"Working Out Desire brings together the often disparate fields of sport, desire, sexuality, and politics, combining it with rich ethnography and the skillful deployment of theory. A whole new way of thinking about body politics."—Pardis Mahdavi, Arizona State University
"A rich and nuanced ethnography illustrating how Turkish women actively engage with nationalist, secularist, and Islamist discourses that limit their physicality – by creatively reshaping meanings and categories. A very important and original addition to the understudied field of exercise culture among Middle Eastern women."—Tamir Sorek, University of Florida
"Spor meraki, the “passion for sport” that has raged in Istanbul since the end of last century, has transformed women’s lives. From middle-aged working-class head-covered “sporty aunties” who have reclaimed parks for their workouts to privileged women who patronize women-only private gyms, women take part in sport and fitness activities to redefine their relationship to their bodies, religious faith, desire, space, sociality, and politics. This fascinating ethnography casts a refreshing light on gendered bodies in contemporary Turkey in all their diversity."—Niko Besnier, co-author of The Anthropology of Sport: Bodies, Borders, Biopolitic
"This ethnography of community-generated empowerment will challenge the persistent popular imaginary of ordinary Muslim women as caught in a frozen web of traditions and moral values."—Homa Hoodfar, Concordia University, Montreal
Working Out Desire examines spor meraki as an object of desire shared by a broad and diverse group of Istanbulite women. Sehlikoglu follows the latest anthropological scholarship that defines desire beyond the moment it is felt, experienced, or even yearned for, and as something that is formed through a series of social and historical makings. She traces Istanbulite women’s ever-increasing interest in exercise not merely to an interest in sport, but also to an interest in establishing a new self—one that attempts to escape from conventional feminine duties—and an investment in forming a more agentive, desiring, self. Working Out Desire develops a multilayered analysis of how women use spor meraki to take themselves out of the domestic zone physically, emotionally, and also imaginatively.
Sehlikoglu pushes back against the conventional boundaries of scholarly interest in Muslim women as pious subjects. Instead, it places women’s desiring subjectivity at its center and traces women’s agentive aspirations in the way they bend the norms which are embedded in the multiple patriarchal ideologies (i.e. nationalism, religion, aesthetics) which operate on their selves.
Working out Desire presents the ways in which women’s changing habits, leisure, and self-formation in the Muslim world and the Middle East are connected to their agentive capacities to shift and transform their conditions and socio-cultural capabilities.
Sertaç Sehlikoglu is an affiliated lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and Abdullah Mubarak Al-Sabah Research Fellow at Pembroke College, Cambridge.
6 x 9, 336 pages, 7 black and white illustrations, 1 maps