SUMMARY:The field of modern Turkish history has transformed considerably in recent years moving from a state-centric approach to the state's interaction with its citizens, to social history and to new sub-fields such as medical history and history of women and gender. It is within this context of the broadening of the field that previously neglected topics and marginalized groups finally became subjects of historical scholarship on late and post-Ottoman Turkey. This panel contributes to this emerging scholarship by examining aspects of changing gender relations, sexual relations and prostitution in Turkey from the 1920s through the 1950s, drawing on sources such as archival documents, court records, newspapers, memoirs and autobiographies.
The first paper charts the gradual development in the 1920s and 1930s of regulatory state policies on prostitution. It argues that the regulatory policies that emerged by the mid-1930s were a result of debates and competing proposals by medical professionals, administrators and policy makers around issues of public health, criminality and morality. The second paper turns to the most important piece of legislation on sex work in Turkey: the 1933 Regulation on prostitution. It explains how the regulation of sex work in practice led to the creation of a strict regime of control and the surveillance of bodies and spaces--not only of prostitutes and brothels, but of the larger communities and indeed of the nation.
The next paper seeks to reconsider the definition of prostitution on the basis of the types of gendered relations and sexual encounters that emerge from an examination of memoirs and autobiographical works focusing on Ankara in the 1940s and 1950s. The paper documents a much wider range of illicit sexual practices and argues that actual sexual practices with many gray areas defied legal definition and therefore remained outside the purview of state monitoring.
The final paper considers prostitution and sexuality within the broader context of changing gender relations in the years following the 1933 legislation. Drawing primarily on memoirs and diaries, the paper offers a portrayal of male-female relations in the city, particularly in Ankara and nstanbul where illicit sexual conduct existed at one end of a wide spectrum of male-female interactions that created new opportunities as well as new constraints for marriage, sex and sexuality.
These papers collectively demonstrate how state agencies attempted to regulate prostitution, while various forms of sexual conduct and sex work still remained outside the sphere of state control.