New Desires, New Selves

Sex, Love, and Piety among Turkish Youth

384 pages

7 tables

August, 2015

ISBN: 9781479853816



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Gul Ozyegin is Associate Professor of Sociology and Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies at the College of William and Mary. She is the author of Untidy Gender: Domestic Service in Turkey.

All books by Gul Ozyegin

As Turkey pushes for its place in the global pecking order and embraces neoliberal capitalism, the nation has seen a period of unprecedented shifts in political, religious, and gender and sexual identities for its citizens. In New Desires, New Selves, Gul Ozyegin shows how this social transformation in Turkey is felt most strongly among its young people, eager to surrender to the seduction of sexual modernity, but also longing to remain attached to traditional social relations, identities and histories.          
Engaging a wide array of upwardly-mobile young adults at a major Turkish university, Ozyegin links the biographies of individuals with the biography of a nation, revealing their creation of conflicted identities in a country which has existed uneasily between West and East, modern and traditional, and secular and Islamic. For these young people, sexuality, gender expression, and intimate relationships in particular serve as key sites for reproducing and challenging patriarchy and paternalism that was hallmark of earlier generations. As Ozyegin evocatively shows, the quest for sexual freedom and an escape from patriarchal constructions of selfless femininity and protective masculinity promise both personal transformations and profound sexual guilt and anxiety. A poignant and original study, New Desires, New Selves presents a snapshot of cultural change on the eve of rapid globalization in the Muslim world.


  • “Gul Ozyegin has deftly taken up some of the most key issues in contemporary sociology and grounded them in a beautifully written and empirically rich study of an interesting case: Turkish youth talking about their lives and aspirations in the midst of the enormous social, cultural, economic and political changes in modern Turkey. New Desires, New Selves not only compels us to re-think everyday life in Muslim contexts; it forces us to rethink how we conceptualize identity and sexuality in general.”

    —Kathy Davis, author of Dancing Tango: Passionate Encounters in a Globalizing World

  • "Through sensitive interviews and rich storytelling, Gul Ozyegin shows that we cannot understand young peoples’ intimate lives in universal ways—either as conforming to traditionally religious sex/gender scripts, or as morphing into modern global neoliberal selves. Instead, Ozyegin paints a picture of young Turkish people today grappling with 'fractured desire' in a rapidly changing and contradictory social context. In this deeply theorized yet lively and accessible text, we see young people re-casting conceptions of masculinity, femininity and romance, while creatively forging selves premised on both sexual autonomy and connection with others."

    —Michael A. Messner, co-author of Some Men: Feminist Allies and the Movement to End Violence Against Women

  • "An original and fascinating account of the ways young adults construct their sexual and gender identities during times of rapid social change, New Desires, New Selves will change the way you think about selfhood and neoliberalism. Focusing on the unique context of contemporary Turkey, Ozyegin expertly shows how highly educated youth strive to become adults who are both autonomous and connected. This rich and nuanced analysis situates the biographies of individual women and men within distinctive family histories as well as the life course of a nation, illuminating pathways of feminine and masculine self-creation that are altogether new but distinctively Turkish."

    —Laura Carpenter, author of Virginity Lost: An Intimate Portrait of First Sexual Experiences

  • New Desires, New Selves: Sex, Love, and Piety among Turkish Youth provides us with an in-depth look into the new selves crafted by upwardly mobile contemporary Turkish youth.”

    American Journal of Sociology

  • “Ozyegin is most insightful when she brings her subjects to the forefront through numerous quotes and extended vignettes. These are stunning because her subjects’ voices resonate with honesty and courage.”

    Gender, Place & Culture

  • “Ozyegin’s analysis of identity is intersectional in its approach, as she adeptly shows how kinship relations, notions or tradition, and especially class overlap with and come to shape and be shaped by gender and sexual subjectivities. Her examination of romance and sex as important sites for exercising class privilege and disadvantages is particularly astute.”

    Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies

  • “Ozyegin’s rich analysis is based on theoretical perspectives of gender, sexuality, love, social class, and identity development, which collectively branch out from her feminist framework.”

    Gender & Society

  • New Desires, New Selves: Sex, Love, and Piety among Turkish Youth by the sociologist Gul Ozyegin is a powerful and timely contribution to the field of gender and sexuality studies.”

    Women’s Studies International Forum