Con­fer­ence: The in­tel­lec­tual his­tory of women in Turkey, İs­tan­bul Şe­hir Univer­sity y


Last De­cem­ber saw the Turk­ish Lan­guage and Lit­er­a­ture Depart­ment of İs­tan­bul Şe­hir Univer­sity -- in col­lab­o­ra­tion with the Kubbealtı Academy or­ga­nize -the first con­fer­ence in a se­ries on the his­tory of women’s writ­ing in Turkey. This inau­gu­ral con­fer­ence fo­cused on Sâmiha Ayverdi.

The se­ries in­tends to con­trib­ute to the de­vel­op­ing field of the in­tel­lec­tual his­tory of women in Turkey. Since the 1990s, grow­ing re­search on women in­tel­lec­tu­als from the Ot­toman past to the repub­li­can era has not only started adding miss­ing pieces to the puz­zle of the his­tory of ideas and writ­ing in this ge­og­ra­phy, but also contributed to new per­spec­tives on the study of his­tory, lit­er­a­ture and cul­ture from the mar­gins. In com­par­i­son with male writ­ers, women in­tel­lec­tu­als have al­ways been mar­ginal -- in al­most ev­ery lan­guage and cul­ture. Grow­ing re­search on gender and cul­tural his­tory sheds but lit­tle light on the ques­tion of the rare par­tic­i­pa­tion of women in the in­tel­lec­tual world. Sug­ges­tions of an­swers vary from com­mon ones, such as un­equal ac­cess to ed­u­ca­tion, and other less com­mon ones, such as the in­com­pat­i­bil­ity of the ex­pected “shy­ness” or “moral­ity” of women and the in­ti­mate na­ture of writ­ing. Be­sides these in­valu­able stud­ies -- which are ei­ther com­pi­la­tions of bi­o­graph­i­cal de­tails of women writ­ers over a pe­riod of sev­eral cen­turies or works fo­cus­ing on one writer for a lit­er­ary anal­y­sis -- we still do not know why some women wrote.

By select­ing one rep­re­sen­ta­tive fig­ure for each con­fer­ence, the se­ries will not only al­low close read­ings to un­ravel the unique char­ac­ter­is­tics of each writer, but also of­fer com­par­a­tive cases from the rel­e­vant pe­riod. Over­all, the goal is to dis­play the mul­ti­plic­ity and di­ver­sity of women’s voices in Turkey. Al­though the con­fer­ence fo­cuses on their gender iden­tity as a way of en­trance to the dis­cus­sion, the con­fer­ence tries to chal­lenge the cat­e­gory of “women writ­ers” as a ho­mo­ge­neous crit­i­cal ap­pa­ra­tus.


For the first con­fer­ence of the se­ries Ayverdi was se­lected as a ma­jor in­tel­lec­tual fig­ure in the early repub­li­can era; one who influenced not only a num­ber of writ­ers in her time but is also fol­lowed by con­tem­po­rary read­ers today. The pa­pers pre­sented at the con­fer­ence dis­cussed Ayverdi’s lit­er­ary writ­ings and opin­ion pieces from var­i­ous per­spec­tives and through in­ter­dis­ci­pli­nary method­olo­gies.

The first group of pa­pers dis­cussed the his­tor­i­cal as­pect of Ayverdi’s writ­ings through the city and space. Asst. Prof. Esra Al­mas (Doğuş Univer­sity) dis­cussed Ayverdi’s “Boğaz­içi’nde Tarih” (his­tory on the Bosporus) and “İs­tan­bul Ge­celeri” (İs­tan­bul nights) in terms of time and place. Al­mas pointed out the close con­nec­tion be­tween the city of İs­tan­bul and Ayverdi’s ideas of es­thet­ics, home­land and cre­ativ­ity. Con­tex­tu­al­iz­ing her work in a spe­cific time pe­riod, she com­pared Ah­met Hamdi Tan­pı­nar and Ayverdi in the way they de­scribed the city, con­vinc­ingly sug­gest­ing that Ayverdi’s İs­tan­bul had fem­i­nine char­ac­ter­is­tics. In the same vein, but from a dif­fer­ent an­gle, As­soc. Prof. Salim Çonoğlu an­a­lyzed “İbrahim Efendi Kon­ağı,” sug­gest­ing İs­tan­bul it­self is a ma­jor char­ac­ter in Ayverdi’s works. Apart from these lit­er­ary analy­ses, Prof. Arzu Öztürk­men (Boğaz­içi Univer­sity) dis­cussed the ways in which “İbrahim Efendi Kon­ağı” rep­re­sents a doc­u­ment for his­tor­i­cal ethnog­ra­phy, with its rich de­scrip­tions of daily life in a house­hold dur­ing the tran­si­tion from the im­pe­rial to the repub­li­can era. Ac­cord­ing to Öztürk­men, Ayverdi of­fers a unique per­spec­tive with her de­tailed de­scrip­tions of ev­ery sec­tion of the house, the role of each mem­ber of the fam­ily or the ser­vants, and the way visi­tors were ac­cepted and treated, as she was a child who could en­ter ev­ery cor­ner of the house at any time, ob­serve re­la­tion­ships and talk to ev­ery­body.

The se­cond group of pa­pers fo­cused on Ayverdi’s ideas of re­li­gion and their in­flu­ence on her writ­ing. Dr. Az­ize Boş­nak (Fatih Univer­sity) com­pared Ayverdi to Doris Less­ing in terms of the in­flu­ence of Su­fism in their writ­ings. Dr. Emine Gözde Özgürel (Ankara Univer­sity) pro­posed a way of read­ing Ayverdi’s nov­els through a Sufi es­thetic sys­tem, and sug­gested that each metaphor can be eval­u­ated in Ayverdi’s un­der­stand­ing of Su­fism, specif­i­cally

the Ri­fai or­der. Fulya İbanoğlu (Mar­mara Univer­sity), on the other hand, pointed out the clear im­pact of Ayverdi’s re­li­gious ideas on the way she de­vel­oped as a mod­ern but also de­vout Mus­lim woman. She fur­ther ar­gued that Ayverdi’s writ­ing and life­style showed that a woman could be both mod­ern and re­li­gious.

The last group of pa­pers dis­cussed the re­la­tion­ship be­tween the iden­tity of a woman and the idea of the fam­ily. Se­lami Alan (Abant İzzet Baysal Univer­sity) sug­gested the idea of an hy­brid iden­tity of an Ot­toman Turk­ish, tra­di­tional and mod­ern woman can be traced in Ayverdi’s works. Along the same lines, Asst. Prof. Zeynep Çağlayan İçener (Bursa Orhangazi Univer­sity) in­ves­ti­gated the iden­tity of “woman” in Ayverdi’s works as a so­cial science is­sue and sug­gested it is only mean­ing­ful to dis­cuss the ques­tion from the per­spec­tive of the fam­ily. Ferda Zam­bak (Muğla Sıtkı Koç­man Univer­sity) also tack­led the iden­tity of “woman” in Ayverdi’s writ­ings in the con­text of fam­ily and the ideal of moth­er­hood. She ex­am­ined Ayverdi’s nu­anced ap­proach to moth­er­hood and fam­ily with re­gard to the repub­li­can ideal.

The con­fer­ence con­cluded with a dis­cus­sion and eval­u­a­tion ses­sion by au­thor Beşir Ay­va­zoğlu and Prof. Sadet­tin Ök­ten. Both Ay­va­zoğlu and Ök­ten agreed on the im­por­tance of Ayverdi as a cen­tral fig­ure for tra­di­tional and de­vout groups in Turkey, both dur­ing her life­time and today. They also ad­dressed the per­spec­tive of the con­fer­ence in terms of its ap­proach to Ayverdi as a woman writer. Ay­va­zoğlu ul­ti­mately sug­gested that Ayverdi’s per­spec­tive must have been af­fected by her gender iden­tity.

The con­fer­ence pa­pers will be pub­lished in the form of ar­ti­cles in an edited vol­ume.

What: Con­fer­ence on The His­tory of Women’s Writ­ing in Turkey I: Sâmiha

Ayverdi Who: İs­tan­bul Şe­hir Univer­sity’s Turk­ish Lan­guage and

Lit­er­a­ture Depart­ment and Kubbealtı Academy When: Dec. 15,

2013 Where: İs­tan­bul Şe­hir Univer­sity


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