Academic journal article International Social Science Review

The Civilized and the Barbarous: Honor in French and Turkish Contemporary Societies

Academic journal article International Social Science Review

The Civilized and the Barbarous: Honor in French and Turkish Contemporary Societies

Article excerpt

From anthropological studies describing social representations of Mediterranean countries, (2) to the outskirts of Paris, (3) to the analysis of its evolution and role in contemporary society, (4) honor holds a privileged place in humanities research. Although there have been a significant number of studies describing cultural differences emanating from this principle, honor is nonetheless a common element of various societies. While the term varies from one culture to another, what it designates is quite similar.

The principle of honor confers a specific place and status to the individual, allowing her or him to exist in a given society. It allows individuals to situate themselves within the collectivity in which they evolve, prescribing codes and conducts relative to their age, sex, (5) or social status. (6) Previous studies have given rise to a multitude of descriptions of honor, showing that this principle is present in numerous spheres of existence, but especially that it can take on various meanings: honor can be a "feeling", (7) an "entitlement to respect," (8) a combination of certain qualities such as "strength", "courage" or "integrity," (9) the "moral value of an individual," (10) a moral principle and a duty, (11) "an ideology," (12) or even "the need to attain a certain prestige within society." (13)

Honor is a complex principle that on various levels influences daily life. Often judged as outdated and ill-suited to modern society, honor can be seen as too rigid a concept, which is too "engaging" in a "liquid society." (14) However, honor cannot be abandoned without engendering a feeling of unease. If discussions of honor in daily life may seem irrelevant to todays world, forgoing it and living without honor remains inconceivable to people living in both these societies.

The goal of this research is to understand the place of honor in todays world, in an increasingly rationalized and profit-oriented world, in which individuals are characterized by their interchangeability. Mainly, this paper seeks to reveal how honor is expressed in todays consumer society and globalized world.

To conduct this research, I chose to analyze the honor principle in France and Turkey, which, although in geographical proximity, represent distinct traditions. The goal was to grasp the multiple understandings of honor among twenty to twenty-seven-year-olds in these two societies, focusing on identifying similarities, but also differences.

France and Turkey were chosen for comparison for specific reasons. In Turkey, three terms exists to describe the concept of "honor," namely seref, onur and namus. Although closely related, each term refers to different spheres; public, private and intimate. (15) These three words are used in the everyday life and are considered by the Turkish population as more important than life - in Turkey, people can kill for honor, they swear "on their honor," and they drink to one's "honor." The concept of honor seems to play a totally different role in French society. It is considered obsolete, harkening back to the principles of Musketeers and the chivalry of the Middle Ages. In short, for the French population, this term tends to be poorly suited for life in modern society. Starting from this observation, this paper shall analyze the divergences of these two perceptions. For the purpose of this paper, honor shall be represented by the concepts of "honneur" in French and "seref" in Turkish, which seem to share similar denotations.

The basis of this research is informal interviews were that conducted with young adults, between the ages of twenty and twenty-seven-years-old. This age group offered the opportunity to study the transformation of this principle. The Turkish young adults interviewed for this research were born in the 1980s, a period during which the country open its borders to foreign products. A liberal market emerged, having a huge impact on society. …

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