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Gender roles and their outer appearance in courtesy and etiquette books of the late Ottoman period and the early Turkish Republic (DFG)

Dr. Rana von Mende Altaylı

The insecurity caused by European intrusion, which affected all strands of Ottoman life during the 19th century triggered a search for new social values or at least for a reform of the old ones. Therefore the European bourgeois etiquette became more important, because it was taken as proof of European technical and civilizing dominance. Rules practised in everyday life were questioned, but one did not look back to its own traditional ideals of courtesy and behaviour and translated or wrote instead books on Western, mainly French, etiquette. Still, it was adapted to one’s own traditional values. When the republic was founded the number of such etiquette-books grew and western behaviour was much more decidedly required. Non-acceptance of the new rules was sanctioned. In this way the picture of right behaviour painted by the elites became part of the general education.
Etiquette books generally treated all aspects of daily life, and what they prescribed was seen partly in accordance, partly in opposition to the traditional routine. Of course, already customs how to eat or to clothe may indicate a degree of transformation (modernization). However, gender relations in the public and private sphere seem to be more important, because traditional society was questioned by their remodeling. Courtesy and etiquette rules are not empty formalities, they precisely reflect the essentials of a society.
Therefore, our main research interest are the gender roles, their appearance and the changes found in the courtesy and etiquette books of the late Ottoman and early Republican period. It is of interest, whether the changes can be understood as a modernization of existing or the creation of new cultural rules, or whether it is an eclectic adaptation of European culture. At the same time we would like to find out how far courtesy and etiquette books were able not only to register, but also to establish new norms. How do they reflect the valid norms for both females and males, and how far do they show the tensions between the old and new female and male roles.
One more aspect to be treated is how far especially republican etiquette books contributed to nation building.