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Banu Gökarıksel
Associate Professor
Office: Saunders 307
work(919) 843-5835 (phone)
Cultural, feminist political geography; religion, secularism, pluralism; identity and subject formation; bodies and embodiment; Turkey, the Middle East

Adjunct Associate Professor, Women’s Studies, Duke University, Durham.

Joint Appointment in the Curriculum in Global Studies at UNC-CH.

Co-editor of the Journal of Middle East Women's Studies.


In the News

Read my essay on Muslim women's veiling practices and watch a video interview with me:

Listen to an NPR-WUNC The State of Things interview with me:

Read about the ReOrienting the Veil Conference I co-organized and presented at:

Read a Le Monde article that includes an interview with me:

Research Interests

I am a cultural and feminist political geographer interested in the politics and ethics of everyday life. Taking 'everyday' as a critical category, my research has examined religion, secularism, and subject formation, linking the intimate spaces of the body and home to public spaces such as the street, city square, and shopping mall. Through the ethnographic and multi-method fieldwork research I have been conducting in Istanbul since 1996, I have analyzed the formation of Muslim subjects, spaces, and commodities within the Turkish context where Islam, gender, and consumer capitalism are fiercely debated. I am currently in the last phase of a collaborative National Science Foundation funded project with Anna Secor (University of Kentucky)  that examines the production and consumption of veiling-fashion in Turkey. A second collaborative project, funded by the National Geographic Society, assesses the political role of religion in public life in Turkey today. This project focuses on self-identifying devout Sunni Muslims' attitudes and practices with regard to Islam and public space and searches for an answer to the question of how religious and non-religious or differently religious ways of life can coexist in the public sphere. Public space is critical for this study because the question of Islam and pluralism in Turkey is frequently played out through contests over urban space. Yet, not all Turkish cities have similarly constituted public spaces, and the boundary between private and public space remains porous and indeterminate. 

I teach undergraduate courses on geographic and place-based approaches to globalization (‘People and Places’) and to the Middle East (‘Space, Power, and Identity in the Middle East’). My upper-level undergraduate courses and graduate seminar examine ‘Gender and Space in the Middle East,’ transnational and cross-regional Muslim networks (‘Transnational Geographies of Muslim Societies’), the production of subjects and subjectivities in the context of political and economic restructuring (‘Neoliberalism and Subjectivity’), and the genealogies and current research in feminist geography and feminist political theory ('Feminist Geographies" I and II).

My current graduate students are: Nathan Swanson (ABD, The Politics of Home in Israel); Katie Akin (Spirituality, the Body, and the Object: Santo Daime Churches in the United States); Mike Dimpfl (co-chair with Sara Smith); Jim Kuras (the state and media in Turkey); and Darius Scott (race and the youth in NC).

I co-directed "Duke in Turkey" Summer 2012 with Erdağ Göknar (Duke University). This was a six-week program on intensive coursework and a number of field trips. Click here students' blog about their experiences in Turkey and here for their cultural map of Istanbul through the lens of gender.


Current project

The Role of Religion in Public Life in Turkey Today

The political role of religion has emerged as one of the most urgent philosophical and practical questions of our time. Despite the increasing presence of religious voices in politics and public life worldwide, there remains a critical gap in knowledge regarding how attitudes towards these reconfigurations of the role of religion may vary, who drives them, and what implications they may have for pluralism in diverse public spheres. Turkey is a prime context within which to study the new role of religion in public life that marks our current era. A secular, democratic state in which religious lifestyles have been ascendant within the public sphere in the past decade, Turkey has been ruled since 2002 by a political party that has disavowed its roots in Islamist politics but has effectively combined Islamic values with neoliberal economic policies and spurred the transformation of the roles of Islam and secularism in the public sphere. Given Turkey's unique status, many observers have suggested that Turkey could be a model for the new Middle East. But could it? Or is the Turkish model destined to flounder on the problem of how religious and non-religious ways of life can accommodate one another in a pluralistic public sphere? A study of Turkish society has the potential to answer some of the most pressing questions of our times about what the increasing political role of religion might mean for democracy. 


Completed projects


Akmerkez shopping mall in Istanbul

Neoliberal Globalization, Modernity, and Identity

This project has two goals: 1) to examine the relationship between political economy and urban space by studying how policies and practices of neoliberalization and global city formation have produced new urban spaces, 2) to analyze social practices and cultural difference produced in and by these new spaces. This work is mainly based on my dissertation and masters thesis and primarily focuses on the new and distinctly constructed spaces of shopping malls in Istanbul. This project also includes a parallel analysis of the case of Jakarta where I have conducted supplementary fieldwork research. My ethnographic data consists of over one hundred and forty interviews I conducted in these two cities between January 2000 and June 2001 and in Istanbul in 1996, in addition to an archival research of city government publications and web sites.


Veiling fashion show, 2008

The Veiling Fashion Industry -- funded by the National Science Foundation

My research on shopping malls revealed the symbolic exclusion of Islamic dress from this space despite the assertive presence of very fashionably veiled women and the mushrooming veiling-fashion boutiques and department stores across Istanbul. Beginning in the 1990s, a new, increasingly visible and rapidly growing veiling fashion industry has emerged in Turkey (and elsewhere in the ‘Muslim world’). Turkish producers of veiling-fashion have begun to export their products to retail outlets in the Middle East, Europe, and North America. Funded by the National Science Foundation, I am collaborating with Anna Secor (Geography, University of Kentucky) in a research project that investigates the new veiling-fashion industry based in Turkey. We are particularly interested in the intersection of Islamism and capitalism and its geopolitical and cultural implications. This project analyzes a) the scope, history, and geography of the veiling-fashion industry headquartered in Turkey by tracing out the circuits of production, design, sales, and finance that characterize the industry; and b) the implications of the production, sale, and consumption of veiling-fashion for geopolitics, geo-economics, and identity formation in a transnational context.

Sawyer Seminar on Diversity and Conformity in Muslim Societies: Historical Coexistence and Contemporary Struggles -- funded by the Andrew Mellon Foundation (2009-2010) 

Muslim societies throughout history have been notable in their diversity and tolerance; intermittent "reform" projects, most notably modern political movements, and current military conflicts have sought to impose uniformity on top of this diversity. In this Seminar I am collaborating with Sarah Shields (History, UNC) to examine the tension between diversity and conformity in contemporary Muslim societies. We analyze the historical record to gain new insights about the present through an integrated, multidisciplinary exploration of three topics: the impact of decolonization and subsequent rise of nationalist and Salafi movements; movements to promote uniformity in physical spaces and in vocal expression considered sacred to Islam; and the treatment of those perceived to be outside the mainstream of Muslim societies.

Selected Recent Publications

Banu Gökarıksel and Anna Secor, '"You can't know how they are inside": The Ambivalence of Veiling and Discourses of the Other in Turkey," in Peter Hopkins, Lily Kong, and Elizabeth Olson eds. Religion and Place: Landscape, Politics, and Piety. 2013. Springer Press: Dordrecht.

Banu Gökarıksel (2012) “The Intimate Politics of Secularism and the Headscarf: The Mall, the Neighborhood, and the Public Square in Istanbul” Gender, Place, and Culture, 19, 1, 1-20.

Banu Gökarıksel and Anna Secor, (2012) “‘Even I Was Tempted:’ The Moral Ambivalence and Ethical Practice of Veiling-Fashion in Turkey,” Annals of the Association of American Geographers, DOI:10.1080/00045608.2011.601221

Banu Gökarıksel and Ellen McLarney eds. Special Issue: “Muslim Women, Consumer Capitalism and Islamic Culture Industry” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 2010, 6, 3.

Banu Gökarıksel and Ellen McLarney, “Introduction: Muslim Women, Consumer Capitalism and Islamic Culture Industry” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 2010, 6, 3, 1-18. 

Banu Gökarıksel and Anna Secor, “Between Fashion and Tesettür: Marketing and Consuming Women’s Islamic Dress” Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies, 2010, 6, 3, 118-148. 

Banu Gökarıksel and Anna Secor, “Islamic-ness in the Life of a Commodity: Veiling-Fashion in Turkey” Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 2010, 35, 313-333.

"Beyond the officially sacred: religion, secularism, and the body in the production of subjectivity," September 2009, Social and Cultural Geography, 10, 6, 657-674.

Banu Gökarıksel and Anna Secor, "New transnational geographies of Islamism, capitalism and subjectivity: The veiling-fashion industry in Turkey", 2009, Area, 41, 1, 6-18.

"Feminist Geography of Veiling: Gender, Class and Religion in the Making of Modern Spaces and Subjects in Istanbul", in Karen Morin and Jeanne Kay Guelke eds Women, Religion, and Space, 2007, pp. 61-80. Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press.

Banu Gökarıksel and Katharyne Mitchell, "Veiling, Secularism and the Neoliberal Subject: National Narratives and Supranational Desires in Turkey and France", Global Networks, 2005, 5, 2, 147-165.




Feminist Geographies: Aesthetics, Ethics, and Politics (Graduate Seminar, Spring 2013)
Feminist Geographies: Bodies and Power (Graduate Seminar, Fall 2011)
Transnational Muslims (Spring 2011, Spring 2012)
Sawyer Seminar: Diversity and Conformity in Muslim Societies (Fall 2009-Spring 2010)
Neoliberalism and Subjectivity (Graduate Seminar, Spring 2009)
Global Studies Honors Seminar (Fall 2008-Spring 2009)
Gender in the Middle East (Spring 2005, Fall 2006, Fall 2007, Fall 2010, Fall 2011)
Space, Power and Identity in the Middle East (First Year Seminar, Fall 2006, Fall 2010, Spring 2013)
Global Issues (Fall 2007)
Social Geography (Fall 2004, Fall 2005)
People and Places (Spring 2004, Fall 2004, Fall 2007, Fall 2009, Spring 2011, Spring 2012, Fall 2012)
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