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BIEA Seminars: Sexual moralities and the politics of chastity

March 29, 2015

Sexual moralities and the politics of chastity: An anthropological apprach to virginity and premarital sexuality in contemporary Istanbul

Dr. Patricia Scalco
02 April 2015 | 11:00 am - 12:30 pm

Between 2011 and 2012 I conducted anthropological research in Istanbul, Turkey. The research explored sexual moralities and the politics of chastity, focusing on meanings and practices associated with premarital sexuality and virginity.

As the age for the first marriage is increasing in Turkey, Islamic mores and patriarchal family structures that reinforce virginity are challenged by the ethos of large cities where consumption cultures commoditise sexual desire. Grounded in participant observation carried out in two neighbourhoods of Istanbul, one being more ‘religious and ‘conservative’ and the other ‘cosmopolitan’ and ‘liberal’, the research demonstrates that while ‘virginity’ is a straightforward concept, defined by the presence of the hymen, ‘sex’ is not. The research also suggests that there is an inversion in notions of public and private as my informants perceived ‘home’ as public and ‘away from home’ as the space for privacy. In this talk I will develop these central themes through an ethnographic account of the problematic of abortion and contraception drawing on how they were interwoven with sexual moralities in the lives of young Istanbulites. 

Presenter's Bio

Patricia Scalco earned her PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Manchester in 2015 and her Masters Degree in 2008 from Yeditepe University, in Istanbul. She was born in the South of Brazil where, in 2000, she graduated from the Department of Law at the Pontifical Catholic University, subsequently working as an attorney at law and as a public officer at the State Prosecution. Her research interests are focused on urban spaces, sexual moralities, gender, borders, boundaries and state formation .

Date: 2 April 2015
Time: 11.00am-12.30pm
Venue: British Institute in Eastern Africa, Laikipia Road, Kileleshwa, Nairobi.

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