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Muslim Feminists’ Borderland Positions in an Authoritarian Populist Regime: The Case of Turkey
Venue: Lecture hall C120, Unioninkatu 38 (Topelia), University of Helsinki
Time: Tuesday February 25, 16–18.
Didem Unal Abaday (posdoctoral fellow, University of Helsinki, Religion, Conflict and Dialogue Research Center):
Muslim Feminists’ Borderland Positions in an Authoritarian Populist Regime: The Case of Turkey

Feminist scholarship on the recent rise of right-wing populism in Europe and all over the world point out that familialism, pronatalism and anti-feminism are central features of populist imaginaries. In contemporary Turkey, the proliferation of misogynist discourse on women’s bodies, sexualities and subjectivities, the replacement of the principle of gender equality with the Islamic model of gender complementarity, pronatalist and familialist policy and discourse and the marginalization of feminist subjects have been intrinsic to the foundation of a new political regime especially in the post-2013 period. In such a context where the authoritarian populist regime defines women’s agency as compliant and instrumental and the Islamic tradition becomes a main pillar in the reshuffling of the gender regime, critical pious agency gains prominence in challenging ‘docile’ femininity promoted through familial/pronatalist discourses and policies. Against this background, this article explores the complexities of Muslim feminist position with regard to recent controversial gender debates in Turkey and scrutinizes the flexibilities, temporalities, shifts and instabilities underlying it in the age of conservative gender backlash. Utilizing semi-structural, in-depth interviews as well as critical discourse analysis of blogs, press interviews and social media statements, it puts forward the wide spectrum of arguments, positions and discourses represented by Muslim feminists and reveals different paths of negotiating feminism, Islam and feminist self-identification. It concludes that Muslim feminist positions in contemporary Turkey fluctuate on an elusive ground, the contours of which is mapped out by the actors’ ‘in-between’ positions on women’s bodily autonomy and reproductive rights and the vulnerabilities they face in the antifeminist, authoritarian political regime that does not tolerate dissent and opposition.


Didem Unal Abaday is a postdoctoral researcher at the Religion, Conflict and Dialogue Research Center at the Faculty of Theology of University of Helsinki. Previously, she was a Junior Thyssen Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies of Central European University (CEU) and a postdoctoral researcher at the Department of Gender Studies, Ethnology and History of Religions at Stockholm University. She was also a visiting research fellow at the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies of Rutgers University and at the Graduate Center of City University of New York (CUNY). She received her Ph.D. from the Department of Political Science at Bilkent University, Ankara in 2015. Her research interests focus on gender politics in contemporary Turkey, Muslim women and politics of veiling in Western diasporic contexts, Islamic feminism, everyday Islam and Islamic fashion. Her recent publications appeared in various academic journals such as Women’s Studies International Forum, Journal of Women, Politics and Policy, European Journal of Women’s Studies and Politics & Gender.
Submitted by: Finland
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25.02.2020 16:00-18:00
Helsinki, Finland