The Body and Creation of a National Identity

While invoking the conception of a country, Delany argues the religious expression of the male and female role in reproduction. She argues, “Villagers used to cite the Qur’an in order to legitimate their view. In Sura 2:223 it is stated, [“Women are given to you as fields; Go therein and sow (your seed) as you wish,”)(183). Since the country is predominantly Muslim, it stands to reason that this perception of the female role in reproduction would be widely comprehensible to the general population of Turks. This is corroborated by Delany’s assertion that villagers would use this quote as evidence, which suggests that this belief was common among the general population. Delaney asserts the importance of the beliefs of common people to the formation of a Turkish identity, stating, “[They] encouraged the modernizing, nationalistically inclined intellectuals to turn to the “common people” and to folklore for inspiration. It was in folklore-tales, proverbs, and especially folk poetry, often communicated by traveling minstrels-that the sentiments and values of the Turkish people could be found,”(Delaney 181).   Thus by examining the beliefs and culture of the common people, one could attain a knowledge of the Turkish people as a whole. The cultural practices of the common people would be used as a unifying agent as these beliefs would form the bedrock of a national Turkish identity. Thus, when villagers discuss a Koranic belief system of the female role in reproduction, it is likely a good metric for the Turkish belief. Within this religious context, females play a passive role in the creation of new life. Women simply provide the nutrients necessary for it to flourish, which downplays their agency in reproduction, while creating a literal connection between femininity and land. When invoking the imagery of birth when considering the creation of a new nation, the land obtains feminine characteristics.

The role of ones duty to a body can be examined within the context of Hamdy’s discussion of Ali’s struggle with organ transplantation. Ali argued that, “God alone owns everything, including human bodies and their parts. Who are we, then, to give something away that we do not own?”(148, Hamdy). Here both the body and land are things belonging to God. It is immoral to give something away that belongs to God, so the relinquishment of both land and body cannot be justified through this world view. Furthermore, one has an obligation to uphold God’s property. Ali’s doctor argues, “God had given people their bodies as a trust (amana) and that he was therefore responsible to take care of it,”(151, Hamdy). The body never truly belongs to the host, as it is simply on loan from God. Therefore a person is morally obligated, under this school of thought, to maintain the body to the best of their ability because it is God’s property rather than their own. Extending this logic to the Turks, they would have a similar obligation to act in a way which best maintains the female body which functions as the metaphorical mother of Turkey.

Mustafa Kemal appeals to the feminine imagery following the dismantling of the Ottoman Empire. According to Delaney, “[Kemal] made a whirlwind tour of the country and rallied the people to resist the partition and claim the country as their own. The appeal was made to their sense of honor; they must come to the defense of the Motherland that, he claimed, had been prostituted under the capitulations and was about to be mutilated by the partition,”(186). With the land functioning as a female body, the breaking up of the empire is akin to the mutilation of that body. It is therefore their duty to protect their motherland from European control as it would their duty to defend their mother or spouse from the sexual advances of an unwanted man. Therefore this parallel between femininity and land, originating from Muslim doctrine, functions as a powerful rallying tool for males interested in defending their land and creating a new country of their own. The male role in the conception of a new county within this framework is one of agency. Delaney asserts, “The paternal role has been conceptualized as the generative, creative role; the father is the one who bestows life as well as essential identity via the soul; thus he is the means for the divine entering into human society,”(184). Within this particular perception of reproduction, the father is responsible for the creation of a new being. Thus the creation of a new country within this framework is inherently male. Just as the land plays the role of the maternal, the essential identity of the fetus, or national identity of the country, takes on a paternal one.


Reproduction and Cosmology

Reproduction and Cosmology

When thinking about reproduction and the laws and technology that surround it, one must understand the cultural and historical contexts that bring forth these ideas and allow them to be maintained.

Geertz’ “Thick Description” chapter elaborates just how these ideas are born and are distributed amongst cultures. These ideas then have the power to influence future decisions as future ideals and laws are introduced. The author opens up the reading by elaborating on Langer’s theory on the introduction of new ideas into society, how “they burst with tremendous force” and become so popular that they “crowd out almost everything else” (Geertz 1973, 3). This new idea then becomes integrated and accepted as general intellectual knowledge used to explain all aspects of human life. Geertz argues that this idea is applicable to anthropology and the goal to define culture. Instead of taking the ideas about culture that are introduced and declaring them as truth, he explains that the analysis of culture should be “an interpretive one in search of meaning” which is what he attempts to do in these writings (Geertz 1973, 5). Geertz describes culture as webs of significance that man has created himself and suspended himself. This meaning that man creates his own culture by whatever he deems important. He supports his argument about the interpretation of culture by using the study of ethnography and Gilbert Ryle’s notion of “thick description” which explains cultural behavior in context, such that it becomes meaningful and may have different meanings to those integrated in the culture and those outside of it. More importantly, arguing the necessity of using analysis in ethnographic research in order to understand where ideas in different cultures hold their basis and understand their importance. These ideas on cultural analysis are extremely relevant to this course as we continue to read and question where foundational ideas on religion and biotechnology within cultures hold social value and why they exist.

On the first day of class we discussed that in most cases, religion is synonymous with culture.  When reading the next articles, it is important to recall the notion of “thick description” which allows the reader to try to put the actions of an individual or group in the context of their own culture, or in this case, their religion. Hamdy’s article questions if the narrative of religious fatalism, which is the “notion that humans exert little or no control over their own destinies”, prevents people from pursuing biotechnological intervention (Hamdy 2013, 146). This question was placed within the circumstance of organ transplantation for those of Islamic faith. Despite almost all religious leaders declaring that organ donation is “halal”, or permissible, many Muslims face an internal struggle about the ethicalness of transplantation. There are several beliefs in faith that may influence the decision to pursue intervention such as: “the body belongs to God. It belongs to no one else to give away, and it is not for me to take” or the idea that the sickness was God’s will and who are we to try to intervene (Hamdy 2013, 143).

While some physicians may label these patients as “fatalists” or “backward”, the author argues that religion is not the only reason why patients decline organ transplantation. Instead, she says that people’s interpretations and understandings of religion and biomedical efficacy are both taken into account when calculating cost-benefit analysis for medical interventions, such as organ transplantations. They use religious logic, such as the idea that the body is owned by God, in order to help them make decisions that hold both social and medical risks. Because in the eyes of the law, brain death does not equal death, organ donors are still considered alive. As a result, the patient in need of an organ must find their own means of acquiring an organ, either through a family or through the black market. However, many patients do not have the monetary, medical, or ethical means to go about having organ transplantation. The author provides an example of a patient, Ali, who has all of these means yet refuses to get a transplant based on religious morals, specifically that it was God’s plan to test him with this disease. Ali explains that his initial misgivings came from being personally responsible to find his own donor, in this case, his wife, and worry about their pain and health in order to benefit his own – as a result, he turned to God to help him find the strength. Once it was discovered that his wife was not a match, Ali turned back to his faith in God’s will to give him the strength to be on dialysis for the rest of his life. Hamdy uses this example to demonstrate the people embody different ideas on the will of God based on circumstance in order to establish contentment with how much of their lives they feel they control and what they feel they should control. This leads me to believe that the interpretation of God’s will could also be formulated by the idea that it could be God’s will to seek treatment or seek a physician, who could be the tool that God uses to provide health. But all these chosen interpretations can lead to the question of who are we to judge what is or isn’t God’s will? This is why I think Hamdy makes a strong argument that all we can do as humans is interpret it and by having an appreciation of how people choose to embody religion and interpret divine will, we can better understand the ethical formations or decisions that people make.

In “Father, State, Motherhood, and the Birth of Modern Turkey”, Delaney highlights the influence that history and kinship ideas have on the idea of nationalism and therefore have influences on the culture.  The author argues that nationalism is built upon the symbolism of father state and motherland, and as a result, because the nation-state is gendered, then gender inequality is inherently present.  After WWI, the Ottoman Empire’s territory was going to be distributed amongst the British, French, Italians, and Greeks. Mustafa called upon the people to come to the defense of the Motherland who “had been prostituted under the capitulations and was about to be mutilated by the partition” (Delaney 1995, 186). He called upon their sense of honor to protect their mother against those who threatened her. There was an Ottoman Empire and an Ottoman State but never an Ottoman Nation, so Mustafa took the term Turk and used the ideas of father state and motherland to create a new national identity. Women are imagined as soil or earth that needs to be fertilized by the seed of man in order to have growth. As a result, Mustafa took on the name of Ataturk, or “father of Turks”, and became the generative life force that created the new modern western-type nation-state. This transformation had gendered influences on the understanding of who could be considered a citizen. A child of either a Turkish father or mother is a Turk, but only a child of a Turkish father can be a citizen. The conception of the Turkish nation-state was created under gendered themes and has influenced laws and ideas of citizenship. As a result, this leads me to believe that gendered themes, even those based loosely in the notion of nationality, can have the ability to influence national thinking when pertaining to future laws or beliefs on biomedical technology.




Kinship Arguments and Muslim Debates on Alternative Reproductive Techniques


As the articles and our discussion in class have shown, it can be difficult to define any relationship among kin as the definition of a particular relationship varies greatly across economic, cultural, and geographic barriers.

The critique by Susan McKinnon argued against evolutionary psychology’s limited view of kinship relationships, which emphasizes that relationships are “digital”, meaning that an individual either is or isn’t related to another individual in that way. Using an anthropological approach, McKinnon suggests that relationships are not simply formed on the basis of genetic closeness, natural selection, sexual selection, and the environment of evolutionary adaptation but may also be forged simply because humans desire to form new relationships. The most prominent example used in this essay was that of stepparrental relationships and adopted children. Evolutionary psychologists would argue that stepparents that indiscriminately treat their biological and stepchildren would be an “evolutionary anomaly”, and they present the high rates of violence between stepfathers and stepchildren as evidence to support this point. However, McKinnon is quick to point out that many parents are eager to adopt, even when they may already have biological children. She ends her argument by asking why then should adopted and stepparrental relationships should be different for evolutionary psychologists since they are both considered nongenetic or affinal kin. This is a powerful counterargument that should be considered; while evolutionary psychology barely scratches the surface of the broad study of kinship, instead focusing on how relationships form from a biological standpoint, evolutionary psychologists tend to be reductionistic in how they attribute the foundation of all relationships to genetics. For this reason, modern counselors, therapists, and family psychologists all use evolutionary theory as only one perspective to take when viewing kinship and relationship development, alongside social ecological models, social exchange theory, and attachment theory.

The article by Shapiro explicitly opposed McKinnon’s article and its attempts to “deconstruct” evolutionary psychology. He states that most of McKinnon’s arguments pertain to kin terminology differences across cultures rather than kinship, and he appeals this notably while countering the idea of a “multiplicity of mothers” described in McKinnon’s piece. By offering small ethnographic examples, he contends that while the common man has a mother, a mother-in-law, godmother, and even a mother country, not all of these mothers have equal significance as being “motherly”. Shapiro becomes even more adversarial when discussing McKinnon’s ignorance of focality theory and how this error causes a scholar to misrepresent the traditional family. While McKinnon was primarily writing to show flaws in evolutionary psychology and Shapiro opposes McKinnon’s views, he is not clearly in support of the views of evolutionary psychology as he acknowledges its shortcomings. Both of these articles present important commentary and insight into the issue of kinship from multiple perspectives. Personally, I found McKinnon’s accusations of evolutionary psychology to be misplaced and overly adversarial in some areas although I agree the field can be reductionistic in its view. Evolutionary psychology aims to describe how human origins and our biology impacts how we form relationships, not define different types of kin relationships or explore the study of kinship. Shapiro’s view is apt in that it clearly points out this issue.

In class, we discussed that in nearly every society, one of the most basic reasons for a spousal relationship to exist is to reproduce, often both biologically to carry on one’s genes and socially to pass on property and resources. Marcia Inhorn, using her experiences in Lebabon and understanding of Muslim practices, explains that many Islamic religious texts, including the Qur’an prohibit formal adoption and gamete donation as alternative methods to conceive for families for whom IVF has failed repeatedly. Muslims believe that every child should have a mother and father that are clearly defined, without mismatch between social, legal, and biological definitions. Consanguineal children, to whom parents have a tie through nasab (blood relations), are considered a gift from God, so preserving nasab is imperative to Muslims. As such, there seems to be a clear emphasis in their culture on the biological aspect of a parent-child relationship. The idea of being a traditional child is so embedded in Muslim culture that in studies conducted in Egypt and Lebabon, childless men could not accept the idea of social fatherhood and stated that adopted or donor children wouldn’t be their children. As a result, many couples are willing to remain childless to avoid social stigma and apostasy, yet a small proportion of couples exists that would be willing to break religious traditions to satisfy their desire to have children. This may be a very difficult position for many couples, and the decision they ultimately take likely has multiple determinants including moral values prevalent at the time and in the surrounding area, liberal or conservative opinions, and what role religion plays in their lives.

Morgan Clarke’s paper clarifies and restates many of Inhorn’s points including that certain assisted reproductive technologies, such as in vitro fertilization, have been accepted in Muslim societies with certain religious stipulations. The most important of these limits is that any such technology should have a medical reason, usually infertility, and should only involve a husband and wife couple to maintain sexual propriety. Although surrogacy and donation of sperm or an egg is generally forbidden, some Shi’a authorities allow these techniques, particularly for polygamous men when the egg is donated from one of the wives of a husband. Interestingly, breastfeeding confers kinship on a child in Muslim cultures, and it prevents the nursing child from marrying his or her “milk siblings” and the nursing woman. This leads me to ask a question: Since formal adoption is not traditionally allowed, how common it is for women who want children to raise a child and breastfeed them so that they can be considered a member of the family? This seems like a convenient method to bypass any explicit rules against adoption.