Proceedings Journal Article — Veiling as Identity Politics: The Case of Turkey — by Solen Sanli


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This paper argues that veiling occupies its place in public consciousness precisely because of women’s symbolic role as bearers of modernity in Turkey. In doing that, it utilizes Pierre Bourdieu’s concepts of habitus, symbolic violence and cultural capital. It is argued that symbolic violence is exerted towards individuals in Turkey so that they conform to the secular, modern and nationalist norms of the Republican elite.“Republican habitus” requires a certain life-style and a set of bodily dispositions privileged by the ruling elite. In the 1980s and especially 1990s,the symbolic violence exerted towards the overtly religious, migrant, and ethnically diverse segment of the population has diminished in severity partly since such dispositions found more representation in the newly privatized media, and those with diverse dispositions increasedtheir economic capital through Turkey’s liberalization in those years. It is argued that today, the struggle in the field of power has resulted inincreasing integration of contested identities into the mainstream consumerist culture. At the same time, a rise in “racism,” that is, a growinghostility between the republican elite and the “others” is also being observed. A constructive revision of Ataturk’s project, one which allows its own criticism, is needed.

Recommended Citation

Sanli, Solen. 2005. “Veiling as Identity Politics: The Case of Turkey.” Pp. 295-308 in Theories and Praxes of Difference: Revisiting Edward Said in the Age of New Globalizations: Proceedings of the Second Annual Social Theory Forum, April 6-7, 2005 (Discourse of Sociological Practice, Vol. 7, Issues 1&2, Fall/Spring 2005). Double-Issue Guest Editor: Mohammad H. Tamdgidi. Sociology Department, UMass Boston.

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