Claudia Liebelt, “Istanbul Appearances: Beauty and the Making of Middle-Class Femininities in Urban Turkey” (Syracuse UP, 2023)

In the past two decades, the consumption of beauty services and cosmetic surgery in Turkey has developed from an elite phenomenon to an increasingly common practice, especially among younger and middle-aged women. Turkey now ranks among the top countries worldwide with the highest number of cosmetic procedures, and with its cultural and economic capital, Istanbul has become a regional center for the beauty and fashion industries. Istanbul Appearances: Beauty and the Making of Middle-Class Femininities in Urban Turkey (Syracuse University Press, 2023) shows the profound effects of this growing market on urban residents’ body images, gendered norms, and practices. Drawing upon extensive fieldwork carried out in beauty salons and clinics in different parts of the city, Liebelt explores how standards of femininity and female desire have shifted since the consolidation of power and authoritarian rule of the conservative, pro-Islamic Justice and Development Party. 

Arguing that the politics of beauty are intricately bound up with the politics of race, class, gender, and sexuality, Liebelt shows that female bodies have become a major site for the negotiation of citizenship. It is in the numerous beauty salons and clinics that the heteronormative ideals and images of gendered bodies become real, embodied in a complex array of emotional desires of who and what is considered not only beautiful but also morally proper.

Claudia Liebelt is professor in social and cultural anthropology at the Free University of Berlin. She is the author of Caring for the ‘Holy Land’: Filipina Domestic Workers in Israel.

Armanc Yildiz is a doctoral candidate in Social Anthropology with a secondary field in Studies in Women, Gender and Sexuality at Harvard University. He is also the founder of Academics Write, where he supports scholars in their writing projects as a writing coach and developmental editor.

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