Emergence of a Discourse or New Articulations of Orientalist Biases: The First Ethnographies on Women and Islam in Turkey

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The ethnographic study of the relationship between gender and Islam in Turkey has a recent history which dates back to the early 1980s. The ethnographies conducted by Carol Delaney, Julie Marcus and Nancy and Richard Tapper constitute the initial discursive period with a number of commonalities in
their research questions and analysis, most important of which is a claim about how gender hierarchy is legitimized in Turkish society through Islamic premises. Based on the critiques of Western ethnocentricsm, Orientalism and First World feminism and Michel Foucault’s theorization of discourse, power and knowledge, this study makes a discourse analysis of the published works of these studies. It discusses the ways they are influenced by and reproduce the academic Orientalism in studying Islamic cultures in their discursive representations of Muslim women. Muslim women’s agency, subjectivity and otherness in the ethnographies are highlighted as the most critical issues to be analysed in this respect. The analysis suggests that all of them represent Muslim Turkish women as victims of religion, patriarchy and traditions, fail to consider the complexity and diversity of Islamic beliefs and rites, fail to contextualize the Islamic culture they observed, and suggest the existence of a persistent and constant legitimating structure for the gender hierarchy.
Original languageEnglish
JournalFe Dergi
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)23-33
Number of pages11
Publication statusPublished - 2019

ID: 304161451