An investigation of how the expansion of modern medicine in Turkey transformed young boys’ experiences of circumcision.
In Turkey, circumcision is viewed as both a religious obligation and a rite of passage for young boys, as communities celebrate the ritual through gatherings, gifts, and special outfits. Yet the procedure is a potentially painful and traumatic ordeal. With the expansion of modern medicine, the social position of sünnetçi (male circumcisers) became subject to the institutional arrangements of Turkey’s evolving health care and welfare system. In the transition from traditional itinerant circumcisers to low-ranking health officers in the 1960s and hospital doctors in the 1990s, the medicalization of male circumcision has become entangled with state formation, market fetishism, and class inequalities.
Based on Oyman Başaran’s extensive ethnographic and historical research, Circumcision and Medicine in Modern Turkey is a close examination of the socioreligious practice of circumcision in twenty-five cities and their outlying towns and villages in Turkey. By analyzing the changing subjectivity of medical actors who seek to alleviate suffering in male circumcision, Başaran offers a psychoanalytically informed alternate approach to the standard sociological arguments surrounding medicalization and male circumcision.
Circumcision and Medicine in Modern Turkey is a rich ethnography that moves beyond the conventional geographical scope of the sociology and anthropology of Turkey. Oyman Başaran skillfully crafts a historical narrative around the 'ideal' types of itinerate and scientific circumcisers, then deconstructs these ideal types by showing how practitioners in each camp deal with different kinds of ambivalences structuring their occupational identities, social roles, and self-representations as they mimic the other. Additionally, his focus on masculinity and the medicalization of the male body brings a fresh perspective to gender and medicalization debates.
— Salih Can Açiksöz, author of Sacrificial Limbs: Masculinity, Disability, and Political Violence in Turkey
- Introduction: Sünnetçi, Pain, and Medicine
- 1. Itinerant Circumcisers
- 2. Fenni Sünnetçi
- 3. Mass Circumcision
- 4. Fear of Circumcison
- 5. “Deceitful Child” and “Bad Parents”
- Conclusion: The Ethics and Politics of Male Circumcision
- Appendix: Research Methodology