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    The Western culture Essay (2488 words)

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    Western-oriented modernism has greatly affected the formation of individual identities and gender relations around the world. This paper will focus on the construction of identity, gender and gender relations within the discourse of Westernization and modernization during the late-Ottoman Empire and early Republican Turkey.

    It attempts to show how social, political, and cultural institutions shape citizen identity and how redefinitions of them affect identity, gender, and gender roles in society. Examining the Pertev Bey series of three novels by Mi?? nevver Ayai?? li??as primary source and some other various cultural and historical texts of the late-Ottoman and early Republican period in Turkey, this paper aims to search for the terms under which new forms of femininity and masculinity were constructed, especially within the private space of the family and in public debates, during the early twentieth century, which in turn changed gender relations to a great extent. The Western dominated concept of modernization has played an important role in the relationship of the West with non-Western countries.

    The transformation of non-Western countries in response to the requirements set by the criteria and standards of the West has resulted in a variety of social, political, economical and cultural changes. Modernization has placed the responsibility on the non-West to aspire to the ideals of this movement in order to be considered as part of the network of the “progressing” countries. The effects of modernization have been influential on the formation of personal and social identities.

    The construction of gender relations as a result of a myriad of debates on individual identities has been an important area for examining the social and cultural consequences of modernism, which have greatly shaped human interactions into multiple directions. 2 During the early nineteenth century, the Ottoman Empire struggled to accommodate its heritage consisting of political, social and cultural structures, institutions and values to the influences of the expanding Western colonial culture. Due to the disintegration within the Empire, resulting to a great extent from the wars and the influence of nationalism in the nineteenth century, the Ottoman society had to find ways to unify the society in the face of the loss of lands and power.

    One of the solutions for the Empire appeared to be Westernization among several other trends such as “pan Islamism” and “Ottomanism”. The acceptance of Westernization shaped many aspects of Ottoman life, especially individual identities and gender relations. The beginnings of Westernization are generally associated with the Tanzimat Fermani?? (Imperial Decree) of 1839 issued during the reign of Abdi?? lmecid.

    The word Tanzimat means “regulations,” and is used to refer to the period between 1839 and 1878 during which a considerable number of Western-inspired political and social reforms were carried out in the Ottoman Empire with the aim of solving the disintegration of the Empire. Despite the fact that the Tanzimat Fermani?? does not explicitly mention anything about family, women and women’s education, there have been arguments that it has indirectly caused changes in the family and in the status of women. Rules for the behaviour of women in the public domain, new regulations on the institution of marriage, the emphasis on education for the improvement of marriages, the equation of family and women with the whole society resulted in changes in the positions and life conditions of women.

    Therefore, it is significant to study the Tanzimat period in order to examine the question of what types of female and male identities were discussed by both sexes within the framework of Westernization and modernism moving gender relations in different directions. 3 Both the period of Tanzimat and later of the Turkish Republic, which was founded in 1923 abolishing the political system of the Empire, are significant in the study of Westernization in Turkey. The approach of the Ottoman and the Republican towards Westernization have differences as well as similarities and both periods in Turkish history have contributed to the construction of individual and national identities, thus it is significant to study both of them to understand the various historical forces that have affected the formation of individual identities and gender relations.

    Based on this premise, this research paper uses the term Ottoman and Republican to refer to the two different periods and their changes in Turkish history and thus, to examine the effects of Westernization on the issue of identity in Turkey. Method and Sources The available sources prove the existence of avenues for the Ottoman subject to respond to new forms of self-expression, thus to voice individual concerns and questions about the imposition of new definitions on the ‘self’.

    Literature was one tool that the intellectuals of the Tanzimat and later periods used in order to convey different approaches towards the effects of Westernization on the formation of individual identities. The characters and plots of novels would, in a didactic way, try to show the reader the appropriate boundaries of Westernization.

    This research paper will analyze the Pertev Bey series by Mi?? nevver Ayai?? li?? , as primary sources, written in the 1960s about the disintegration of an Ottoman family during the early twentieth century. It will try to provide evidence for social and cultural changes referred to in the novel by examining studies done on various secondary sources, such as: historical narrative accounts, newspaper articles, images, advertisements, and books about the social, political and cultural reforms of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. The premise, on which the research is based, is that it is almost inevitable for any non- Western country to be affected by the hegemony of the Western civilization, which has resulted 4 in many cases of complex interactions with the West.

    The content of texts and arguments will be interpreted within the analytical framework provided by the secondary sources in terms of the historical context of the period in which the arguments took place. Using mainly content analysis, this paper will examine social, cultural and political terms in texts for Ottoman subjecthood, citizenship, religious and national identities and for the definition and proposed characteristics of the ‘acceptable and approved’ modern female and male individuals.

    Content analysis can help examine the deep underlying meanings and implications behind the verbal arguments in cultural texts. Paying attention to the intentions, tones, and word usage of the writers of these texts, this research will try to get at the individual attitudes, which can vary from cynical, paradoxical, and iron to appreciative, approving and celebratory, when confronted with the question of what type of female and male characteristics should be formed within the framework modernization and Westernization. The case of Turkey might be considered as a good example of the rhetorical domination of Westernization.

    However, it may limit the ability to make a general argument, as the heterogeneous nature of the Middle East, and of the non-West in general, would interfere with the notion of one specific way of dealing with Western influence. The variety of cultures within the region would challenge a stereotypical perspective on how each country has dealt with the influence of the West. The internal dynamics of each community may interfere with a general conclusion drawn from the study on Turkey about how each society has responded to the challenges faced in the encounter with the Western culture.

    This study is meant to be an examination of a particular and unique case. Some of the themes that are necessary in dealing with this topic are gendered politics, women’s agency, patriarchal feminism, modernism and the family as the indigenous domain of social control. 5 Gendered Politics and Women’s Agency Examining the formation of gender relations, this paper assumes the significance of studying both genders simultaneously as they are seen as contributing to each other’s formation through a dialectical relationship. Many arguments have been made about the neglect of the study

    on female experiences in understanding history. However, one must be careful not to equate the concept of gender with only female concerns, as it requires the “male” counterpart in its understanding. Among the thinkers using the term “gendered politics”, the importance of studying the agency of women in the formation of international politics and history has been acknowledged. Enloe in her book Bananas, Beaches and Bases, writing on international politics and feminism, criticizes patriarchal nationalism and gendered politics, which in her opinion prevent a full

    appreciation of history as they neglect the active participation of women in these fields. Patriarchal nationalism has perpetuated the inequalities in power relationships between sexes by viewing the female as the inferior subject that needs to accommodate to the wishes of the male elite. Thus, it has highly influenced the discourse on women’s roles in the construction of a nation. Scott’s poststructuralist approach to the study on the meaning of gender, in Gender and the Politics of History, bases its argument on the fact that gender is historically constructed, legitimated, challenged and maintained.

    The deconstruction of meaning by referring to oppositions, negations, hierarchical dependencies, exclusions and inclusions is, in Scott’s opinion, significant when analyzing the unstable flowing word of “gender”. The term is manipulated by various forces that constantly interact to reshape its meaning. Therefore, it is essential, in studying the changes regarding gender during the late-Ottoman Empire, to situate it into the historical context including various social, cultural and political changes that might have 6 had different impacts on the creation of new definitions.

    The Tanzimat period, with its reforms and social trends and understandings, appears to be among those forces that reshaped gender, social and individual identities and relations. Frierson, in her analysis of the popular press during the reign of Abdi?? lhamid II, argues for the need to investigate the concept of gender with special focus on the agency of women in the process of modernization during the Hamidian era. She rightly thinks that his reign serves as an important source for the understanding of how later the proponents of Kemalism 1were able to

    mobilize women into the public sphere. The study of gender is essential, in her opinion, to grasp the process of state building, which is similar to the discourse by Enloe and Scott about the agency of women throughout history. Frierson analyzes the function of the popular press in educating the public about the reforms for Westernization and in providing ways, especially for women, to respond to the changes on individual identities. Literate women responded to the questions about the new identities imposed upon themselves under the impact of the modernizing language of Hamidian reforms.

    Thus, their contribution to the historical changes of their societies needs to be analyzed as part of a study on the formation of gender relations affected by the consequences of a modernist discourse. Zilfi, in her work on Ottoman women of an earlier period, also argues that it is essential to focus on women’s issues in the Ottoman Empire in order to see the broader picture on the Islamic past of women, which, in her opinion, has mainly consisted of pre-Ottoman past or Arabic sources in historical works. The book she edited consists of different articles that try to answer the question of women’s active participation in the construction of their own social boundaries.

    Various studies on women and law, economy, vaki?? f (charity foundations) and marriage attempt to form a new framework to analyze women’s experiences. Zilfi says; “We argue that the elements of legal, physical and communal space converge to construct the 7 boundaries of Ottoman women’s experiences” (48) and continues; “We replace the public/private dichotomy that has long dominated analysis of gender within the context of the Middle East with a new conception of women’s experience.

    The new concept focuses on woman’s agency and traces her actions and interactions throughout all aspects of society, from everyday practices to material interests, from social rituals to symbolic expressions. ” (49) Zilfi appears to be on the same road with Enloe, Scott, and Frierson by tapping into the “women question,” acknowledging women’s important role in the historical changes of their communities. Judith Tucker argues for recognition of the diversity in the Middle East, which in her opinion, requires scholars to form different criteria for studying gender in different contexts.

    She says that the variety of interpretations of Islam in the Middle East provide an example of the difficulty of generalizing or categorizing the Middle East and gender experiences in this region. The boundaries drawn and redrawn by historical, social, and contextual circumstances limit the ability to form generalizations about different cultures often considered to be in the same geographical region of the world. As the ideas Frierson, Enloe, Scott, Peteet, Tucker and Zilfi point out, for the purpose of this research paper, it is significant to start with the assumption that women’s agency is significant in the construction of history.

    Digging into women’s experiences of the modernization process, influenced to a great extent by both in the patriarchal society of the Ottomans and the patriarchal tendencies in the West, would enhance the understanding of the changes during the late nineteenth and early twentieth century Turkey. Family and Patriarchal Feminism The Ottoman Empire, despite the fact that it was not colonized, can be considered having experienced a type of colonialism when it took the West as a model in certain respects for the purpose of solving the disintegration in the Empire during the late nineteenth century.

    Within this perspective, nationalism and colonialism become useful terms to talk about the relationship 8 between the West and the Ottoman Empire. Chatterjee, in his work The Nation and its Fragments, uses the term “anti-colonial nationalism,” which “creates its own domain of sovereignity within colonial society well before it begins its political battle with imperial power. It does this by dividing the world of social institutions and practices into two domains-the material and the spiritual. ” (6) Nationalism declares the “spiritual” as its sovereign domain where it launches the fashioning of a “modern, national” culture.

    Family, usually defined as the sphere of the female, is one of the sites of spiritual domain where the nation has the power to prevent interference from outside forces. (Peteet) In the face of colonialism, culture has been the driving motivation behind assertion of self-identities. “Cultural authenticity” (Peteet) has served as a unifier in the process of fragmentation caused by the encounter with a new civilization. Women have been equated with the primary agents who would establish, maintain, strengthen, and transmit the indigenous ‘authentic’ cultures. (Peteet) Therefore, it has been generally considered

    that male rulers and thinkers of societies have assigned several roles to women for the enhancement of “the interests of the nation as a whole”. With its patriarchal social structure, the Ottoman Empire is assumed to have exercised its male hegemony over the female specifically in the family, which surfaces as an essential place to search for definitions of individual identities and gender relations. Gi?? le, in her examination of the relationships between modernism, religion and gender relations, specifically in Turkey, focuses on the notion of women as agents and symbols of the civilizing project of the reformists in the society.

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