Revisiting feminist historiography on women's activism in Turkey: beyond the grand narrative of waves

Sevgi Adak, Selin Çağatay

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent contributions in feminist historiography challenge the reading of women's movements through the waves metaphor and destabilise rigid periodisations. These contributions have triggered debates about the way feminism and women's activism are analysed in the West, but their implications for feminist historiography in non-Western contexts have yet to be discussed. New studies, including our own, on Kemalist and socialist women's activisms suggest that the agendas affiliated with the post-1980 ‘second wave’ of feminism in Turkey had been raised prior to the 1980s. These findings call for critical engagement with the long-established idea that there have been two waves of women's movement in Turkey with a period of ‘barren years’ in between. In this article we explore the formation and scholarly implications of the waves analysis as a grand narrative in feminist historiography on women's activism in Turkey. We argue that the literature on feminism and women's activism must be rewritten, by not only incorporating the previously omitted histories of women's activism but also challenging the salient assumption that women's organising must be independent and position itself in opposition to the state to qualify as feminist.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)723-744
Number of pages22
JournalWomen's History Review
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Kemalist women’s activism
  • Turkey
  • Women’s activism
  • feminism
  • feminist historiography
  • socialist women’s activism
  • waves metaphor


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