This article begins with the observation that the honor crime (the murder of a woman by her family because of actual or deemed sexual acts that are considered an offense to the culturally defined terms of family honor) has received increasing attention in Turkey during the last decade. Although Turkish feminists have long worked to raise awareness of the gendered inequality and violence involved, their efforts until recently were met with stark silence. The increased attention given to honor crimes involves little interest in the patriarchal excesses that affect women across class and ethnic groups in Turkey, tending to focus attention, rather, on an essentialized “Kurdish” or “Eastern” culture as the main dynamic behind honor crimes. Blame for the practice is attributed to the intractable customs of backward peoples, customs that are disconnected from discussions of capitalism, state bureaucracy, armed conflict, or familial practice prevalent in Turkey's public sphere. Drawing on extensive archival research and fieldwork, the author argues that the recent focus on the “custom” is symptomatic of a shift from a developmentalist/assimilationist to a cultural/racial imaginary. By looking at the intricate web of practices, meanings, institutions, and policies that make up the Turkish public sphere, this article sheds light on how the custom came to be recognized in Turkey and how familial modes of conduct influence current modes of governing minorities.

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