In this episode, I am hosting Didem Şalgam, a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Gender Studies, CEU. We will talk about neoliberal and neoconservative politics of intimacy in Turkey. Didem will make a compelling case for the need to challenge Global North-dominated narratives around the sexuality of heterosexual cisgender women in general and Muslim women in particular. First, she will discuss how neoliberal politics of individualization and self-management clashes with Turkey’s neoconservative politics of re-inventing traditions through strict control over women’s bodies and their sexualities. She will argue that the tendency and demand for the individualization among young, educated middle-class adults in Turkey subvert the dominant norms of intimacy, gender, and sexual morality.

Didem will also argue that sexting has become a practice among young urban university students to resist the neoliberal and neoconservative politics of intimacy that has been fiercely promoted by the current government for more than fifteen years. Sexting here refers to exchanging sexually explicit written text or visual and audio recordings. Didem will demonstrate that sexting can become a medium through which restrictions around sexuality can be negotiated. Didem will also complicate the understanding of sexuality as mere penetrative acts. And finally, Didem will share many obstacles and preconceptions she has faced as a woman researching sexuality in Turkey. Her own experience is very telling of conservative norms surrounding sexuality in Turkey.

The “New Turkey” Didem refers to is a dominant narrative of the current ruling party of Turkey, Justice and Development Party (AKP). AKP has been promoting the idea that they have initialized a “progressive break” from the secular republican era. This break has been enacted through many cultural, social and material changes in the society and in the state structure. These changes include slow but steady erosion of independence of state apparatuses, shift from a parliamentary system to a presidential system, cultural wars over important symbols of the Republican Era, the attacks on Istiklal Street and Gezi Park, the transfer of capital to a Muslim elite and to those who are in direct alliance with the government and so on. 

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