The Case of Children Born out of Wedlock in Turkey: an "Empty" Category?


  • Funda Ustek Spilda Goldsmiths, University of London
  • Oguz Alyanak Washington University in St. Louis



This article examines dominant discourses on motherhood in Turkey in light of a puzzling case, which involves women who bear children out of wedlock. Drawing on ongoing political discussions on the Turkish family structure that are rooted in a specific understanding of Islam and gender, and exploring the legal and practical difficulties surrounding birth registration, marriage, and abortion, we ask what constitutes «legitimate» and «illegitimate» modes of relationship between men and women in Turkey, and show how women who give birth out of wedlock are treated as an «empty category» that does not exist in Turkish society.


Keywords: illegitimate children, motherhood, marriage, abortion, Turkey


Author Biographies

Funda Ustek Spilda, Goldsmiths, University of London

Post-doctoral Researcher, Department of Sociology

Oguz Alyanak, Washington University in St. Louis

PhD Candidate, Department of Anthropology