Women and namus, as a regulative phenomenon, in early modern Ottoman society

Date
2021-08
Advisor
Ergenç, Özer
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Bilkent University
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Language
English
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Thesis
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Abstract

In this thesis, the concept of namus (honor) as a regulative phenomenon in early modern Ottoman society and specifically for ordinary women are discussed. It focuses on which characteristic of women’s namus differed from the general view of it in the society: sexuality. Namus was a shared value for Ottoman society; thus, it functioned as both the set of values and the regulatory tool. In other words, it not only determined which values were appropriate for a person but also imposed sanctions on any inappropriate behavior and made a person namuslu (honorable) or namussuz (unhonorable) in the society. As the expressions from the archival sources (mostly arzuhals and sicil cases), related primary sources, and the academic literature are examined, it can be deduced that women’s namus was a fragile value reduced to sexuality in early modern Ottoman society. It should be protected, preserved, and conserved. This namus perception brings the protector/protected relationship along in which men were protectors and women were protected ones. This relationship can be examined in three intermingled layers: (1) A woman must protect her own namus. (2) Her family was responsible for protecting it. (3) At last, the society (village, neighborhood, etc.) was liable to protect women’s namus. In this three-layered relationship of protection, women's namus and their sexuality belonged to not only themselves but also their families and even to their society.

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Keywords
Ottoman society, Early modern era, Namus, Women, Sexuality
Citation
Published Version (Please cite this version)