12 Domestic Sphere and the Constructions of Individual Identities and Gender Relations in the Household Shami’s examination of the relationship between domestic rituals and identity in North Caucasus refers to the recognition by feminist scholarship of the significance of the domestic sphere. Shami says that in studies done on the impact of Sovietization on ethnic identity, “the domestic sphere is identified as having been the primary arena for the reproduction of ethnic and religious identities… ” (305) Relations of domination and subordination between women were enacted through domestic rituals and within the framework of patriarchal social structure.
Thus, the private domain of the household supplies information on the ways in which female and male identities were constructed. Brinca’s case study on Bosnian Muslims in the 1990s focuses on dialectical male and female relationship in constructing self-identities. In the Bosnian culture, women are the representatives of the household, which is reflected in communal gatherings. A new bride’s identity is accounted for by reference to her husband’s name and position in the society.
The factthat a husband’s absence or presence in the household determines whether a wife could attend any of the usual social activities shows the male dominance in the family. The woman’s behaviour, social relations and identity are determined by the males in the household whose social reputation was largely dependent on the actions of the females. Thus, the female individual’s self-identity was largely dependent upon the opposite sex while the male honor was dependent on control of female behaviour. This example serves to understand the importance of studying gender dialectically, without restricting it to the study of females alone but examining the relationship with malea to achieve a full picture of the construction of gender relations and individual identities.
This example also refers to the fact that the household has served as a place for the continuation of a certain form of individual identities and human relations. The cultural 13 perspectives on certain issues can be traced through the private domain within each culture whose authority in relation with the external cultures is to a certain extent practiced and maintained in the domestic sphere. Research on the late-Ottoman society and early Republican Turkey, similarly, requires close attention to the discourse within the family between two genders to grasp the changes in the formation of new gender relations within the framework of Westernization and modernization.
Literature and Westernization One of the primary sources for the examination of social and cultural transformations in the late Ottoman and early Republican Turkey is the novel, which was used extensively as a vehicle for the discussion of the process of Westernization during the Tanzimat period. Evin quotes Berkei?? and claims; “As Berkei?? has explained, ‘One of the consequences of Hamit’s suppression of political preoccupations was to force the intellectuals to focus upon non-political, cultural questions…
The focusing was sharpened by factors stemming from the Western impact that the Hamidian suppression failed to prevent. ” (80) Ironically, a Western genre was used to document undesirable aspects of Western influence. The writers introduced types of persons beneficial to the society to exemplify the “right and proper” ways of Westernization. However, “It could not be said that such fictional characters were representatives or had real counterparts in the Turkish society… they were proposed as models showing how Westernization, properly understood, would not lead to an absurd deviation from the received social and ethical norms. ” (81)
The issues that were debated in the novel provide information on the problems associated with Westernization. The presence and absence of certain themes and questions in novels help understand the ways in which the Ottoman society dealt with Western influence. Familial relations, problems of arranged marriages, treatment of women, criticism of loss of morality, the nature and extent of Westernization in Istanbul society, the concept of the individual self and the 14 European person as a model for the Ottoman one were among the themes taken up by the novels.
Therefore, in order to trace the changes in the society, the novel serves as a valuable source for detailed analysis of Westernization as it shows the variety of traditional values and world-views of the Ottoman/Turkish society. Modernism and the non-West The main concept that lies at the basis of this research is “modernism,” which has surrounded the issues about formation of individual identities and gender relations to a certain extent, especially in the non-West. The equation of modernism and Westernization has resulted in arguments about the Western hegemony over the term “modern. ” Intellectuals studying the Middle East have argued for “multiple modernities” (Kandiyoti,1998 and Eisenstadt) as they analyzed the various different versions of “modernism” within the non-West.
Eisenstadt talks about the “continual development of multiple modernities. ” (175) He argues that “the expansion of modernity has to be viewed as the crystallization of a new type of civilization, not unlike the expansion of great religions or great imperial powers in past times” (175) and continues by saying that “the civilization of Modernity undermined the symbolic and institutional premises of the societies that were incorporated into it, thus opening up new options and possibilities. As a result of these continual interactions and responses there developed a great variety of modern or modernising societies… ” (176) Kandiyoti points out the interaction between the global and the local, which has complicated the ability to reduce the variety of responses among cultures to modernity.
She refers to the fact that the complexities and contradictions of modernity have frequently been overlooked in the arguments for the “positive” consequences of the movement over the entire world. Modernity has spread to most of the world, resulting in multiple cultural interpretations and individual identities. Cultural and structural dimensions of Western modernism have been 15 reference points for other societies but, as studies have indicated, the developments in these communities have surpassed the hegemonic dimensions of the Western program of modernity.
The continuous selection, reinterpretation, reformulation of Western themes and institutions gave “rise to a continual crystallization of a new cultural and political programmes of modernity… ” (Eisenstadt, 182) Kandiyoti (1988) refers to the variety in a non-Western region as well: “To what extent were contested images and attributions of tradition and modernity also mediated through the internally heterogeneous nature of Middle Eastern societies (in terms of class, religion and ethnicity), creating more proximate images of difference than those propagated by the more distant imperial centers of Europe?
” (272) Attending to local specifications, many Middle East experts have advocated an awareness of the complexity of the region. This complexity is a necessary premise of this paper, examining the formation of identities and gender relations in Turkey because it leaves room for the appreciation of local specifications in the interaction with the Western influence. This research paper, with its case study on a single Middle Eastern country, attempts to illustrate the particular path of modernity a non-Western country has followed in its struggle with the hegemony of the West in the formation of a viable national identity.
The detailed analysis of the late-Ottoman and early Republican changes aims to contribute to the existing studies on the Middle East gender issues, by analyzing the construction of individual identities and gender relations specifically with respect to the changes in the family. Women’s issues in the late-Ottoman Empire have been studied in terms of the legal, political and economical changes in their lives. However, the existing literature seems to lack works on the changes in the private domain of women and men.
The societal changes, especially in the family, need to be analyzed on a more detailed basis to grasp the re-definitions of female and male individuals and gender relations. By finding Western elements in the definition of the Ottoman and later Republican personal and social identities, and other Western ideals, values, institutions 16 in every day life, this research paper aims to point out the hegemonic relationship of the West with the non-West and contribute to the understanding of contemporary issues in Turkey, including the definition of personal and national identities.