Intimate politics: strategies and practices of female Mukhtars in Turkey

Senem Yıldırım, Burcu Uçaray Mangıtlı, and Hakkı Taş (2018) ‘Intimate Politics: Strategies and Practices of Female Mukhtars in Turkey,’ British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 45 (5): 661-677. Full Text

Abstract: The dualistic separation between the public and private assumes natural and stable boundaries between these spheres. However, a perspective that relies on binaries may deprive certain groups, practices and processes associated with specific spheres from diverse experiences. For instance, women wanting to move from the private sphere and join the political public could not do that due to the domesticated nature of their roles and responsibilities. However, those who do manage to become agents of political activity do so by developing strategies and practices that are context specific. This article examines how the boundaries between the public and private are traversed in Turkish local politics through the mentioned context-specific experiences. It identifies the ways in which female mukhtars in Turkey engage in politics through practices of intimization as a political strategy, which accounts for the strategies and practices of degendering and regendering. The analysis of data from interviews with 20 randomly selected female mukhtars reveals that female mukhtars successfully navigate a versatile strategy of degendering and regendering. In this regard, they may highlight career-defined and gender-neutral attributes or valorize the masculine imperatives of the public domain. They may also affirm and assert their feminine qualities depending on the context.

Photo: Gül Esin, the first female mukhtar of Turkey, 1933

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