chapter  25
16 Pages

Ottoman women as legal and marital subjects: Başak Tuğ

By writing ‘her-story’, feminist historiography aimed to establish women in the historical narrative. In the s, under the influence of post-structuralism, ‘gender’ was introduced as a tool of historical analysis and as ‘the constitutive element of social relationships based on perceived differences between the sexes’.1 Feminist history then became ‘the exposure of the often silent and hidden operations of gender that are nonetheless present and defining forces in the organization of most societies’.2 In Middle Eastern and Ottoman studies, views of Muslim women and the family were long dominated by Orientalist scholarship which essentialized Islam and Islamic law as fixed, unchanging and applicable to all historical circumstances and periods, as if surpassing all class and cultural differences. The original texts of Islamic family law constructed the patriarchal family as polygamous, with women subordinated to their husbands’ will in divorce, marriage and child custody, and other matters. Moreover, nationalist and western-originated modernization theories created a binary opposition of tradition and modernity. This produced a homogenized imagery of the traditional Muslim family as the site of women’s subordination, in contrast to the modern idea of the family composed of citizen-subjects.