The "Honor" of the State: Virginity Examinations in Turkey

by Ayse Parla
The "Honor" of the State: Virginity Examinations in Turkey
Ayse Parla
Feminist Studies
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In 1992, the tragedy of the fifteen-year-old G. made headlines in the Turkish press, in a typically stylized, melodramatic narrative. The principal of the high school G. attended called her father for a private meeting. When her father arrived, she was asked to leave the office. She remained behind the closed door, however, and overheard the principal notify her father, "Your daughter has a very low attendance record for the past term. I have been in- formed that she meets with boys. She might not be a virgm. I suggest that you have her examined." G. fled and was not seen for a week. After several search attempts, her body was found at the bottom of a cliff. The father had the virginity exam performed upon her dead body.'

Following this incident, other cases, involving high school girls, principals, and their families, with uncannily similar scripts, made it to the press. In recounting this particular incident, I have deliberately reproduced the sense of temporal progression culmi- nating in a dramatic and violent climax, a narrative mode the newspapers fully exploited. The tragedy of the incident came to be embodied, as it were, in the operation performed upon a dead body. And it was precisely through appealing to such liberal, hu- manist sensibilities that virginity controls at the hands of state officials, which had not attracted much interest previously, cap- tured the attention of feminist and activist organizations and was reported on by a commission sent by the Human Rights Wat~h.~ These groups laid bare the fact that virginity exams, despite the lack of pronounced legal basis; were routinely performed upon women suspected of illegal prostitution4 and/or charged with "immodest" behavior; political detainees; girls in state-run dorrni- tories, orphanages, and hospitals; and more sporadically, girls in

Feminist Studies 27, no. 1 (spring2001). 63 2001by Feminist Studies,Inc. 65

high schools. The persistent campaigns of feminists and human rights activists brought the state apparatus under increasing pres- sure to clarify the law regarding virginity controls, resulting, after a series of unsatisfactory proposals, in the amendment (genelge) of 1999, which required the consent of the woman for the virpty exam to be perf~rmed.~

Yet the controversy in Turkey over state-enforced virginity examinations on women who infringe on "public morality and rules of modesty" was played out and still remains entrenched within the parameters of the traditional/modern dich~tomy.~ The exams are either tolerated, or even championed, for protect- ing the traditional values of honor, chastity, and virtue; or altema- tively, they are condemned as proof of our failure in attaining the desirable degree of modernity. Although they reflect deep-seated values and beliefs towards women and sexuality, I argue instead that the exams are neither the embarrassing remnants of tradition nor are they simply reactionary attempts at its preservation. Rather, they are emblematic of the incorporation of the preoccu- pation with women's modesty, previously enforced primarily through kinship networks, into the mechanisms of surveillance deployed by the modem state. Neither throwbacks to tradition nor protections thereof, virginity examinations must be viewed as a particularly modem fom of institutionalized violence used to secure the sign of the modem and/but chaste woman, fashioned by the modernization project embarked on by the Turkish nation- alist elite under the leadership of Kemal Atatiirk.

This article thus seeks to shift the frame of analysis from the tra- ditional/modem dichotomy by situating virginity exams within the historical context of "the woman question" in Turkey, and by showing the relevance of that history to contemporary assurnp- tions about gender, citizenship, and nationhood. Through an analysis of the disciplines enacted by the disciples of the modern Turkish state, I wish to explore, on the one hand, the interrelation of the legal and the cultural in the enforcement of gendered social norms and show, on the other hand, how the state's routinized intrusion into women's bodies comprises a fundamental facet of its sovereign claim over social relations in the name of the nation.

THE DISCIPLES AND THE DISCIPLINES OF THE STATE In most cases the police or the gendarmes solicit virginity exarni- nations: or they may be initiated, as in the case of G. and other high school students, by school principals. The examination itself is carried out by a state-appointed doctor and consists in deter- mining whether the person being examined has an intact hymen or not. The doctor then produces a report in which he-always a "he" in the cases documented by Human Rights Watch-pro- nounces the examined woman a virgin or not a virgin. In the aftermath of the sensation caused by the suicides of schoolgirls, feminist and human rights activists launched a cam- paign for an amendment in the law which would explicitly grant a woman the right to refuse an examination at the mandate of state officials. In 1997, an amendment was indeed proposed in the Parliament, which granted the right to refuse but with the conse- quence that refusal would effectively designate the person in ques- tion "not a virgin."' The claiming of a legal right, in this scheme, came at the expense of acquiescing to a cultural vulnerability. The exasperation of the opponents of the virginity exams with the less than satisfactory proposal turned to outrage upon the publication of an interview with Isilay Saygin, the minister in charge of women's affairs, and a member of the center-right party ANAP (Motherland Party). The minister vehemently defended the state's prerogative in undertaking virginity controls as a vital means of upholding "our practices, customs, and traditions" (0% adet, ve gelenek). She designated virgnity controls as proper and effective means of ensuring good upbrinpg (terbiye) in girls. She deemed the number of suicide cases insignificant-"three girls, five girls, it does not matter,"-if teaching terbiye and sustaining the "value judgments" of the society were at stake. To the insinuation that the state's concern with women's sexuality bespeaks the back- wardness of Turkey with respect to the West, Saygin responded, "There is no such requirement that we should westernize in all respects. All people have their own culture. Furthermore, the whole world admires Turkish people's manners, customs, and tradition^."^ The following week, whether in response to the furious reac- tions Saygin's remarks provoked, mostly in feminist, academic, and middle- and upper-class urban circles, or whether, as she claimed, merely because she felt compelled to state her own con-

victions, Selma Acuner, Saygm's senior aide was interviewed in the same newspaper column. Seemingly of a different mind from the minister, Acuner declared the practice of virginity exams to be uncivilized (~agdisi), and called them abuses of individual rights. She said that the regulation of women's sexuality by the state was a sign of traditionalism (geleneksellik), in stark contrast to the free- dom from such controls in what she called the developed coun- tries. Collapsing the practice enacted by the state into an essence of Turkish society, Acuner said, "Turkey is a very traditional soci- ety. And it does not show enough effort to relinquish this tradi- tionalism." She pointed out that the repression of sexuality was a problem harming the entire society. She therefore urged the state to "keep its hands off of women's bodies," and instead channel its efforts into ensuring harmony and equality in the family."10

Despite the different policy implications of these two positions, I suggest that the discourses of both women are deeply rooted in the modernization project elaborated by the nationalist elite in the 1920s during the founding of the republic, and which continues to define the parameters of Turkish political culture. Although mainstream academic and public discourses tended to pit these two views against each other, with one view denoting the back- ward mentality and the other the progressive vision, I argue that they in fact dwell within the same paradigm and that the minis- ter's position only renders explicit some paradoxes inherent in the modernization project.

The minister's endorsement of custom and tradition and the senior aide's lament of "our traditionalness" constitute two sides of the same nationalist coin. In the context of postcolonial Indian nationalism, Partha Chatte rjee argues that an insistence on a dis- tinction in the cultural/private domain coexists with an orientation toward Western standards of development and progress in the politi~al/public.~~

Moreover, the "quintessential nationalist claim," in Dipesh Chakrabarty's phrase, of being "different but modem" may have wider bearing than the postcolonial context.'' In her study of a modernizing Spanish village, Jane F. Collier, for example, proposes that the assertion of difference from other nationalisms through the "invention of tradition," concurrent with the positing of similarity as proof of advanced modernity, is the conceptual opposition embraced by all nationalist disco~rse.'~

The second apparent contradiction between the two positions concerns the role attributed to the state. While Acuner contends that the state should keep its hands off women's private lives, Saygin pronounces the state the obvious and natural(ized) guar- dian of custom and tradition, and by extension, of girls and their sexuality. But again, the two views are not as far apart as they seem. Although Acuner objects to state control of women's vir- ginity, she goes on to list the true responsibilities of the state as overseeing the family, ensuring family unity, and as "turning women into citizens." Thus Saygin's proclamation that "the state is the father" is but an effusive formulation of Acuner's view of the state and its responsibilities. Inversely, despite her seemingly unqualified endorsement of tradition and custom, Saygin, too, knows to distinguish between impulsive individual acts rooted in the "culture," on the one hand, and the legal-rational methods of the state on the other hand. When the interviewer suggested that the state's role in punishing adultery resembles the "revenge killings" practiced in the "backward rural southeast," Saygin refuted the parallel and asserted the difference between killing in traditional revenge and punishment in the rule of law: "He kills because it has offended his honor. The state, on the other hand, punishes in order to protect the family."14 Saygin merely articu- lates, therefore, the logical conclusions of the role of the modem nation-state as it was fashioned by the nationalist elite.

Contra Weberian and utilitarian approaches to legtimacy and political power which "endow the state with institutions with law-making and enforcing capabilities that may be more or less democratic," recent analysts of the state contest the state/civil society binary upon which such approaches rest.'Wether char- acterized, as in its early Marxist formulations, as the "legitimating of the illegitimate,"16 or, in its later poststructuralist variants, as a "social and ideological project for the constitutions of social cate- gories and identities,"17 the present attempts at reformulating the role of the state press for a recognition of the intervention of states-and not just those deemed barbaric or traditional-into the lives, identities, and bodies of national subjects. In the particular case of virginity examinations and the Turkish state, such intru- sions become possible, I argue, through the appropriation of what is identified as the "traditional" preoccupation with women's vir- ginity into the broader framework of the regulatory mechanisms of the "modem" nation-state.

Turning women into citizens, the goal identified by Acuner as the main responsibility of the state, dutifully echoes the Kemalist pro- ject of resolving what it designated the "woman question." The troubled relation between women and citizenship is by no means unique to the Turkish situation." Indeed, in her analysis of wom- en's movements in France, Joan Scott has proposed that feminism owes its very existence (as well as its agency) to the contradiction that constitutes the liberal notion of citizenship which proclaims equality at the same time that it relies on difference.19 The impulse behind my analysis of Turkish nationalism and women's role within it, therefore, is not to imply the failure, viewed as syrnpto- matic of a modernizing Third World country, to attain for women the ideal of citizenship. Rather, I attempt to delineate the specifici- ty of the problematic configuration "woman" acquired within Turkish nationalism.

Turkey has been acclaimed, by Western and Turkish scholars alike, as having a pioneering role among Middle Eastern coun- tries in the "modernization race."20 Some of the most commonly cited achievements of Turkish modernization include reforms pertaining to women and the family, such as the adoption of the Swiss Civil Code in 1926 which replaced the Muslim family law, woman's suffrage in 1934, the nationwide campaign for women's education, and the shedding of the veil. Whatever their merits, the concomitant rhetoric of these reforms has invariably been our performance in the marathon to modernity. The notion is trou- bling because it presumes a singular and inevitable trajectory that Western nations seemingly completed, and which all other na- tions are compelled to follow.'l

Critical histories of the "woman question" starting with the early westernization practices in 1838 up to the emergence of the feminist movement in the 1980s have already been written." What I wish to highlight here is how in the Turkish context, as in many other Third World, postcolonial and/or nationalist con- texts, women became the "ground" upon which notions of being modern became arti~ulated.'~

My stress is less on the relationship of women to nationalism, which has already been demonstrated, and more, as Lila Abu-Lughod puts it, on the "significance of links between reforms for women and a politics of thus situate my concern with women and Turkish nationalism within the broader critical inquiries into the politics of modernity and its novel modes of gendered subjection, social control, and bodily discipline^.^^

It was in the discourse of the Young Ottomans, a group of rnid- nineteenth-century intellectuals, novelists, playwrights, and bu- reaucrats who sought ways to reinvigorate the disintegrating em- pire, in part by adopting the Western ideals of progress they had encountered in their travels to and interactions with the West, that women first came to be identified as the loci of backward- ne~s.'~

The Young Ottomans saw women's education as the pre- requisite for progress and the prosperity of the empire, because- women, in their role as mothers, would educate the future gener- ations. But the sign of woman as nurturer and educator was per- haps most firmly secured in the writings of Ziya Gokalp, the lead- ing ideologue of the Young Turks of the second constitutional period, and was later appropriated, with distortions, by Kemal Atatiirk and the Kemalist elite. In the ideology of the Young Turks, the overarching signifier in the service of which the sign of women functioned was no longer the empire, nor Islam, but rather the nation-state. Women's reforms, which were undertaken by Atatiirk and the Kemalist elite, were, by and large, materializa- tions of the precepts propounded by Gokalp.

The Independence War (1919-1922) marked a turning point for the legitimization of women's mobility and public ~isibility.'~ Large numbers of women left their homes and made their ap- pearance in public, both as active participants in the war-as nurses, carriers of ammunition, and less commonly, as soldiers-and as replacement workers in the positions vacated by men who had been drafted. The war significantly influenced both the terms in which women's rights were negotiated during the first decade of the republic and the internalization of these terms by many wom- en. When proposing legal reforms concerning women, Ataturk countered the resistance put forth by the conservative constituen- cy in the Parliament by citing the heroic role women had played in the war. For those women, too, who were active public figures during the period, women's contribution to the war became the primary grounds on which they claimed equal worth as citizens. Nezihe Muhiddin, the president of the Women's Association (Kadinlar Birligi), wrote in her 1931 autobiography:

Indeed the Turkish woman who proved her maturity during the nationalist movement was not separated from the men even for a single moment and achieved her share of the work in the battle and the victory. The educated Turkish woman worked in the same field with the peasant woman: One deliv- ered lectures with her mastery of the language, while the other carries, with those enormous hands and back of hers, ammunition to the front.z8

The exclusions entailed in the notion of citizenship were al- ready manifest in such nationalist commentaries by urban female intellectuals. On the surface, the reference to participation in the war provided a common basis for all women to claim their right to become citizens. And there is no denying that the war heroine was a powerful trope in facilitating the implementation of wom- en's reforms. At the same time, however, the division of labor posited in Muhiddin's speech-the urban educated woman as the bearer of intellectual refinement and the rural woman of physical stamina-became engraved in the national imaginary. The poem Elfi Oxcart (Elif'in Kagnisi), an epic familiar to every primary schooler, is about the peasant woman Elif, who, after the collapse of one of her oxen from fatigue on the arduous journey to the front, replaces the ox, and perseveres towards her destination pulling the load herself. In this and other epic poems, textbooks, and public monuments, the peasant woman is mythologized for her bodily labor while the urban intellectual philosophizes and educatesz9

Tezer Taskiran, another prominent first-generation Kemalist and a member of the National Assembly, concluded that the ardor dis- played by women during the war was "a major factor in Atatiirk's desire to raise women to the level they de~erved."~'

Such deferen- tial gratitude is typical in the writings of the Kemalist women of the era and exasperates many of the feminists of the 1980s. The tragic irony to me lies in the fact that the total endorsement of the woman patriot ultimately served to undermine the women's movement itself. In accepting uncritically the citizen identity bestowed upon them by the founding fathers, the elite women remained oblivious to its totalizing impulse. For subsuming women under the category of citizen not only overrode stark dif- ferences of class and made Kemalist feminism exclusionary from the start, it also defined as well the limits of the women's move- ment along with the identities that would be available to women. As far as the founding fathers were concerned, the woman ques- tion was resolved once women were formally proclaimed citi- zens. Significantly, the only political organization founded by women, of which Nezihe Muhiddin was a member, and which almost became a political party, was abolished in 1934 when the leaders castigated it as unnecessary and as distracting from the nationalist cause.31

If the illusion of unity among women masked the discrimina- tion inherent in the notion of citizenship, so too did the guise of equality among women and men that held gender irrelevant.

In the Turkish land, there is no distinction between men and women. The dif- ference between maleness and femaleness is not a concern of the nation. These are only relevant to the individual existence of the person, what are they to us? What we need are people, whether they be men or women, who embody and uphold the values of the nation.3z

The degenderization of citizenship masked the extent to which previous notions of femininity were to persist, albeit in a transfig- ured form, in the nationalist construction of the "emancipated" woman. What this author could so swiftly dismiss as gender dif- ference, in fact, created tensions for women who strove to achieve the appearance of degendered selves in public while being ex- pected to retain traits associated with essentialist notions of femi- ninity, most notably, motherhood. Perhaps the quintessential fem- inine trait, motherhood was rearticulated in the nationalist dis- course to make it consistent with the degendered notion of citi- zenship. When urban, middle- and upper-class women began to raise their voices in public, for example, they spoke as mothers and martyr-heroines, depersonalizing the former into the exhila- rated rhetoric of the latter: "Even if our joys or our blood is ignit- ed, a heart made of nationhood is buried in our chests, which the fear of enemy cannot banish. . . .The day when my son asks me, 'Who am I?' I shall address him like an angel screaming from the heavens, 'you are a Turk with a grand history.' "33

Motherhood thus took on a connotation beyond that of the in- stinctively loving, nurturing female: mothers were now patrioti- cally conscious women who bore the graver responsibility of imparting their unconditional love of the nation to their children, but more importantly, it seems, to their sons. The patriotic mod- em citizen identity was juxtaposed with, or rather, imposed upon, the essentialist notion of women as natural mothers. Such a colla- tion further constrained the experience and expression of a dis- tinctive female sexuality.

With the rhetorical skill of most charismatic leaders, Atatiirk sought to strike a delicate balance between the existing expecta- tions of mothering and the patriotic citizen identity:

The highest duty of woman is motherhood. If one realizes fully that education of both boys and girls starts in infancy, the importance of motherhood becomes evident. Our people are resolved to become a powerful nation. One of the major needs is to secure enlightenment for women in every field. . . . We have been educated by our mothers and they have done the best they could. But our present standards are not adequate for our present days needs. We need men with different attitudes and a deeper understanding, and the mothers of the future shall educate these men.34

Note how Atatiirk adroitly prefaced the campaign for civic education with an affirmation of the virtues of motherhood. (Note also the slide from the inclusive "boys and girls" at the beginning of the statement to the preclusive "men" at the end.) Such a gesture was crucial in making palatable the public visibili- ty of women among a population where a considerable con- stituency still believed women belonged exclusively in the private sphere. A well-known saying goes, "An honorable woman leaves her house only twice in her lifetime: one time to get married, and the other to get buried." As Ayse Durakbasa has argued, Atatiirk and the founding fathers had to fashion a nonthreatening public image for women, which they did by downplaying female sexu- ality to the point of in~isibility.~~

At the same time, however, the donning of an asexual facade went beyond the strategic. As he traversed the country giving speeches, marking the land and discursively sealing it with the stamp of nationhood, Atatiirk was also marking women's bodies with the nationalist vision of the virtuous, asexual woman. "The Turkish woman," he reiterated, "ought to be the most enlightened, most virtuous, and most self-controlled woman in the world. . . . She who is the source of the nation and the basis of social life can carry out her duty only if she is virtuous."36

Even the shedding of the veil, applauded as a bold stride to- ward the emancipation of the Turkish woman, was not a pure act of liberation. Given the reinforced emphasis on virtue, women had to acquire a different set of means to communicate their respectability now that the symbol of the veil was no longer avail- able. For the Iranian context, Afsaneh Najmabadi has argued that women's entry into the heterosocial public space necessitated the loss of a language, laden with sexual allusions and undertones, so that the chastity of their unveiled bodies could be ensured.37 In other parts of the Middle East and elsewhere, too, as aptly dem- onstrated by several feminist scholars, such revolutionary mo- ments have entailed a similar contradiction between the image of the public, degendered woman and that of the private, highly sexualized woman.38

Turkish modernization, which demanded that women be un- veiled without unburdening them from the requirement of chasti- ty, resulted, as Deniz Kandiyoti puts it, "incompensatory symbol- ism and a new veil-that of sexual repression." Tracing the images of Turkish women in the post-Tanzimat novel, Kandiyoti demon- strates how women were depicted as either the bearers of moral decay, or of national redemption. The only alternative provided by the nationalist novel to the entirely westernized, and therefore immoral and loose woman, was the patriotic woman who was so virtuous and chaste that her sexuality became altogether irrele- vant. Halide Edip Adivar, the best known female novelist of the time, described her celebrated heroine, Handan, in explicitly asex- ual terms: "[Tlhere was nothing in that look that reminded any- one, male or female, of ~exuality."~~

The inexorable emphasis on virtue and chastity in the national- ist fashioning of the modem Turkish woman resulted in a pecu- liar hybrid.40 Contrary to the presuppositions of most analysts of the Mediterranean who view the honor and shame codes as in- herent to the rural traditional community and not compatible with the nation-state, modernization in Turkey did not eliminate the preoccupation with women's chastity and ~irginity.~' Rather, Turkish modernization attributed to honor and shame a new sig- nificance by incorporating them, in Liisa Malkki's phrase, into the "national order of things."42 In Gyan Prakash's language, the en- counter between Turkey and the West was one between "unequal subject positions" and resulted not in a total appropriation of the former by the latter but in an "alienating installation": unveiled and yet pure, the new woman was to be "modern" in appearance and intellect but was still required to preserve the "traditional" virtue of chastity and to affirm it constantly.

RUPTURES It is probably only the first generation of Kemalist women who were able to fulfill these requirements and attain the ideal of the

modem Turkish woman. They had the privilege of class, educa- tion, and as pioneers, felt, behind them, as one member of this group stated, the "support of the immense power of the state."" The paradoxical performances of the modern and/but modest, of publicly visible and/but virtuous were the privilege of the small group of women who belonged to the nationalist elite. For others, the realities of modem life, migration to big cities, and the con- comitant increase in wage laborers made it difficult to sustain claims to modesty.

Starting with the 1980s, with the largely informal and heteroge- neous feminist movement, the expectation that women had to be modest, chaste, and virtuous began to be challenged explicitly. In a march held in May 1987 to protest domestic violence, about 2,500 women who were other than virtuous wives, respectable mothers, or self-sacrificing patriots, walked the streets of Istanbul, shouting "Enough! It is our turn to peak."^ The following year, in celebration of International Women's Day on March 8, the "Temporary Modem Women's Museum" was set up. The range of objects exhibited ran from the most trivial, such as kitchen uten- sils, to items that were daring assertions of sexuality, such as IUD's. In 1989, feminists from Ankara and Istanbul came together for the First Feminists Weekend for the event that came to be known popularly as the "Purple Needle." Dwing the event, purple needles were distributed for defense against sexual harassment on the streets, with slogans like "Ourbodies belong to us," "Don't be ashamed, cry out."

It seems to me to be more than coincidental that the frequency and the violence of the virginity exams at the hands of state offi- cials intensified with the emergence of the feminist movement of the post-1980s. This is not to say that the exams are a direct re- sponse to the movement. Nevertheless, they are, I believe, at least in part, an expression of state anxiety during a time of shifting norms and a retort to the bolder attitudes of women who are re- claiming bodies other than those sanctioned by the official ideol-


Such disruptions of the official construction through everyday practice comprise the more visible level at which the totalizing identity of the nationalist modern woman gets ruptured. But identity is never singular nor homogeneous, even before the het- erogeneity of its performances exceed the bounds of its original construction. As Homi Bhabha persistently reminds us, identity embodies, relies on, and requires difference in its inception, in the very instance that it asserts The depiction of the mod- em woman in the nationalist rhetoric could appear to be so unfal- teringly consistent, so pervasively singular, only under the threat and in the face of heterogeneity. That is perhaps why the force of rhetoric never seems to quite suffice and why it always needs either the services of physical violence to suppress and silence, or, within the subtler forms of subjection characteristic of modernity, to correct and to discipline. In the next section, I turn to the meth- ods by which such disciplinary practices are carried out and the ways in which they are officially and culturally sanctioned.

Although there is no direct reference, either in the Turkish Constitution or in the Penal Code, to virginity examinations, there is ample ambiguity along with systematic gender discrimination to lend support to the practice. In the Penal Code, for example, all forms of assault aimed at single persons are grouped under the heading "Felonies against Individuals," with the exception of sex- ual assaults against women. The latter are grouped under "Felo- nies against Public Decency and Family Order." The equality be- tween women and men, paid lip service to by the Constitution, is contradicted by the Penal Code which posits that attacks on the body constitute a breach of individual rights only when the bod- ies in question are male. The woman's body under sexual attack, on the other hand, is construed not as a violation of individual rights, but of the family order.46

The importance of a woman's purity as an icon of family honor is reflected in the linguistic repertoire, most notably in the injunc- tions against "staining the family honor" (aile namusunu lekelemek). Paradigmatic articulations might range from the gentler warning of a father to his daughter, "Do not do anything that might stain the family honor," to the more authoritarian threat, "I will never let our family honor become stained," with the implication that anyone who dares to "compromise" a woman of the family shall be avenged. Its varying intensities notwithstanding, the notion of staining the family honor remains a powerful trope, capitalized on by popular Turkish movies and the press, and usually suc- ceeds in eliciting empathy and emotion.

Occasionally, the press will cover news of what are called "revenge killings," instances when a stain on the family honor leads to the murder of the offender as well as the woman he has raped or had an affair with by an appointed male member of the "wronged" family. Like the minister for Women's Affairs, who re- fuses to compare what she calls traditional forms of revenge with the punishments enacted by the rule of law, many of her allegedly progressive opponents wish to relegate such incidents to the more backward, traditional parts of Anatolia, or to the urban fringes populated by migrants. It seems to me that such attempts at geographical and conceptual containment-they only occur there, perpetrated by those people-partake in the conflation of identity and space, and reflect the wishful expulsion of the unsa- vory to the brims of what is vindicated as the civilized, the mod- em. Such distancing makes it possible to overlook the disquieting correspondences between acts condemned as barbaric and the logic of the legal structures. To give an example: according to the Penal Code, a rapist escapes liability when and only if he agrees to marry the woman he has "defl~wered."~~

While the nation-state does not undertake revenge killings to punish the offenders of sexual honor, it rebukes, disciplines, penalizes the "transgressors," irrespective of distinctions of victim/aggressor, through regula- tions that ensure the continuation of the family at all costs.

The film Where is Fatmagii'S Fault? (Fatmagillfun Sucu Ne) by the Turkish director Yusuf Kurqenli attempts a social critique of the law regarding rape and the cultural assumptions that surround it. The heroine Fatmagul, the chaste and most beautiful girl of the province, is gang-raped by a group of five friends. Four of the felons come from wealthy families and are informed by their lawyer that the only way they can escape imprisonment is if one person shoulders the blame and marries Fatrnagiil. The burden of marriage falls, of course, on the poor lad, who takes Fatrnagul as his wife, but loathes her because of her "impurity." Gradually, however, he comes to accept her, even love her, to the point that, years later, when the delinquent friends revisit his house, assurn- ing they still have access to the despoiled Fatmagiil, he fights them off and defends her honor, just as he would do for an "hon- orable" woman.

However, despite its critical intent and potent emotional tenor, the film romanticizes and reinforces the strength of the conjugal bond. True love has a chance to blossom, the movie seems to plead, even under the most adverse circumstances, as long as the couple is married. Such a romantic outcome seems quite limited to the screen, however. Several stories of domestic violence I lis- tened to when I worked at the battered women's shelter in Istan- bul indicate that sexual intercourse before marriage burdens a woman with a vulnerable past and can become a pretext for a husband's harassment. A common justification used by the vio- lent husband is that his wife was not a virgin at the time of mar- riage. The same holds even if the person she "lost her virginity to" had been her own husband.

Besides rape and attempts at rape, also regulated under the cat- egory of "crimes against public decency and family order," are "indecent behavior" in public, sexual intercourse in public, prosti- tution, "deflowering" under the promise of marriage, abduction, pornographic acts, and adulterya In cases of abduction, the mini- mum is seven years if the woman under question is married. If not, the sentence can be as low as three years. And until 1987,the punishment was automatically reduced if the woman raped/ab- ducted was a prostitute. The article was annulled as a result of a series of feminist campaigns.

While nothing in the Penal Code directly addresses virginity exams, then, there is a repeated emphasis on the virp status of the woman, both in defining the crimes and in meting out pun- ishment. The woman's status as virgin, non-virgin, or married plays a sigruficant role in how a crime against her is interpreted. So powerful is the identification of girls and virgins that girl is linguistically iconic with virgin: instead of the more technical term for virp, namely, bakire, the more common usage is simply "girl" (kiz). Even in documented medical reports, the phrase deployed to indicate rupture of the hymen is "not a girl" (kiz degil).

The regulations of the Police Duty Law supplement the focus on virginity in the Penal Code. Under this law, the police are en- trusted with protecting not only life and property, but honor and chastity as well. They have the power to detain persons whose actions are deemed to be violating "public morality and rules of modesty" and those who act in ways "not approved by the social order."49There is no further specification as to what constitutes an act not approved by the social order, or what is not in keeping with the rules of modesty. Driving a car alone, walking alone late in "disreputable" neighborhoods, sitting at night in a park in male company have been among some of the acts deemed as infringe- ments of the police standards for socially appropriate and modest conduct.

It is important to distinguish, of course, when the virginity exam remains at the level of threat, and when the threat is actual- ly carried out. It appears that virginity exams at the hands of police-without the initiative of school officials, parents, anti-terror police (forces specially trained against terrorist groups)-are likely to remain at the level of threat if the person being harassed by the police has enough symbolic capital, in Bourdieu's sense, to con- vince the latter he will get into trouble if he forces the woman to undergo the examination. The police are authorized to raid places (from bar to apartment), if they suspect illegal prostitution and to detain illegal prostitutes. One frequent use of virputy examina- tions, although not legally supported, is on women who are thus detained, with the purpose of searching for signs of recent sexual activity. What kind of behavior might trigger a particular police- man to indict someone of illegal prostitution appears to be highly arbitrary. A police officer can approach someone with the allega- tion of indecent behavior, which can then advance to the accusa- tion of illegal prostitution. As the director of state forensic medi- cine in Ankara corroborates, "State doctors perform virginity exams at the request of the police when women are accused of prostitution or of 'abnormal' behavior in parks.""

It is not only women's movement in public space that is subject to control. Virginity examinations are also performed on young women populating the enclosed, institutionalized spaces of state- run orphanages, vocational high schools, and prisons. The last deserves separate treatment, because virginity examinations per- formed on political detainees are instances when brute physical force is manifested in its most undiluted form, and when subject formation through inscriptions on bodies appears in its most unmediated.

It emerges from the testimonies of political detainees that the threat or imposition of a virginity test by the anti-terror police is deployed as a strategy of terror, humiliation, or physical abuse and involves not infrequent incidents of rape." As one woman detained by village guards under the accusation of supporting the PKK, Workers Party of Kiirdistan, narrated, "They told me that we shouldn't help the PKK; that they would kill us and rip us apart if we keep the PKK. When they were asking me questions they said, "if you don't talk we'll rape you. Now you're engaged, but after we rape you no one will marry you." Another Kurdish woman who was detained by the anti-terror police with her forty- three-year-old mother while attending a funeral said, "They [the police] constantly threatened to take me for virginity control and then to rape me when they found I wasn't a ~irp."~~

In their analysis of state violence in Venezuela, Fernando Cor- onil and Julie Skurski write that through symbolic and material inscriptions on the body "the corporeality of people become privi- leged mediums for reorganizing the body politic and for forcibly controlling the movement of persons and ideas within the na- tion's material and cultural space."53 Allen Feldman, too, in his ethnography of political violence in Northern Ireland, posits the body as both the locus of those material practices of "semantic excess" and the site of the inscription of political texts.54 Whether seen as marks on the body or as semantic excess, virginity exami- nations as instruments of torture participate in the creation of a "culture of terror,"55 which marks a state of things identified by James Holston and Teresa Caldeira as a "disjunctive dem~cracy."~~

I find that the use of examinations in this way needs to be ma- lytically distinguished from the uses it has when performed on schoolgirls, orphans, and prostitutes. Anti-terror virginity exams are pretexts for sexual harassment conducted against the "ene- mies of the state" to protect the "intactness" of the nation. Vir- ginity exams performed on schoolgirls, the female inmates of school orphanages, and prostitutes, however, regulate sexuality to ensure the preservation of the health and hygiene of the nation. Whereas the first aims at cleansing the "enemy," the second func- tions as a regular, systematized control over producing and pre- serving healthy citizens. What does remain constant throughout is the primacy of "shame" as a gendered construct: the torture of female political detainees takes the form it does because of the importance of sexual propriety, because they too are women who can be shamed through sexual violation.

The "corrective penality" is the name that Michel Foucault gives to modem practices of punishment. Instead of working through representations and signs as did the previous phase of the re- formist movement, the corrective penality, according to Foucault, redirects its focus to the body. This body, however, is no longer the public tortured body of the first phase, the ancien rkgime, but rather the private, disciplined body. The corrective penality pro- duces docile bodies through the military authority of the liberal state with its novel, nationalized techniques of discipline. These new techniques that aim at the "individual and collective coercion of bodies" constitute a form of power that Foucault characterizes as suspicious and one which operates on a calculated economy. One of its main instruments is the "examination," a technique that combines the other two techniques of discipline, "hierarchical observation" and "normalizing judgment," but is distinct from either. The examination is "a normalizing gaze, a surveillance that makes it possible to qualdy, to classify, and to punish. It establishes over individuals a visibility through which one differentiates them and judges them."57

Although the "examination" evoked by Foucault cannot be mapped onto the virginity examination mot li mot, it is, neverthe- less, a highly suggestive metaphor in thinking about the "suspi- cious" power of the police, dormitory administrators, state- appointed doctors, and school principals. Theirs, too, is a "nor- malizing" gaze that differentiates and classifies according to vir- gin/non-virgin status, judges for normalcy or deviance, and pun- ishes accordingly. Foucault also stresses the emerging importance of documentation, registration, and keeping of files, all of which lead to the "formalization" of the individual within power rela- tions. Accumulation of documents enables as well the classifica- tion, categorization, and fixing of norms. Thus, the examination marks the passage of people from an anonymous mass to distinct, individualized cases, to be known, judged, classified. In Turkey, state-appointed doctors collaborating with the police produce documents after each examination, fixing the status of the woman within a scientific diagnosis-virgin/not-virgin-which,in turn, marks her as normal or deviant. If a virgin, she is approved of, if not, ostracized, excluded, punished.58

CONCLUSION In most Western liberal and human rights discourse, forced vir- puty examinations as a form of state violence would figure as a deviation, a breach of the modem nation-state's commitment to individual rights and respect for bodily integrity.59 While I, too, consider virpty examinations to be unacceptable intrusions into women's bodies, I have tried to show why we need to consider them beyond the parameters of the liberal discourse of moderni- ty. Such a framing places the entire burden on the "incomplete modernization" of Turkey and thereby ignores the modern forms of violence intrinsic to Western liberal democracies and nation- state^.^ It overlooks, moreover, the ways in which such discipli- nary practices constitute a specifically modem, objechfying, indi- vidualized form of power compatible with the techniques of sur- veillance deployed by nation-states. State controls of women's bodies thus should not be dismissed as merely the traditional lapses of an aspiring nation-state. At the same time, I have tied to account for the peculiarity of the virginity exam to the Turkish context by probing the particular constellation comprised of a dis- criminatory legal system, the cultural emphasis on women's chastity, and the overarching ideology of the Kemalist project of modernization. Navigating between the Scylla of making all modernities look the same and the Charybdis of cultural essential- ism, I tried to situate what has been identified as the "traditional" preoccupation with women's virginity within the broader frame- work of the regulatory mechanisms of the "modem" nation-state. Recently, a phrase has become fashionable among the laicist women and men in Turkey: "Virginity is not in the hymen, but in the mind." Like the minister's aide, those who condemn the state practice of the virginity exam as traditional utilize this motto to affirm their modem, progressive outlook. While seemingly con- demning traditional controls of sexuality, however, the motto be- speaks a novel form of control. Implying that spiritual virginity is a state above and beyond natural or anatomical virginity, the statement points to the education of women's desire in compli- ance with the dictates of the mind, rather than the impulses of the body. But the novelty of virginity in the mind consists in more than the shift from the body to the mind, from (physical) coercion to (ideological) pers~asion.~'

Rather, the seeming denial of the sig- nificance of the physical, the hymen, with a concurrent insistence on the ideal, virginity, results in the very creation of the mind/ body opposition and produces the effect of the possibility of self- control free from outside intervention. Displacing the language of kinship, honor and shame, custom and tradition, and appropriat- ing the language of rationality and education, the phrase "virgini- ty in the mind" suggests that a woman can and should draw the boundaries of her sexual freedom according to the rational choic- es that will lead to the healthy, stable, national family. The discur- sive dislocation of virgiruty from the hymen to the mind, it seems to me, will only add to, rather than ease, the many tensions that characterize modem Turkish femininities.


I would like to thank Lila Abu-Lughod for her indispensable criticisms and support. Thanks also to Canan Arin, who first urged me to study virginity examinations, and to Michael Gilsenan, Tim Mitchell, Fred Myers, Murat Akan, Jessica Catellino, and Amanda Schaffer for their comments and suggestions.

Cumhuriyet, May 9,1992, "Oldiiren Bekaret."

Human Rights Watch, A Matter ofpower: State Control of Women's Virginity in Turkey, Vol. 6 (New York: Human Rights Watch/Women's Rights Project, 1994).

At no point did the law authorize the police to enforce virginity examinations at the police's own discretion. However, according to the Penal Code, in cases of rape, prosti- tution, and extramarital intercourse, the prosecutor demands the exam to determine whether the hymen is intact or ruptured, and thereby decide whether intercourse has indeed taken place. The unscientific basis of such evidence, as well as its discriminatory nature against women who might not be virgins in the first place, has been noted (see footnote 52). For an extended and informed discussion of the role of the hymen in legal discourse and judges' decisions, see Sami Selquk, Kizlik Bozma Sup (Ankara: Adil Yayinevi, 1996). My larger point, however, is that the persistent emphasis on virginity in the Penal Code and the extensive authority relegated to the police in the Police Duty Law for overseeing public morality collude to accommodate arbitrary virginity exami- nations enforced by school officials, administrators, and the police. I elaborate on this point further in the section on Virginity in the Law.

Prostitution is legal in Turkey, as long as sex workers are properly registered and undergo periodic medical examinations.

This particular amendment, entitled "On Vaginal/Anal Examinations and Photo- graphs during Autopsy Procedures," was passed by the Minister of Justice Hasan Denizkurdu, who declared that the amendment would put an end to the unlawful prac- tice of virginity exams. However, certain cases were exempted. These include crimes of rape (Penal Code, Articles 414-418), provocation to prostitution (Article 435), and instances where parties refuse the charge of extramarital sexual intercourse (Articles 419 and 436). For these, the prosecutor can still demand a virginity exam.

Polis Vazife ve Salahiyet Kanunu (Police duty and authority law), law no. 2559, article

11. Similar expressions of and variations on the theme of "indecent behavior" abound throughout Articles 414-447 of the Turkish Penal Code.

The gendarme substitutes for the police in many rural areas, and especially in the "troubled" zones in southeastern Turkey.

Radikal, 5 Dec. 1997.

Yeni Yuzyll, 29 Dec. 1997, Nese Duzel, "Pazartesi Sohbetleri."

Yeni Yiizyil, 5 Jan. 1998, Nese Diizel, "Pazartesi Sohbetleri."

Partha Chatterjee, The Nation and Its Fragments: Colonial and Postcolonial Histories (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993).

Dipesh Chakrabarty, "The Difference-Deferral of a Colonial Modernity: Public De- bates on Domesticity in British Bengal," in Tensions of Empire: Colonial Cultures in a Bourgeois World, ed. Ann Stoler and Frederic Cooper (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997).

Jane F. Collier, From Duty to Desire: Remaking Families in a Spanish Village (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1997).

Yeni Yuzyil, 29 Dec. 1997.

Carole Nagenstat, "Violence, Terror, and the Crisis of the State," Annual Review of Anthropology 23 (1994): 121.

Philip Abrams, "Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State," Journal of Historical Sociology 1(March 1988): 76.

Bernard Cohn and Nicholas Dirks, "Beyond the Fringe: the Nation-State, Colonial- ism, and the Technologies of Power," Journal ofHistorica1 Sociology 1 (March 1988): 226.

There is by now a vast literature on gender and nation-building. For especially thought-provoking pieces, see Veena Das, "National Honor and Practical Kinship: Un- wanted Women and Children," in Conceiving the New World Order: The Global Politics of Reproduction, ed. Faye Ginsburg and Rayna Rapp (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1995), on the appropriation of women's bodies as objects upon which nationalist desire and violence was inscribed; Julie Skurski, "The Ambiguities of Authenticity in Latin America: Dona Barbara and the Construction of National Identity," in Becoming National: A Reader, ed. Geoff Eley and R.G. Suny (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1996), for an analysis that complicates the Andersonian "imagined community" by examining the ways in which gender has been central to the imagination and narration of the nation; Kamala Visweswaran, "Small Speeches, Subaltern Gender: Nationalist Ideology and Its Historiography," in Subaltern Studies 9, ed. Shadid Amin and Dipesh Chakrabarty (Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996), on the construction of women as discursive subjects within Indian nationalism and the gendered constitution of subal- tern agency.

19. Joan Scott, Only Paradoxes to Offer: French Feminists and the Rights of Man (Cambridge: Haward University Press, 1996).

For some of the best known examples of this view, see Daniel Lerner, The Passing of Traditional Society (New York: Free Press, 1952); and Bernard Lewis, The Emergence of Modern Turkey (London: Oxford University Press, 1968).

The subaltern studies school has led the way in systematically challenging the teleo- logical vision of modernization, where the West stands for the acme of civilization and democracy. For a recent and brilliant application of this critique to the modem Chinese context, see Lisa Rofel, Other Modernities: Gendered Yearnings in China after Socialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999).

For the three major articles on the "woman question" in Turkey, see Deniz Kan- diyoti, "End of Empire: Islam, Nationalism, and Women in Turkey," in Women, Islam, and the State, ed. Deniz Kandiyoti (London: Macmillan, 1990); Niikhet Sirman, "Feminism in Turkey: A Short History," New Perspectives on Turkey 3 (fall 1989): 1-35; and Sirin Tekeli, "1980'ler Turkiye'sinde Kadinlar," in 1980'1er Tiirkiyesinde Kadin Bakis A~isindan Kadinlar (Istanbul: Iletisim Yayinlari, 1990). For a meticulous analysis of the women's movement during the Tanzimat in particular, see Serpil Cakir, Osmanli Kadin Hareketi (Istanbul: Metis Yayinlari, 1994).

Here I follow the lead of Lata Mani's brilliant essay, "Contentious Traditions: The Debate on Sati in Colonial India," in Recasting Women: Essays in Colonial History, ed. Kumkum Sangari and Sudesh Vaid (New Delhi: Kali, 1989), where she argues women should be seen as neither the subjects nor the objects of the discourses on widow bum- ing in India but, rather, as the ground upon which these discourses, with their accompa- nying versions of tradition, were debated.

Lila Abu-Lughod, "Introduction: Feminist Longings and Postcolonial Conditions," in Remaking Women: Feminism and Modernity in the Middle East, ed. Lila Abu-Lughod (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1998), 8.

See ibid. for a fuller statement of these concerns and the other essays in the collec- tion for specific analyses of such theoretical engagements.

The Young Ottomans espoused Western norms in that they generally opposed tra- ditionally arranged marriages, easy divorce laws, sex segregation, and Islamic dress. For slightly different perspectives on the extent to which they allied themselves with the West, however, see further Sirman, 4-9; and Kandiyoti, 24-28.

Kandiyoti, 30.

Nezihe Muhiddin, Turk Kadini (Istanbul: Numune Matbaasi, 1931), 59.

The urban/rural dichotomy persists in the writings of later Kemalist academics, albeit with an ironic although not unexpected twist: whereas in the first decade of nationalist zeal the peasant woman was mythologized, she later becomes emblematic of that "stronghold of traditionalism," hindering the swift progress of modernization. Representative of such a view of the history of women's emancipation is Nermin

bada an-~nat's "The Modernization of Turkish Women," Middle East Journal 32 (fall 1978): 291-305, where she displaces the shortcomings inherent to the modernizing pro- ject onto the urban/rural dichotomy and the "peasant problem."

Tezer Taskran, Cumhuriyet'in 50. Yilinda Tiirk Kadin Haklari (Ankara: Basbakanlik Basimevi, 1973), 155.

Zafer Toprak, "Halk Firkasindan hce Kurulan Parti: Kadinlar Halk Firkasi," Tarih Toplum 51 (March 1988): 158-59.

Quoted in Ayse Durakbasa, "Curnhuriyet Doneminde Kadin Kimliginin Olusumu," Tarih Toplum 51 (March 1988): 43.

Quoted in Taskran, 70.

Atatiirk, quoted in ibid., 58.

Durakbasa, 44. For a more nuanced statement of this argument, see Yesim Arat, "The Project of Modernity and Women in Turkey," in Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey, ed. Sibel Bozdogan and Resat Kasaba (Seattle: University of Washing- ton Press, 1997). Arat points out that even within the public sphere, the images women were expected to project could be contradictory, as evidenced in the trend of the dkcol- let6 evening dresses women donned in balls during the early days of the republic.

Atatiirk, quoted in Taskran, 90.

Afsaneh Najmabadi, "Veiled Discourse-Unveiled Bodies," Feminist Studies 19 (fall 1993): 487-518.

For resonances with Egypt, see Margot Badran, Feminists, Islam, and Nation: Gender and the Making of Modern Egypt (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1995), and with Iran, see Parvin Paidar, Women and the Political Process in Twentieth-Century Iran (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995). Beyond the Middle Eastern context, Pur- nima Mankekar's Screening Culture, Viewing Politics: An Ethnography of Television, Womanhood, and Nation in Postcolonial India (Durham: Duke University Press, 1999); and Rofel's Other Modernities provide interesting comparisons.

Deniz Kandiyoti, "Slave Girls, Temptresses, and Comrades: Images of Women in the Turkish Novel," Feminist Issues 8 (1988): 35-49,47,45.

I use the term "hybrid" here following Gyan Prakash's elaboration in "Science between the Lines," in Subaltern Studies 9, ed. Shadid Amin and Dipesh Chakrabarty

(Delhi: Oxford University Press, 1996): 59-83.
The pioneering work of the British structuralists J.G. Peristiany and Julian Pitt- Rivers in Honour and Shame: The Values of Mediterranean Society, ed. J.G. Peristiany (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1966), which posited honor/shame as pan- Mediterranean codes, had a long-lasting influence in asserting the cultural unity of the Mediterranean and marking the area as a distinct, bounded entity for scholarship. See, for example, David Gilmore, ed. Honor, Shame, and the Unity of the Mediterranean (Washington D.C.: American Anthropological Association, 1987). Only a few have radi- cally challenged the contextual limitations of the honor/shame code as an all-encom- passing ideology and the conceptual standardization the presumed uniformity of the model imposes upon a far more finely textured and varied reality; see Lila Abu- Lughod, Veiled Sentiments: Honor and Poetry in a Bedouin Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1986); Michael Gilsenan, Lords of the Lebanese Marches: Narrative and Violence in an Arab Society (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1997); and Michael Herzfeld, "Honor and Shame: Problems in the Comparative Analysis of Moral Systems," Man 15 (1980): 339-51. Such overgeneralization about the unity of the area has the effect of particularizing the community under study by treating it as an enclosed, localized entity, sequestered from larger social and political processes-hence the underlying assumption in these analyses that honor and shame are at odds with modernity. See especially Gilmore who suggested that the importance of virginity persisted despite modernization, and Jane Schneider, who, in "Of Vigilance and Virgins," Ethnology 10 (1971): 1-24, claimed that the expansion of the nation-state would weaken the concern with virginity. But see Sherry Ortner, "The Virgin and the State," Feminist Studies 4 (October 1978): 19-35, for an early and rare intervention against the absence of the nation-state in the analyses of honor and shame, in which she posits the structural transformation brought by the emergence of the nation-state as a critical historical junc- ture in binding the concern with women's virginity to the honor of the group.

42. Liisa Malkki, Purity and Exile: Violence, Memory, and National Cosmology among Hutu Refugees in Tanzania (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1995).

Hamide Topquoglu, quoted in Durakbasa, 43.

It was out of this march that the project for the first independent shelter against bat- tered women grew. For an account of the march as well as the making of the Purple Roof Foundation, see The Purple Roof Collective, Bagir Herkes Duysun: Dayaga Kursi Kudin Dayanisma Kumpanyasi (Istanbul: Gumiis, 1988).

Homi Bhabha, The Location of Culture (London: Routledge, 1994).

Canan Arin, an outspoken feminist activist, a legal counselor for the Purple Roof Foundation, and one of the few lawyers in Turkey to explicitly pronounce her practice as feminist in its outlook, has written repeatedly about gender discrimination in the law. See, for example, Canan Arin, "Kadina Yonelik Siddet Aqisindan Tiirk Hukukunun Kadina Yaklasimi," in Evdeki Teror: Kadina Yonelik Siddet, ed. Mor Cati Kolektif (Istanbul: Mor Cati, 1996).

Turk Ceza Kanunu (Turkish Penal Code) (Ankara: Alkim), Article 423.

Ibid., Articles 414-47.

Polis Vazife ve Salahiyat Kanunu, Articles 2 and 11.

Human Rights Watch, 19.

See the testimonies by political detainees in Human Rights Watch.

Human Rights Watch, 14, 17. The police occasionally defend it as a necessary mea- sure to protect themselves against claims of custodial rape. But there is a perverse logic at work here. As stated by the HRW, "Police assert that an exam that finds that a woman is not a virgin, it is evidence against a claim of rape because it establishes that she is sexually active and that her 'loss of honor' is not attributable to custodial rape. This argument rests on the assumption that only women who can prove their virginity prior to an alleged incidence of rape can successfully bring rape charges against the police" (18).

Femando Coronil and Julie Skurski, "Dismembering and Remembering the Nation: The Semantics of Political Violence in Venezuela, Comparative Studies in Society and History 33 (April 1991): 290.

Allen Feldman, Formations of Violence: The Narrative of the Body and Political Terror in Northern Ireland (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991). Feldman further argues that the material and the semantic become inseparable as they act upon the body so that any violence upon the body necessitates a new semiological order.

Michael Taussig, "Culture of Terror-Space of Death: Roger Casement's Putumayo Report and the Explanation of Torture," in Colonialism and Culture, ed. Nicholas Dirks (AnnArbor: University of Michigan Press, 1995).

James Holston and Teresa Caldeira, "Democracy, Law, and Violence: Disjunctions of Brazilian Citizenship," in Fault Lines of Democratic Governance in the Americas, ed. Felipe Aguero and Jeffrey Stark (Miami: North-South Center Press, 1998), call for a revised paradigm for describing democracies precisely to identify and distinguish those democracies within which such cultures of terror flourish. They deem that the designa- tion "democratic" needs to encompass more than the electoral system and to take into account the social and cultural conditions within the context of which an allegedly democratic regime operates. They offer the term "disjunctive democracies" to delineate the coexistence of a political democracy with systematic violation of the civil compo- nents of citizenship.

Michel Foucault, Discipline and Punish, trans. Alan Sheridan (New York: Vintage, 1977), 169,184.

To say that the virginity examination as an instrument of state power exhibits the characteristics of the most modem form of power, that of the corrective penality, is not to imply a strict linear trajectory of stages, as Foucault has done with his overly neat demarcations between "mark, sign, trace," or "ceremony, representations, exercise." Instead of asserting the absolute displacement of the old by the new, I suggest that the remnants or traces of the previous modes remain, to varying intensities in different sites but that a transition to fundamentally new techniques has indeed occurred. Therefore, although I argue that state controls of women's bodies constitute a specifically modem, objectifying, individualized form of power, I emphasize that that power does not exclude physical/brutal force, nor does it dispense with the symbolic order.

The standpoint taken by the Human Rights Watch in the cited 1994 report consti- tutes a good example of this view.

For one of the earlier accounts of the use of economic and political violence in the formation of Western nation-states, see Barrington Moore, The Social Origins of Democracy and Dictatorship (Boston: Beacon Press, 1966). Anthony Giddens, in his The Nation-State and Violence, Vol. 2 of A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1987), has emphasized in particular the role of military violence. Among other recent work, see Charles Tilly, "War-Making and State- Making as Organized Crime," in Bringing the State Back In, ed. P. B. Evans, Dietrich Rueschemeyer, and Theda Skocpol (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1985) for an especially trenchant critique.

See Timothy Mitchell, "Everyday Metaphors of Power," Theory and Society 19 (October 1990): 545-77, for an extensive critique of the ways in which the binaries of coercion/persuasion and mind/body permeate analyses of modem methods of domi- nation and how the terms of the two oppositions get mapped on to traditional versus modem forms of power, respectively.

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