Doctoral Project
Salon alla Franca: Spatial performativities of “womanhood” in late Ottoman domestic interiors (ca. 1890–1920)

Doctoral Project
Damla Göre

This research examines the salon as a domestic social space within late Ottoman households. It focuses in particular on how such a body of architecture turned into the medium of challenging gender segregation through a new set of normative ideals denoted as alla Franca in printed media. Alla Franca practices emancipated women from their conventional isolation and seclusion but also re-formulated other essentialist categories of “womanhood” embodied in the domestic sphere. Either way, I argue that the discourse around alla Franca style sociability (implying mixed-gender gatherings, meetings, or visits) centered women both as the subjects and the objects of public display. For the first time in the Ottoman publishing world, women molded the story—as the writers, the readers, and the fictive characters—thereby regulating their gendered identities themselves.

Going beyond any coherent, biological, or binary ground that stabilizes the category of woman, I read the salon as the site where "womanhood" was constructed as an effect of repeated practices leaving spatial imprints. I aim to first portray Ottoman/Turkish women as the social arbiters of power who institute the norms, frameworks, and contents of their gendered identities in their own intimate spheres. Building on this intermediary position, I intend to depict women as actors of Ottoman domestic architecture, if not architects, during a time when they were refused access to professional education.

Image: Süs Magazine, No. 42, 1924, IBB Ataturk Library, public domain