Policing War and Sexuality in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey, 1908-1938
Hock, Stefan Gerard
This dissertation explores the place of sexuality in a modernizing empire and its transition after the First World War into a nation-state. Throughout the Balkan Wars (1912-1913), the First World War (1914-1918), and the Turkish War of Independence (1919-1923), sexuality emerged as a quite complex realm of policymaking in the Ottoman Empire and Turkey that concerned the military, politicians, administrators, and popular observers alike. I argue that during this time period, sexuality was a critical axis around which imperial and later national leaders negotiated concepts of modernity and statecraft and that policies targeting sexuality were part and parcel of the Ottoman quest for sovereignty. I analyze four case studies: the Ottoman policy of deporting sex workers (mostly from Istanbul) to the interior of Anatolia during World War I; wartime sexual violence during the Balkan Wars and World War I; the impact of the Entente’s occupation of Anatolia upon regulations of sexual behavior; and early Turkish efforts to use new medical discourses to regulate sexual behavior considered aberrant. I suggest that the setting of war was crucial to the trajectory of these policies; my research shows that the Ottoman government undertook sexual regulation measures to the extent that such measures would aid the war effort. The dissertation reveals that war’s effects on gender and sexual politics were not merely incidental; they were vital components of decision-making deemed necessary for the preservation of the empire, as public morality – sexual morality in particular – was viewed by the Ottoman government and military as a pillar of the kind of stable society that could withstand the impacts of war.
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