Sertaç Sehlikoglu, "Working Out Desire: Women, Sport, and Self-Making in Istanbul" (Syracuse UP, 2020)

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Working Out Desire: Women, Sport, and Self-Making in Istanbul (Syracuse UP, 2020) examines spor merakı 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 merakı 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 Sehlikoğlu is a Senior Research Associate and Primary Investigator at the Institute for Global Prosperity, University College London.

Alize Arıcan is an incoming Postdoctoral Fellow at Rutgers University's Center for Cultural Analysis. She is an urban anthropologist focusing on futurity, care, and migration in Turkey. Her work has been featured in Current Anthropology, City & Society, Radical Housing Journal, and entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography.

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