9th Conference European Sociological Association

RS13 Re-Assessing Class in Contemporary Sociology

2009-09-04 13:30:00 2009-09-04 15:00:00 Friday, 4 September 13:30 - 15:00 Class, Class Cultures and Gender Building I, 1E11

Social Class in the Domestic Sphere: Housewives and Unpaid Live-in Servants in the name of "adopted daughters" in Turkey

In this paper, we want to investigate the upper and upper middle class family life in selected provincial towns in the South West and South East of Turkey in the early and later generations of the Turkish Republic in the 20th century.
In the traditional, fairly upper class households, usually having an extension in the rural countryside, house work or domestic work involved activities and tasks that could not be confined to the social-spatial boundaries of the house or the domestic. In the paper, we want to expand on the extra-domestic activities of such housewives and how they coped with the running of a big house, aided by domestic servants.

Orphan and poor girls were brought to such households as unpaid domestic servants in the name of "adopted daughters". The paper will also focus on these girls and their relations with the household members.

Another theme we want to develop in the paper is the transformations in the social practices related to housework and self-definitions of housewives during the modernization process in Turkey. How come being a housewife is still a prestigious position in Turkey? What are some of the investments made into the domestic sphere and into the use of domestic space, management of intra-family and inter-family relationships, community networks and rituals by "modern" housewives of upper classes? We also want to expand on different types of labor (emotional, organizational, aesthetic, manual etc.) involved in housework, paid as well as unpaid domestic labor, and according positions among the women of the house, women relatives and servants.


The ongoing relationships of loyalty and patronage and social support between upper class families with the servants raised in the family and their families also hint at some patterns of social mobility for the lower classes and sustained forms of social respectability and social distinction for a sector of upper classes in Turkey.

Qualitative data were collected for the project of "A Study of the Social History of Housework in Turkey: Housewives, Women Relatives, Servants and Pseudo-adopted Children", funded by Turkish Scientific Research Institution (TUBITAK).