Oznur Sahin, Institute for Culture and Society, Western Sydney University:
I am very pleased and honoured to be awarded the 2016 TASA Jerzy Zubrzycki Postgraduate Conference Scholarship. Thanks to the TASA award committee for granting me this award, which provided me an opportunity to attend and present the findings of my PhD research in an academically rich and intellectually stimulating conference. I also appreciate that TASA provides a collegial and supportive environment for postgraduate students. I also thank the Institute for Culture and Society at Western Sydney University for generously supporting my accommodation in Melbourne for the conference. I am very grateful to my supervisors Deborah Stevenson and Donald McNeill for their support and encouragement, too. I would also like to express my gratitude and appreciation to the Urban Sociology thematic group, convened by Deborah Warr and Peter Walters, for organising the Relationality in the Metropolis Symposium following the conference, which created a space for an engaging and critical debate on the issue of relationality in contemporary urban environments.
At the conference, I presented a paper titled ‘Gender and civic engagement: The Bagcilar Municipality Women’s Council in Istanbul’, in which I examined women’s participation in urban life through discursive and performative practices of the secular and religious as relational analytical categories in the district of Bagcilar in Istanbul, Turkey. In my thesis, I draw on my ethnographic fieldwork between 2014 and 2015 in Istanbul to examine the governance of urban space, and the gender aspect of publicness and civic engagement in Istanbul, at the intersection of the local, national and global. Specifically, I scrutinise women’s civic engagement and use of urban spaces through the social and cultural events that they are involved in, either as participants or organisers, in the predominantly secular district of Kadikoy and religious Bagcilar.
In both Kadikoy and Bagcilar, women, and in particular housewives and retired women, play a crucial role in supporting local governments through their engagement with secularism and Islam. In Turkey, secularism, with all its political connotations and coupled with the nation–state building processes considered in relation to Western civilisation, permeates the space and everyday life practices of people. My thesis, however, does not aim to oppose secularism and religion; rather it explores how place-making and spatial subjectivities are constituted through the contestation and interaction of the performative practices of these grounded theologies of the secular and the religious.
These performances transform the city into a stage, not in a representational sense but literally, as staging events turns into a form of governance that controls, regulates, mediates and legitimises urban space, publicness and women’s spatial subjectivities. I thereby examine the local, national and global implications of staging events in the city as a form of urban governance; how the secular and religious, as part of Turkish national identity with all their political impacts on everyday life, shape events, urban space and women’s spatial subjectivities; the role of gender in the production of publicness in the city; and how women respond to the politics of gender and space of local authorities.