9th Conference European Sociological Association

RN33 Women's and Gender Studies

2009-09-05 11:00:00 2009-09-05 12:30:00 Saturday, 5 September 11:00 - 12:30 Gender and Power Building II, C4.01

Freedom as Conformity: Re-veiling of Urban Women in Turkey

This study is a product of a larger project conducted in five cities of Turkey in 2009, supported by a generous grant from TUBITAK. This research is based on interviews, observations and focus groups conducted among veiled women who are employed as sales representatives in retail sector. The main concern of this paper is to see weather veiling or wearing the headscarf becomes an issue in the patriarchal bargain through which single or married women gain autonomy to enter into public space and in this case to appear at the counter. Re-veiling in the discourse of Islamic movements in Turkey throughout the 1990s came to represent the liberation of women from the oppression of secular and modernizing state. In fact, the issue of women's clothing had become an effective tool in the hands of both Islamist and secularist political projects in their struggle to establish or challenge the boundaries of public space. As operating within the parameters of dominant ideologies, in what aspects does re-veiling empower urban saleswomen with primary or middle education? Is re-veiling about conforming the existing patriarchal relations or does it mean a partial liberation from domestic activities or obligations? What are choices of these women within the context of patriarchal order who almost always live with their families or parents? What is the role of re-veiling in the renegotiation of gender identities?