Tauris with the title of Women and Public Space in Turkey: Gender, Modernity and the Urban Experience. Working at the intersections of sociology, geography and history, she has published in both Turkish and English on issues relating but not limited to gender and space relations, urban culture and everyday life in Turkey. As a feminist academic, she has been closely involved in feminist and women’s politics both within and outside the academy. In 2019, as a Swedish Institute fellow, she was a guest postdoctoral researcher at the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University. She has been recently working on the gendered transformation of public space and its effects on women’s relationship with both public and private spaces in today’s authoritarian conservative regimes. Among her publications: “The home as a field: researching women’s public experiences in the domestic sphere“, Families, Relationships and Societies, 2019, 8-1, p. 167-171; “Evden Kaçmak’tan Eve Kaçma’ya: Kamusal Endişenin Gölgesinde Ev ve Kadın” [From Running From Home to Running Home: Home and Woman in the Shadow of Public Anxiety], Dosya , 2018, 41, p.33-42; “Beşeri coğrafyaya feminist itirazlar” [Feminist Challenges to Human Geography], Fe Dergi: Feminist Eleştiri, 2012, 4-1, p.79-90; “Fotoğrafın Gör Dediği: Aile Fotoğrafları Üzerine Bir Analiz Denemesi” [What Photographs Tell: An Analysis on Family Photographs], Fe Dergi: Feminist Eleştiri, 2017,9-1, p.1-11; “Kadınların Kent Hakkı: Bütün Köşebaşlarını İstemek”, [Women’s Right to the City: Claiming for All Corners] in TESEV Değerlendirme Notları (2018); Forthcoming: “Leaving Home, Claiming the Street: Exploring Women’s Challenges in Turkey’s ’68 Movement”, with İnan Ozdemir Tastan (March, 2021, Turkish Historical Review).

The online seminar is free and open to the public upon registration. For registration, please send an email to HISDEMAB@gmail.com

This event is part of the lecture series:
Lecture series in the academic year 2020/21
The Historicity of Democracy Seminar