Tracing the boundaries: women, nation & modernity in Turkey

Yilmaz, A. 2007. Tracing the boundaries: women, nation & modernity in Turkey. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Media, Arts and Design

TitleTracing the boundaries: women, nation & modernity in Turkey
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsYilmaz, A.

This research project examines the dominant discourses of national identity and delineates the processes of othering in contemporary Turkey. It does this by following the various debates that have surfaced around women in Turkey. The data that informs this process consists of news coverage of selected case studies about women in mainstream Turkish newspapers. In doing so, the research also examines the role of women in the articulation of national boundaries.

In doing this, the research builds on the arguments developed by studies of nationalism and postcolonial theory that focus on the close relationship between the discourses of nationalism, modernity and gender.

The analysis of the case studies gives a clear, if not all comprehensive view, of the heated debates going on in Turkey, about what Turkishness entails, and where its identity can be located. While an unambiguous location does not emerge from the analysed data, the different proposals on the meaning of Turkishness which surface through the news stories point towards the opportunities, as well as the threats presented in the articulation of national boundaries. The research reveals that national imagination in Turkey today is still highly informed by the gender, ethnic and modernization discourses that have been anchored in the early years of the Republic. According to this, the symbolic role of women in representing the nation continues to form an obstacle to perceiving them as independent subjects. In discourses of national identity, whereas the ethnic understanding of Turkishness is largely clear and unquestioned, discourses about Turkey's modernity are more ambiguous and point to the hybrid character of the Turkish modernization project. The data also indicates an ambivalent relationship with Europe, which appears both as the desired locus of modernity and a source of threat - thus identifying with it and othering it at the same time. The analysis attempts to trace and interpret those ambivalences and point to where the possibilities for a more inclusionary understanding of national identity can emerge.

PublisherUniversity of Westminster
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