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SCHOOL OF ORIENTAL AND AFRICAN STUDIES

DEPARTMENT OF ANTHROPOLOGY AND SOCIOLOGY

COURSE CODE: 15 PANC097 COURSE NAME: CULTURE AND SOCIETY IN THE MIDDLE EAST

SUBMITTED TO: DR MAHNAZ MARASHI SUBMITTED BY: FILIZ AKGUL STUDENT NUMBER: 265499 MA IN GENDER STUDIES

ESSAY II

ESSAY QUESTION: BELLY DANCING HAS BECOME A FORM OF SELFORIENTALISM FOR THE TOURIST MARKET . DISCUSS

ESSAY TITLE: SELF ORIENTALISM IN TURKEY: BELLY DANCING AND GENDER

WORD COUNT: 3,511

INTRODUCTION Orientalism refers to an imagined construct that portrays and defines the non western. It is a construct that establishes a hierarchical dichotomy between the East and the West and tradition and modern. The orient is perceived as feminine for its colonial heritage. As a conquest, the Middle East has been perceived through sexual images. In some Middle Eastern locations these sexual images are reproduced and promoted. This reproduction is referred as self orientalism. In this essay, first, I will explain Turkey s construction of modernity and national identity. I will demonstrate how self-orientalism is naturally incorporated in the definition of the self. Second, I will further elaborate self-orientalism. Third, I further explain gender and self-othering. In this essay I conclude that belly dancing is not only a form of self orientalising in the tourist market but it is also self orientalism within the construction of self outside of the tourist market. Self-othering, which operates at multiple levels, is present regardless of the colonial gaze. TURKEY AND ORIENTALISM Since the start of the modernization efforts of the Ottoman empire in late 19th century competing ideologies had intended to define what Turkish modernity could be. However, only one type of modern subjectivity had prevailed till today and would define what modernity is. In the 19th century Ottoman empire a series of modernization efforts had took place, starting from the military to make it become more westernized. Later on secularisation efforts began in which first universities were established and secular education was promoted. This emerging trend in secularisation coincided with a strong ideological stream of Islamism in the late Ottoman empire. Until the end of the empire, westernism remained very weak within the country until the military commander that organised the Turkish war of independence has taken over to reshape Turkish identity and construct the national ideology. Turkey after the war of independence was an army in need of a nation. By this, I emphasize Turkey s manufactured identity (Kadioglu:1996). The Turkish identity and constructed national ideology was a product of the ideological imperatives of the Republican elite. The national identity was not inspired by folk culture or genuine authenticity. But rather, it was based on what Turkey ought to be. It was normative and steered from above. It was rather elitist. The elitist characteristic of the ideology, identity and modernising reforms manifests itself in multiple areas. First, it was steered from above by an elite that had the most superior education of the country and who have lived in the west and spoke European languages especially French. Second, the masses that were uneducated, rural and tribal was alienated by the republican elite. The masses who mostly lived in villages were not included in the future constructions of the Turkish republic especially the identity. When the national ideology had promoted secularism and westernism, these ideals only appealed to the urban middle classes. The

national ideology, thus believed in a westernising elite and their subjects the rural folk, that would eventually follow the middle classes. The modernising elite had steered several reforms from above in the construction of the new Turkish identity. After the republic was proclaimed the first principle that was enacted was secularism. The religious schools were shut down and all schools were administered by the secular Ministry of Education. The halife (religious leader) was abolished as an institution. The state removed Turkey s religion is Islam from the constitution. The Swiss civil code was adopted and the Islamic law was abolished. Islam was seen as the reason for backwardness and the decline of the Ottoman empire. These years were crucial for adopting Orientalist perspectives. Thus a great distance with Islam, through a series of secularisation, needed to be established in order to approach modernity and civilisation like other nations. Secularism, one of the primary principle s of the national ideology and Turkish modernity thus coincides with the second and perhaps most important aspect of modernity, westernism. As Ataturk stated, There are a variety of countries, but there is only one civilisation. In order for a nation to advance, it is necessary that it join this civilization. If our bodies are in the east, our mentality is oriented towards the west. We want to modernise our country. All our efforts are directed toward the building of a modern, therefore western, state in Turkey. What nation is there that desires to become a part of civilisation, but does not tend toward the West? (Cinar: 2005) In this matter the west was seen as an objective truth in which the state could not deny. The west also was a subjectivity in which their imagination of the Middle East and Muslim world is superior to those views of Muslims themselves. In the above speech we see how the west is perceived as the ultimate representative of modernity and advanced societies and we see how the Turkish leader states himself lower in hierarchy. Turks, through the orientalist gaze of the west, chooses to see itself through the gaze of the other. The fez (religious headgear) was abolished and replaced by the western hat. Men were encouraged to wear western suits. Women were encouraged to unveil. As Ataturk, the founder of the Turkish republic, said let women be seen by the world and let them see the world with their own eyes (Zuhrer:1998). Women were granted the right to vote and to be elected in local and national elections. Women were encouraged to be visible in the public sphere. While they were expected to be submissive in the private sphere. Women were seen as an important aspect of secularism and westernism in Turkey. If women were liberated and if they were educated middle class citizens than the nation would have lost its Muslim, backward character. Women were seen as the markers of us and them and tradition and modernity . Since, Muslims and thus Muslim women, were perceived from the

Orientalist gaze, they were seen to have no agency and they were perceived as obedient, selfless women, who were mostly servants of men. For this reason, Ataturk encouraged his adopted daughter to be the first female aviator of Turkey. Women s upward mobility represented Turkey s lack of Middle Eastern character. Women were the defining markers of the nation. Back then, a picture of an unveiled, educated, middle class women was seen nothing different than a picture of an advanced tractor. She was the evidence of modernity in many post colonial and Middle Eastern states. The policies that affected women and the symbolic usage of women in defining modernity and tradition demonstrates Turkey s engagement with Orientalist perceptions in a profound way. In explaining this way, Abu-Lughod states that, The power of Orientalism comes from its power to construct the very object it speaks about and from its power to reproduce a regime of truth about the other and thereby establish the identity and the power of the subject that speaks about it. (Abu-Lughood: 2001) In this manner, Orientalism appears as a way to perceive oneself in relation to others. The republican elite of the early years of the republican project and contemporary political leadership has constructed the Turkish identity that have created a hierarchical dichotomy within the country. Islamists and traditionalists, rural classes and those from outside of larger urban cities have been the losers of the republican regime. Political parties of Islamist ideologies have been banned for being against secularism and trying to establish an Islamic republic. Turkey has been trying to become a full member of the European Union for over three decades now and this has been the main prerogative of state leadership. SELF ORIENTALISM Self Orientalism, at the first glance means, Muslims or Middle Easterner s tendency to view themselves in an Orientalist manner. This view, is an adopted view and it is often called as self othering. Self othering, is much more common than we would assume at first. A women who was abused in her childhood, by being subject to domestic violence, might find herself being with an abusive partner again. Among others, one of the reasons for this, is that she sees herself worthy of such behaviour. This is self othering and there are two dimensions to it. First, it is the gaze of the other and second it is most dysfunctional and destructive. It indicates a hierarchy between us and them and the part that is on the lower scale of the relationship would adopt the dysfunctional, demeaning construction of self. Self-othering also indicates the lack of a functioning construction of self that feeds the needs of the collectivity identified as the self. In the Turkish case we see that Orientalism exists in a vacuum. There is a void of a functioning, established Turkish identity that speaks to all the nation. When we see that the modernising

elite and middle and upper classes identify with a western lifestyle they label and marginalise those who are from lower classes, rural cities and gecekondu (squatter) areas. It is not the modernity that these classes represent but instead their entire lifestyle and being. These classes, who consist of the losers of the Turkish republic and modernity, represent everything that Turkey would not want to be. They are depicted and constructed through criticism, labelling and mockery. For instance while I was growing up I remember listening to a song that said, The kiro ( low class geezer) that wear a silk shirt on top of levi s jeans is now in Taksim and everywhere. The kiro that is depicted through labelling indicated that he is the one to be the other who is a minority and an inferiority compared to the self that is more broadly defined. The label itself indicates hierarchy. This hierarchy is established between those who consider themselves western and those who belong to the rural classes and have imitated westernness and mostly remained Middle Eastern. The construction of the other is mostly affiliated with low classes and low culture of the Islamist groups which opposes to the high culture of Turkey s secular elites (Oncu: 2002). The term Arabesk was used to represent the culture that was invading Istanbul. This class, may or may not have money, were seen as devoid of taste and culture and they were threatening the established, pure, authentic Istanbul life. Arabesk music was usually danced upon what is called Oriental dance in Turkey or belly dancing elsewhere. The rural classes were mostly poor until the 1980s liberal policies in Turkey. With privatisation and export led growth, wealth has been accessible to not only highly educated classes but to those who were well off on trade. These classes became wealthy overnight through state initiatives unlike lawyers and doctors who have accumulated wealth over time. Thus, they had a distinct style of spending money. These social classes only represent the fortunate half of the loser classes of Turkey. The other half, the other within the other, was the poor classes that represented authentic Turkey who were listening to Arabesk music and supported Islamist parties. The Arabesk music is phrased after the word Arab and is supposedly referring to the music of Arabs thus not Turkish. This music was never played on the state owned Turkish Radio and TV organisation until the populist policies of Prime Minister Turgut Ozal. Arabesk, as a type of music is a cultural representation of exclusion and it is a reaction to westernisation. It is a reaction to self- Orientalism as this music gives voice to those who have been excluded from social and political life and who admits a basic backwardness. (Bozdogan and Kasaba: 1997) As Meral Ozbek explains,

Arabesk began to encompass not just a musical genre but the entire lifestyle and mentality of the gecekondus, including migrant and nonmigrant urban classes. It provided an arbitrary closure for multiple popular identities, separating and positioning them as the urban other . (Ozbek:1997) She further explains that the Prime Minister Turgut Ozal and new right wing populist policies have acknowledged the potential of the Arabesk classes and established and Arabesk Group within the political party to study the cultural habits, likes, and dislikes of the gecekondu people. The Arabesk group was culturally conservative and the state started to promote the conservative, Islamist classes. This is known as Neo-Ottomania in Turkey, according Oyku Potuoglu-Cook (2006). With the rise of the Arabesk classes, the taste of Arabesk and the Middle East became popular among liberal circles, that have accepted the other to its presence and tried to construct a Turkish identity that is western in its ideological construct and eastern with its spirituality. GENDER AND SELF OTHERING The Orient has been seen as separate, eccentric, backward, silent and indifferent and feminine by many European writers (Said:1978). The Orient has been seen feminine due to its penetrability (ibid). This engendered intellectual construct would perceive the orient as feminine because it is mostly colonial territory. Every sexual intercourse is a conquest. Every colonial territory is a result of a conquest. Thus, conquered territory is deemed feminine. For this reason, the Middle East is often perceived as an exotic place with a sexual connotation. The belly dance is a form of self othering from multiple perspectives. The first is the feminist perspective which attracts attention to how women allow themselves to be sexually exploited by local and foreign men. In this perspective, it could be argued that women act according to the masculine gaze. This gaze, foresees women as sexual objects and a means to entertainment. Belly dancers are not only performing artists but they are also flirtatious women. Their job description includes mild flirtation with customers in order to get tips. This mild flirtation, is considered culturally acceptable and these women offer legitimate flirting , which is flirting to an acceptable extent. The fact that their jobs include mild flirtation could be considered sexual exploitation. These women are self-othering themselves in order to appeal to the masculine gaze regardless of whether they are a westernising elite or a member of the Islamist folk. The orientalist depiction of the Middle East constructs the role of women within them as promiscuous, sexually available, obedient yet erotic. Women according to Malek Alloula represent a phantasm. The author explains how women are portrayed in postcards in Algeria taken from the colonial gaze.

Through the colonial representations of Algerian women the figures of a phantasm- is to attempt a double operation: first, to uncover the nature and the meaning of the colonialist gaze; then, to subvert to stereotype that is so tenaciously attached to the bodies of women. (Alloula:1987) Thus the colonial gaze is attached to the body of women as she embodies the stereotypes of Middle Eastern women. Women s bodies, is tempting to conquer for the colonial gaze. It is tempting, also, to sexually objectivify women. This is because the commodification and sexual exploitation of female bodies represent the weakness of men. The conquest of women represents the conquest of the nation. The orient, is represented through its women and if women were sexual objects then the society is backward and traditional which allows the orientalist to establish itself as the modern. Belly Dancing in Turkey, as stated before is called the Oriental dance. As Shay and Sellers-Young indicate, The dancer who performs in a public area in placing herself in the position of representing the other (Shay-Sellers-Young) This makes the belly dancer, the other . The other provides an empty location, as in not part of my culture for the construction of exotic new fantasy identities (Shay and SellersYoung : 2003). Many people of the new middle class no longer wish to see dancing they considered embarrassing and old fashioned, preferring instead European forms as more cultured and respectable (ibid). She represents a different group, the arabesk group which is the marginalised other for being excluded from the westernisation project. She represents Turkey s Middle Eastern heritage and characteristics. She stands for the presence and accommodation of a female image which is sexual and sexually available. The dance moves and erotic navigation of the body, the dancer utilizes orientalist elements, often originating from a western source, in their performance, also known as self-exoticism. The famous Turkish belly dancer Asena wears the two piece outfit and moves her full figured body to demonstrate her sexual availability. As former director of the Princeton University Near Eastern Program pointed out, for centuries the principle ingredients of the popular western image of the Middle East have been spirituality and sex .(ibid) Thus the sexual and seductive clothing and dance moves makes her look feminine and represent the Orientalist view of the sexually appealing Middle East. The female dance is related to the celebration of sexuality and fertility. It is an Orientalist view to perceive that dancers must be women. The dancers in the Middle East have often been men for several

centuries however the self-othering view adopted by the upper Middle classes in Turkey favour women. As Shay and Sellers-Young further explain, In Turkey, several choreographic works has incorporated Western Orientalist elements and images. The Turkish State Folk Dance Ensemble, departing from their typical performances of regional folk dances, has included a highly Orientalist, sanitised cifte telli in their current repertory... Mustafa Turan, the director of the ensemble, regards the inclusion of the cifte telli choreography as a corrective step in the direction of recovering he (romanticised and sanitised) Turkish Ottoman past, until recently a taboo area in Turkish life...They decried the addition of the cifte telli choreography to the repertory as appealing to the Orientalist images of foreigners . (Shay and Sellers-Young: 2003) Although authors such as Shay and Sellers Young as well as Potuoglu-Cook claim that belly dancing has been shaped, constructed and accepted in the society for an attempt to represent the community to the west, I find myself unconvinced. I do agree that the quest for authenticity within an international market leads many Middle Eastern performers to selforientalise, I do believe the tendency to self- orientalise manifests itself regardless of stimuli or the aim to reach foreign and western people. In Turkey the republican elite did not approve of the belly dance for several decades and until the rise of neo-Ottomania (or Islamism) it was not a popular form of entertainment. I would argue that the cultural mentality that distances itself from belly dancing due to concerns of embracing true national identity is in fact an Orientalist view. What makes it Orientalist, is the core-periphery relationship established between the belly dancing other and the westernised self and the hierarchical dichotomy between the two that is inclusive of an Orientalist gaze. The westernising elite in Turkey, who finally embraces the belly dance with Bach at the famous convention centre in Istanbul, is aiming at embracing the Islamist other that was excluded and neglected and tries to conjoin multiple modernities with the same subjectivity. Oyku Potuoglu-Cook (2006) argues that belly dancing is a form of self orientalism for the tourist market. She explains how the tourist market in Istanbul aims at representing the leading country of the Middle East to a western audience. Self Orientalism is widely observed with a touristic environment as the secular-westernising elite has little to show for itself with regards to cultural authenticity. The westernising elite, is already western and what is interesting about that? The eastern conception of Turkey, however, is far more interesting and has a stronger claim of authenticity. It is this claim in which Orientalist perceptions are incorporated. CONCLUSION

In this essay I elaborated self othering from feminist and middle eastern perspectives. I demonstrated how women sexually exploit themselves through belly dancing. Thus concluded that belly dancing regardless of the presence of western travellers- is a form of self orientalising since it reproduces the notions of the sexually available orient which is a gaze that is internalised by the westernising secular elite in Turkey.

BIBLIOGRAPHY Abu-Lughod, Lila, (2001) Orientalism and Middle East Feminist Studies, Feminist Studies 27, no.1 Alloula, Malek, (1987)The Colonial Harem, Manchester:Manchester University Press Bozdogan, Sibel and Kasaba, Resat, (1997), Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey, Washington: University of Washington Press Cinar, Alev, (2005), Modernity, Islam, and Secularism in Turkey, MN: University of Minnesota Press Kadioglu, Ayse (1996), Ayse Kadioglu, "The Paradox of Turkish Nationalism and the Construction of Official Identity," Middle Eastern Studies, Vol. 32, no. 2 (April 1996) Kandiyoti, Deniz and Saktanber, Ayse, (2002), Fragments of Culture, London: I.B. Taurus Potuoglu-Cook, Oyku (2006), Beyond the glitter: Belly dance and Neoliberal gentrification in Istanbul, Cultural Anthropology 21, no.4 Said, Edward (1978), Orientalism, London: Routledge & Kegan Paul Shay, Anthony and Sellers-Young, Barbara, (2003) Belly Dance: Orientalism-Exiticism- Self Extocism , Dance Research Journal 35, no. 1 Zurcher, Erik J (1993), Turkey: A modern history, London: I.B. Tauris