Competitive Party Politics, Landless Peasant Women, and Their Political Activism in Two Villages: Rethinking Rural Class Structure in Turkey After World War II

By Bengu Kurtege Sefer
Submitted to Session P4979 (Peasants, Land, and Politics, 2017 Annual Meeting
19th-21st Centuries; Gender/Women's Studies; Political Economy; Turkish Studies;
LCD Projector without Audio;
In this presentation, on the basis of my field research and archival documents, I explore how politicians from different political parties affected class and gender relations with their speech acts and practices and how landless peasant women contested these effects in two large farms, Göllüce and Atalan, where the biggest secondary peasant movement occurred against landlordism in Turkey in the late 1960s. To do this, I first depict a historical and political background of changing relationship between peasantry and politics and explain new forms of involvement into politics for peasants, the debates on land reform, and new perception of peasant women and their politicization in the 1960s. And then I use this background to probe the politicians` speech acts and practices as it relates to existing gender and class specific relations of agrarian production and to landless peasant women`s political activism in two cases.

By explaining how state politically perceived them, through which political mechanisms state tried to take their consents for the political and economic system and how political elites contested their political ideologies on peasantry, land reform and the political mobilization of rural women in two cases, my presentation contributes to history writing of peasantry and politics in Turkey. And it refutes statist approach to peasant behaviors in Turkish historiography according to which peasant behaviors are generally explained with references to changes in economy policies and so politically passive peasants exist only in terms of their obligations to state and legal rules rather than being active agents shaping it. In this way, I will not only denaturalize gendered and class specific interests of the politicians, but also challenge ahistorical conceptualization of state and apolitical representation of rural women in Turkey after WWII. As politically visible agents in the occupations, landless peasant women in two cases forced the politicians to take the occupiers into consideration and make heated debates on the necessity of land reform and poverty in rural Turkey. By exploring these debates, I also reveal the place of landless women in real politics in two villages and also nullify the arguments on the deployment of petty commodity production and abandonment of rural class inequalities after WWII in Turkey.