Gender and Identity Construction: Women of Central Asia, the Caucasus, and Turkey

By Feride Acar; Ayşe Günes-Ayata | Go to book overview

THE PRICE OF VALUE: KINSHIP, MARRIAGE AND
META-NARRATIVES OF GENDER IN TURKMENISTAN

SHARON BAŞTUĞ1

NURAN HORTAÇSU


Introduction

Kinship is, by definition, in all societies the institution through which the necessary functions of biological reproduction and early socialization, so crucial in cultural reproduction, are actualized. It is also frequently described as an “idiom” which defines and labels categories of persons and simultaneously encodes aspects of the relations which are expected to, and therefore generally do, exist between the categories. The categories defined through kinship systems include not only the obvious, that is the set of kin defined and labeled by a kinship terminology, but also others, most notably gender and age. Similarly, relations encoded between categories include not only explicitly kinship obligations, but also relations of power and dependency, dominance and subordination and the social value which is culturally assigned to the different categories. Focusing in particular on gender, our purpose in this article is to examine how the specific constellation of patrilineal descent, patrilocal residence, and marriage practices operates in Turkmen society to allocate differential social value among the various kinship roles occupied by individuals at various times in their life cycles.2 We aim to demonstrate, on the one hand, how this par-

1 Thanks are extended to Professor Ovezdurdi Muhammetberdiyev for his help in collecting data and providing useful advise.

2 This article is based on questionnaire and interview research conducted in Ashkabad during the summer of 1995. The research was supported by grants from the Turkish Ministry of Culture, Middle East Technical University and TIKA (Turkish International Cooperation Agency). We are indebted to the Center for Research on the Black Sea Region and Central Asia (KORA) at Middle East Technical University for securing these grants. The list of people who gave generously of their time and efforts during the research period is far too long to give here. We would, however, like to single out for special thanks, Oğuz Yayan, director of the TIKA office in Ashkabad, and Zafer Bozkurt of UNDP-Ashkabad, whose assistance

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