Women’s Narratives as Data in the Age of Neoliberalism: The Case of “Naturalist Mothers” in Turkey

Canan Tanir, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley

This paper will focus on the challenges of using in-depth interviews with urban, well-educated, middle and upper-middle class “naturalist mothers” in Turkey as the main source of data in a context of neoliberal governance. While the gradual transformation of the regime in Turkey further into authoritarianism results in increasingly conservative policies and regulations regarding families and care work, the neoliberal discourse of individual responsibility enlists these mothers as the primary caretakers. Although their personal narratives do not directly subscribe to a conservative gender ideology, the hegemonic ideal of “naturalist mothering” operates to obscure a gendered division of labor in the household by construing their mothering as a “natural” responsibility. In a context of conservative neoliberalism, understanding their paradoxical strategy from a broader framework of gendered care work requires working against the data itself. In other words, bringing out the “political” within the “personal” involves a new layer of challenge in a neoliberalized society. Based on my fieldwork in Istanbul, Turkey, I explore the tensions in the process of interpreting women’s personal narratives from a feminist political framework and ask: Can we still look at data from a feminist lens in times of post feminism and neoliberalism?

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 192. Data, Sources, and New Insights on Women’s Lives