Constructing Modernity from Its Borders:Muslim Minority Women's Encounter with Education and Assisted Reproductive Technology in Modern Greece
This article explores conceptions of modernity as both gendered and culturally mediated formations in the longstanding minority of Thrace in Northern Greece, examining how women in this community treat mobility, education, and the use of assisted reproductive technologies. In engaging these subjects both discursively and practically, this "minority within the minority" simultaneously embraces and undermines dominant understandings of modernity that code it as ethnoculturally Greek and as antithetical to traditional femininity. Through speaking and learning in Greek, as well as discursively exposing new ideas around gender and reproduction, these Muslim women first enter into a nationalized vision of modernity, whose incorporation of these once excluded subjects demands its own modification, and second impose their own distinct vision of modernity. Their minority status allows them to pursue a productive mobility, literally and symbolically, between Greece and Turkey, while their complex identities forge at moments a distinctive motile praxis of Muslim modernity-making.
Introduction: Producing identities, producing modernities
Minorities indigenize and create their own cultural configurations of modernity within the world cultural order. These understandings of the modern, especially when elaborated by those at the margins of European nationstates, involve mobility processes that bring ideas of Europe and the West into minority spaces. Mobility is a polyvalent concept providing a useful [End Page 165] framework for studying much more than just global migrations; it effects a certain kind of unification of differentiated forms of movement by creating a continuum, uniting symbolic and physical movement under the same conceptual rubric. In addition, mobility emphasizes the possibility of traversing the space between polar extremes, thus challenging existing binaries dividing movement from stability, locally limited practices from transnationalism, rootedness from cosmopolitanism, and tradition from modernity (Urry 2007; Salazar 2010; Cresswell and Merriman 2011; Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013). In place of these binaries, adopting mobility as our standpoint for studying concepts of modernity demands of us that we understand each pole as fluid—as an origin, a destination or a midpoint on a journey rather than as an isolated experience. In this article, we treat mobility not as a singular process but rather as embodied in multiple "regimes of mobility"—that is, in hegemonic mechanisms, subjects' practices, and social rules that normalize particular possibilities, tropes, and conceptualizations of mobility (Glick Schiller and Salazar 2013, 189) that are connected to modernity. Through their geographical and sociocultural mobilities, minorities within the West are perfectly positioned to pioneer intercultural syntheses conducive to adopting universalist claims, while necessarily shearing them of some of their longstanding exclusions. Instead of following particular national-cultural agendas and traditions that promote their own reified views of modernity, minorities retain their autonomy and specificity and build up their own culturally oriented programs of development (Sahlins 2005, 44–48, 51). "This is not so much a culture of resistance as the resistance of culture," says Marshall Sahlins, highlighting the cultural aspect of this indigenization process (Sahlins 2005, 52). This article will stress the unfolding of a conception of modernity imagined and articulated from our perspective on a minority as a motile process that forges new identities rather than merely iterating existing cultures. In today's Greece, where we witness a totalizing fascination with "resistance,"1 this term constitutes a good optic through which to view the lived elaboration of minority-modernities in the encounter with dominant Greek (and Turkish) understandings of modernity. The ethnoreligious minority in Thrace, near the Turkish border in Northern Greece, embodies both Eastern and Western influences and thus describes an ideal arena for the development of such fluid, alternative, and dissident visions of modernity. We aim to document the distinct understanding of modernity, and especially modern subjectivity, involved in minority women's engagement with education and assisted reproductive technologies, where they negotiate minority/majority borders and contest the hegemonic gendered order of the minority. [End Page 166]
The minority of Thrace is not internally homogenous (Plexousaki 2006; Demetriou 2013) but rather includes a range of ethnic, linguistic, and cultural groups consisting of people of Turkish, Pomak, and Roma descent. The minority was brought into existence in 1923 as the result of exemptions in the Lausanne Peace Treaty, which demanded an exchange of religious—as opposed to ethnic—populations between Turkey and Greece. In the 1990s, the Greek Ministry of Foreign Affairs estimated that 98,000 people made up the minority (Ministry of Foreign Affairs—Information Service 1999), while more recent estimates suggest its number sits anywhere between 80,000 and 130,000 people (Askouni 2006). The region is economically deprived,2 and minority men and women share a low educational level; men are often employed as farmers and construction workers, and women do unpaid domestic work and farm work (Troubeta 2001; Askouni 2006). Most members of the minority, situated in the geographical and symbolic hinterland between Greece and Turkey, adopt a Turkish ethnic identity,3 which has been a matter of constant tension between the two countries since the 1960s (Iliadis 2015, 103), and also serves to underplay the religious element of their identity (Dragonas 2004). Moreover, they maintain transnational connections with Turkey through technologies of communication, media and transportation (Demetriou 2013), and in studying and working, they move frequently between Thrace, Turkey, and Greek urban centers outside Thrace.
Greece has never achieved complete secularization (Demertzis 2002; Halikiopoulou 2011). Majority Greek Orthodox Christians define minority people in Thrace in religious terms—as the "Muslim minority" or "Greeks, Muslim by religion"—and stress the minority's ethnic heterogeneity (Askouni 2006, 33–34; Demetriou 2013, 14). Moreover, because of its religious orientation, they characterize the minority as traditional, stagnated, obsolete, and distanced from the secular, European West, as well as from Greece's modernity project. Turkey, for its part, defines the minority in ethnonational rather than religious terms (the "Turkish minority") and emphasizes its homoethnic character. The making of modern Turkey in the beginning of the twentieth century involved both a defiance of its Ottoman past, positioning the Empire as a traditional political order with a Muslim social ethos, and the imposition of Western secular reasoning and scientific rationality into "backward" and Muslim social relations (Bozdogan and Kasaba 1997; Kushner 1997; Kandiyoti and Saktanber 2002). Until the 1990s, the Turkish state introduced top-down mechanisms of regulating Islamic religious communities in order to create a secular national identity. Hence, the ethnicization of minority identities was seen as a modern practice that was part of Turkey's secularization program. [End Page 167] However, after the 1990s, Turkish secularism was challenged as Muslim identity claims became more politicized and dynamic (Keyman 2007, 223). Today, Ιslamic revivalism in Turkey is stronger than ever, affecting education, the civil service, security forces, and the army. The Turkish project of modernity involves at present an extensive marginalization of ethnic and minority identifications.4 How these recent changes have affected the minority in Greece is still not clear. Greek Muslims' secular Turkish identities stand, however, as the outcome of a political negotiation of their peripheral status within both the Greek and the Turkish nation-states,5 and ultimately lie between these contradictory definitions of their identities.
Education and reproductive control are productive sites for analyzing the (re)gendering6 of modernity because they exist in a somewhat surprising tension. As has been well documented, minorities have often empowered themselves by using education to develop a privileged relationship to secular modernity and its symbols, including gaining access to technology and science (Bloch 2005; Yi 2007; Dimova 2006). Education thus stands in for modernity—as its symbol and as the chief mechanism for its achievement. The gendered implications of that signification are well known: wherever schooling becomes a sign of modernity counterposed to tradition, it is understood as a route to freedom and/or piousness that implies women's gender liberation (Hollos 1991; Renne 2003; Johnson-Hanks 2006; Hegland 2009), and their increased control over reproduction, which leads to reduced fertility rates (Joshi 2002; Kanaaneh 2002). In Indonesia, Argentina, Pakistan, Cameroon, and elsewhere, minority women have claimed a crucial role in educational institutions in order to place themselves inside secular or religious modernities, whether in Islam or strictly Orthodox Judaism (Brenner 1996; Jacobson 2006; Jamal 2009; Van Santen 2010). If the education of autonomous subjects is taken to be constitutive of modernity, then wherever it reaches women, education has a tendency to alter established gender roles; education thus constitutes an exemplary case in our argument. Here the incorporation of women into modernity demands the reformulation, indeed the feminization, of modernity itself—and not simply an expansion in the ambit of a concept of modernity whose core remains unchanged.
The politics of reproductive control complicates such teleological narratives of minority women's empowerment through education, however. With remarkable frequency, assisted reproductive technology is linked to systems of ethnic hierarchy that support the domination of specific ethnic groups within nation-states (Nhsiah-Jefferson and Hall 1989; Ginsburg and Rapp 1995). Minorities, in particular, face disproportionate challenges when [End Page 168] dealing with fertility issues themselves (Jain and Hornstein 2005; Inhorn and Fakih 2006) or when attempting to overcome socioeconomic obstacles connected to those issues (Quiroga 2007; Inhorn, Ceballo, and Nachtigall 2009). Additionally, minorities are largely ignored in regard to state policies, as well as to scientific endeavors concerning assisted reproduction (Inhorn and Fakih 2006; Quiroga 2007; Inhorn, Ceballo, and Nachtigall 2009). Assisted reproduction is treated in the abovementioned contexts as a cornerstone of a modernity whose protagonists are women—notwithstanding frequently male medical professionals—often imagined only as members of the dominant ethnic group within a given state. A tension thus emerges between the universal visibility of education as a vehicle for a minority's acculturation processes and the invisibility of assisted reproductive technologies as a minority tool to achieve modernity agendas. In this article, we treat minority women's involvement with Greek education and assisted reproductive technology as cases in which subjects' mobility resolves this tension. We engage education as an area of indigenization of the Greek language and Greek culture, whose properties are read by minority women as including enhanced control of reproduction alongside more general claims about female autonomy. These women thus undermine their own exclusion from modernity. We then see how in the case of discourses around reproduction the particular modernity they craft involves not merely a mimicry of so-called Greekness but rather something particular to the complex cultural matrix they produce for themselves as subjects at the intersection of national and religious formations. Engaged in open discussions about reproduction, educated women become active agents in the construction of the modern, transforming the social space lying between the minority and the majority and formulating a conception of their own subjectivity that entails mobility and thereby transcends the norms of both of these spaces. The first section of this article documents the dissident embrace of a Greek vision of modernity through minority women's education; the second section then shows how that embrace is complicated by the advancing of a particular vision surrounding reproduction and motherhood that propagates a Greek and a distinctly Muslim (and occasionally Turkish) modernity.
This article draws on ethnographic material from our research on Muslim women in Xanthi and its surrounding area, conducted in two different stages: in 1998–19997 and in 2013.8 It thus captures a moment at the end of the twentieth century when minority Greek women initiated dynamic renegotiations of established gender boundaries and traditional conceptions of minority identities.9 They launched that challenge by gradually and partially [End Page 169] overturning established norms around children's and women's education10 and assisted reproduction. By the early years of the twenty-first century, women had already traversed those cultural borders in significant numbers. Their reimagining of the self emerged through their mobility between different parts of Greece, as well as between Greece, Turkey, and (more rarely) Germany. This reimagining involved the construction of a contrast between external modernity and indigenous tradition/backwardness, according to which the encounter between the minority of Thrace and the Greek majority was indexed to an imagined temporality (that is, the past was perceived as a frozen place where the minority, with its traditions and supposed backwardness, was located)11 The encounters studied here are notable for evidencing both the adoption of that temporality by minority women and the empowered practice of their laying claim to the modern in Greekness, while salvaging aspects of minority identity as productively modern, too, thereby reshaping visions of both the minority and modernity in the process. In our research, minority women identified themselves as Greek citizens but kept a clear distance from the majority of nonminority Greeks who were described as "Greeks," "you," or "them." We heard constant references to "our society," "our circle," "our world," "ours," and the "minority," and ethnic self-descriptions like "I am Turkish" were common. We follow our informants here in using "Greece," "Turkey," and "the minority" to mark ethnographic contexts for investigating women's modernity-making and their agency in transforming both ethnically based cultural rationalities and local hierarchies of power.
Going out there: Mobility regimes, Muslim women, and education
In Thrace, the minority creates its own regime of mobility that foregrounds particular conceptions of Europe, Turkey, and Greek urban centers outside Thrace. Our fieldwork from the 1990s offered a picture in which minority officials perceived mobility (of any kind) to Turkey as part of the minority's norm, while travels and settlement inside Greece but outside Thrace were considered a social anomaly.12 People who moved outside the geographic borders of the minority in Greece were treated with suspicion and described as moving not of their own choice, but rather because of false promises for a better life issued by Greece as a coherent and alien Other. Turkey, on the contrary, was constructed as a stronger older sibling, a place where minority people could find help when they needed it (see also Akgönül 1999, 250–257). Finally, Europe was depicted in positive terms as a symbol of democracy and an unbiased judge of the many injustices perpetrated by Greece upon the minority. [End Page 170]
Immobility in the minority—and this is a point stressed both by minority officials and by women themselves—was achieved through endogamy. For women, much more than for men given the prevalence of virilocality, intermarrying with Greeks was to move into another geographical and social environment, a practice severely criticized by most members of the minority as irregular. Even to marry outside the mahalle was considered "irregular" (Demetriou 2013, 178). In the 1990s, the phenomenon of village women marrying town men was noticeably rarer than that of village men marrying town women. For women to move from a village into town often entailed downward social mobility or in some cases indicated a "modern" preference for neolocal residence (Demetriou 2013, 171–172). Conversely, the process of going out there, beyond the immediate abode of family protection and control in order to work, was an important moment of intense mobility for village women. In the 1990s, Muslim women's performance of motherhood, part of a wider moral economy of gender and kinship, increasingly came to incorporate and require waged labor. This practice—once deemed antithetical to their gender roles as shown by ethnographic evidence regarding both Greek orthodox Christian and Muslim women (Dubisch 1986; Tsibiridou 2000; Papataxiarchis, Topali, and Athanasopoulou 2008; Zografaki and Askouni 2013; Bouratzi 2015)—is now a necessary supplement to the household economy. "I try hard to educate my children. Day and night, I am in the streets, from dawn," explained X., a 35-year-old factory worker, married with two children aged 8 and 13 years, pinpointing a reality in which working outside kinship networks becomes not an aberration but a moral duty in order to support one's children financially, while still retaining significations of extreme exposure and probably danger ("in the streets").
Alongside marriage and motherhood, minority women's conceptions of education have come to play a central role in restructuring the minority's regime of mobility. Receiving a Greek-language and, secondarily, a bilingual education is often closely related to mobility in Thrace.13 From the 1950s onward, the provision of minority education in Thrace became contested terrain between Greece and Turkey, preserved deliberately through Greek state policies to manipulate Greek-Turkish relations (Askouni 2006, 86–90; Frangoudaki 2011; Demetriou 2013, 135). The Greek state gradually established bilingual Greek-Turkish schools as part of its obligation to protect minority rights under the terms of the Lausanne Treaty. In the 1970s, the practice among Muslims of Thrace of returning to village life after years of internal economic migration within Greece was believed by minority women to offer them a chance to learn the Koran and the Turkish language. For these women, it was seen as an opportunity to acquire [End Page 171] a religious education and foster strong local and kinship ties—all integral elements in the performance of traditional femininity. Statistics on educational choices and achievement bear witness to this process; research conducted at the end of the 1990s suggested a staggeringly high 90% of Muslim children attended minority elementary schools, and their entry into compulsory public secondary education brought high dropout rates (in 2000, 80% of females and 54% of males dropped out of high school; Askouni 2006, 278). Few resorted to high schools and universities in Turkey. The effect was that for decades minority primary schools attained a dominant position as symbols and enforcers of ethnoreligious difference between majority and minority Greeks.
The pattern that interests us here is the undermining of this general trend toward segregation during and since the last decade of the twentieth century. In this period, increasing numbers of minority people made a turn toward Greek education, embracing Greek-language kindergartens, high schools, and universities.14 Going to a Greek school still meant going out there, beyond the minority's norms and control. To leave Thrace in order to receive a Greek-language education was seen by most within the minority as openly challenging the minority's customs, local ties, and norms of kinship (Madianou 2005). However, some minority women sent their children to Greek kindergartens, while expressly dismissing the idea that the minority's identity was in danger: "I didn't forget our own ways when I went to school in Germany, will he forget them here?" retorted P., a 26-year-old woman, who had recently returned from Germany to be married in Thrace, and who sent her first child to a Greek-speaking kindergarten. Such women capitalized on their own outside experiences in Greece, the West, and (other) European countries, embracing the act of going out there—beyond the domestic space, the village, and the minority—as a progressive movement, related to the acquisition of knowledge and education. In addition to a defensive insistence that cultural particularity need not be sacrificed to education, our fieldwork suggested that these women represented going out there assertively as an opportunity to escape the patrilineal extended domestic unit, gendered responsibilities, and agricultural work. Moreover, notably, they articulated their mobility into modernity not as an abrogation of gender roles but rather as their fulfillment of those roles; properly performing motherhood meant effectively managing children's education,15 helping them with their homework instead of exchanging visits with other minority women, and removing the control over children exercised by older family members—all goals that were achievable through migration. T., a 23-year-old unemployed woman, married with two children aged 3 and 5 years, stated: [End Page 172]
I have too much work. I have children. I tell my husband that leaving for Germany will be good. . . . With the sheep outside men come home dirty, and the food! Every day they will eat, every lunch-time, every morning: the children, you understand. . . . There you come and go from the factory, and if your children are young, there are nurseries. Here I have my father-in-law, it is very difficult, we cannot understand each other, what he wants and what not, he is very weird. My husband is different: he eats what you give him.
By moving outside, women of this "minority within the minority"16 inaugurated a relocalization of educational practices. At the same time, both their participation in the workplace and their newly dissident control over their children's education brought them into the public sphere and established new gender norms founded on the legitimacy of women's autonomous decision-making. During her visit at a neighbor's house, M., a woman in her mid-twenties, unemployed and married with a 7–year-old child, told us in Greek in front of her hosts (a young bride, her newborn baby, and her mother-in-law):
Here they would not send the children to kindergarten. I was the first to send my child and, of course, they criticized me, they came and asked: "why did you send the child to kindergarten?" implying that she would be the only one in there called Jemile and that it might cause her problems because others would think of her as different. But I know what to tell my child and how to prepare her. . . . I thought about it and went to her teacher and told her I want my child to learn Greek. . . . Νow, even those critics see her and say you did well, because they see how much she moved on.
Other women planned to combine minority schools for their children's early years of primary education with Greek-speaking schools for the last years of primary education. For them, past was a capacious linguistic signifier connoting a lack of educational opportunities, while present and future meant women's mobility and freedom to make educational decisions for their children. All women who used Greek-speaking kindergartens17 and schools for their children considered this practice synonymous with "development," an expression of individual agency characteristic of the move toward modernity18 that transformed them into transgressors of the limitations of the minority's cultural norms and the minority's skepticism about any form of symbolic or literal mobility into the outside world. Women were for the first time collectively in a position of choice vis-à-vis minority norms. Hence, in the 1990s, to go to school or to send one's children to a Greek-speaking school gradually became a statement of a woman's self-definition and her unmediated autonomous will beyond the control of the minority community (Plexousaki 2008). As one female interlocutor from this period said, "I want to go to school [End Page 173] [abroad], to do what I want." The informant mentioned above, M., said of her daughter:
I told her, "Try to do your best; it's for your own good, not mine. You see now that your dad gives me money? I don't have money of my own, but you, if you go to school, will have your own money." When I told her that she said, "Ok, I will go to school."
In the late 1980s, for male members of the minority, some young men's decision to continue their studies reflected a turn to norms of individual autonomy, as well as the forging of a social world that transgressed the minority/majority boundary.19 For mothers in the late 1990s, this same practice represented a newly female defiance of minority norms, again tying together transgression with normative individualism. Today, autonomy and the shaping of an individual moral self are still presented as female agendas dynamically pursued on the outskirts of minority life. A., a 38-year-old married worker who lived nearby Xanthi, said:
I don't care what people say, I don't care what people think. It is myself that I care about, what matters is that I feel good. I do it for me, not for the people around me; but our society, unfortunately, has not moved on, they may seem progressive, but they are parochial in their thinking.
Muslim women discursively connected their embrace of Greek-speaking education with an escape from the strictures of minority communal life. This mobility regime also incorporated speaking Greek and—as we discuss below—speaking up in place of traditional gendered silence about the demands and practices of motherhood. At this point, then, we have a picture in which Greekness means modernity; the aggressive pursuit of this Greekness-modernity equivalence is demonstrated by minority women's embrace of the Greek language in private and domestic arenas, complementing its use in such public spaces as work, politics, and education. Using Greek inside domestic spaces in kinship and affinal relationships is moving to an extreme, almost treacherous realm; the language is represented tellingly as a gateway to adultery—which serves, we might suppose as a dual symbol: both of disloyalty to one's own people and of the embrace of supposedly deviant Greek norms. S., a 35-yearold married woman with two children, aged 4 and 12 years, who worked in a tobacco family business, said in Greek:
I go over there [to a friend who has a telephone that she can use to communicate with her husband in Germany], and I speak Greek on the phone because I cannot talk [in] the Pomak language; and the women sit and talk to each other, my friend tells me, and you know what they say? "Why is she talking Greek to her husband, [End Page 174] doesn't she know other languages? To whom is she talking?" My friend tells them: "She's talking to her husband," but they hear me speaking Greek and think I date other men [laughing]. "Why does she do that, she speaks Greek in her house?" "Yes, she speaks Greek all the time," said my friend. The others went crazy!
Speaking Greek in intimate relationships even raises questions of ethnic identity, challenging certainties founded upon segregation. As X. put it: "My husband is great. . . . When I married him I thought he was Greek. He talked to me in Greek all the time. And when I got married, I asked, 'Are you a Greek or a Turk?'" To speak Greek in the nucleus of kinship and ethnicity, the domestic space, is to blur the limits between the minority and the majority, to resituate the self in between cultures. It is an act of individual autonomy that breaks intrinsically with norms of diffident femininity; instrumentally, it enables a move beyond minority norms. In these ruptures of language and education, possibilities arise for the forging of new, motile, and modern women's subjectivities.
Speaking up: Assisted reproductive technology and Muslim women's indigenous modernity
In the previous section, we saw how an embrace of Greek language and norms can provoke a quiet crisis: how minority women's entry into a modernity previously coded as Greek might serve to demand the recoding of that modernity. In this section we go further, showing how minority women in handling the politics of reproductive control engage a vision of modernity distinctive of their own cultural identity. First, we will observe a crucial difference from the above discussion of education, in which modernity signified movement forward and toward Greekness; in relation to reproductive control, the mobility regime of modernity is even more motile, connecting modernity to movements back and forth between Greekness and Islam. Having established that connection, we problematize it by asking how traditional visions of both Greek and Muslim identity promote specific uses of assisted reproductive technology (ART). Finally, we discuss a way in which minority women adopt ART, framing it in indigenous terms as the discovery of a modernity organic to their own identities rather than as mobility into another, already modern culture.
In Greece, ART is seen by researchers as a means to overcome the importance of blood and infiltrate kinship with science, technology, and, finally, progress (Chatzouli, Daskalaki, and Kantsa 2015; Topali 2015). Medical professionals and family planning experts see women who use and reveal the use of ART to other people as educated subjects who shape their own rational, [End Page 175] individualized, modern selves—"missionaries" bringing knowledge of modern science to ignorant others (Paxson 2002, 314–315; Paxson 2004, 234). Meanwhile, women who keep silent about abortions, nonmarital pregnancies, and even infanticide are thought to embody traditional incorporation by patriarchal society. Medical professionals treat the practice of these shunned activities, especially abortion, as indicative of a markedly modern phenomenon only when it is accompanied by a discourse that openly represents reproductive control as an unabashed statement of women's autonomy (Paxson 2002, 313). Especially given that abortion and ART are both associated with adultery (Paxson 2004, 58–59, 72), as we discuss below, maintaining silence about reproductive challenges stands as a traditionally mandated, parochial practice in Greek society (Paxson 2004, 232, 236). The open discussion of such issues with the outside world can be a risky modern choice that puts consanguineous kinship and, above all, female virtue in jeopardy (Kennedy 1986, 147; Kantsa 2010, 228). It is only among relatives (Chatzouli 2014) or female friends (Paxson 2004, 232) that the secret of being reproductively challenged and technologically assisted can be safely revealed without raising any doubts about a woman's moral virtue.
In Turkish understandings, modernization has entailed transformations in both the expectations and the reality of women's practices within the private sphere, which is perceived as the locus simultaneously of Westernization (Yenal 2006) and of motherhood. Changed constructs of motherhood have slowly shifted previous attitudes in Turkey about ART, which was a rare and marginal practice in the 1990s. Even where ART was employed, the norm was for women to stay silent about such issues; pregnancies carried connotations of sexual activity and were framed as a male discursive field, and parturition, given its relation to female genitalia, was represented as exposing a shameful vulnerability in women (Delaney 1991, 61–62). In the first decades of the twenty-first century, however, ART became a widespread, accepted practice "not shrouded in secrecy, angst and shame, but rather pursued as the weapon of choice in the 'battle' against infertility, transforming involuntary childlessness from an intractable personal tragedy to a solvable medical problem" (Gürtin 2011, 556–557). State funding for in vitro fertilization (IVF) treatment helped to increase further its popularity in the media and its social acceptance (Mutlu 2015, 217). Speaking up about assisted reproductive experiences became more common in Turkish society; along with this shift came changing ideas about gender, education, kinship, and religion. However, issues like traveling in order to engage in third-party gamete donation or pre-pregnancy sex selection in IVF techniques remained a carefully kept secret (Multu 2015). [End Page 176]
Throughout the 1990s, corporeal practices that marked modernity on women's bodies—such as birth control—were common but not publicly talked about among the minority in Thrace (Demetriou 2013, 170). Today, the majority within the minority still carefully guard their silence about the secrets of motherhood, and especially ART. Opposition to the discussion of such subjects is firm, encompassing even successful uses of ART that result in procreation.20 Minority women who reveal their struggles with infertility and their use of ART, always within women's circles,21 constitute a "minority within the minority," embodying new cultural values pitted against what they view as immobility, or what the women themselves term the stagnant, obsolete norms that continue to govern mainstream minority life in Thrace. Minority women sometimes express frustration at the continuing sway of such orthodoxy, as Α., who used both artificial insemination and in vitro fertilization, explained:
They fear being criticized by others, so women don't speak out. They are afraid to be put on the spot, to say this child is in vitro. . . . I don't understand. . . . I am not hung up on the idea that I will have to tell my child, "You are not normal"; no! You are in vitro and in vitro fertilization is the same thing. . . . I cannot understand how people think. I would like a couple that cannot have children to speak about it openly.
For minority women, turning to ART involves distancing themselves from gender norms. For many, that alone ensures that ART remains an unpalatable (or at least an unspeakable) choice. Some, however, render acceptable this abnormality, that they deliberately pursue by constructing a rhetorical binary dividing tradition from a desirable modernity that they encounter through enhanced mobility, especially for educational purposes. Thus openness about ART correlates with mobility of different kinds; women are more likely to discuss ART if they are geographically mobile—if they move to other cities for their education, to work as domestic workers, or in the pursuit of other opportunities—and/or if they embrace social mobility, by participating, for instance, in the Greek state's educational initiatives, such as the "Education for the Muslim Minority Children in Thrace" project. Returning to the supposedly backward realities of rural Thrace from time spent in Greek or Turkish urban centers where they accessed ART, these women start to think of themselves as tokens of modernity, cultural pioneers capable of enhanced mobility, by which they foster connections between local and national worlds, as well as between modern and traditional ideas and arenas. If this attests to a localization of modernity, in which modernity is perceived as the property of a particular place, it is notable that the localizing embraced by these women is markedly [End Page 177] and unusually -intranational. Doctors carrying out in vitro fertilization in Turkey and in Greece often understand themselves as members of an international community connected by the love of education and scientific progress, signified for some by Europe as a symbol of modernity, and sometimes reject any views of their identity that limit them to any locality smaller than the global (Paxson 2002, 310; Gürtin 2012a, 288, 289; Gürtin 2012b, 91). Minority women, by contrast, connect modernity to Greece or Islam (though rarely Turkey) but do not often speak of supranational formations like Europe, or that of other European countries more commonly discursively connected to modernity—for example, Germany, the powerhouse of the European Union. The localized cornerstones of modern identity for these women remain inside the two nation-states.
This is the backdrop against which some minority women in Thrace have articulated their own autonomy by turning to a form of cultural politics that speaks of their own Islam while still refusing their definition as Muslims by majority Greeks. In the case of adoption,22 a subject brought together with ART in discussions with women informants, Islam is indeed a justifier of women's decisions23 and a reified principle normalizing gender behavior. Most of our informants talked of the practice of adoption in positive terms, as an act of charity always compatible with Sunni Islamic principles. I., a 30-year-old, unemployed woman, who used artificial insemination five times and in vitro fertilization once, said:
Adoption is very good, I believe, if a child's mother and father are dead, if you love it, and if you treat the child as yours, I mean, you make a little child happy, a child without a mother and father. It is the biggest good in the world. One time, says our prophet, if you stroke a child's head one time you are in heaven. Because these children are so much in need, without a father, without any protection.
At the same time, women of the "minority within the minority" contest national essentialisms by questioning DNA reproduction and thus ancestry and genealogy. E., a 36-year-old unmarried teacher, said:
If I had to use [either] assisted reproductive technologies or adoption, I would adopt; I would obviously adopt, because there are children who are already there, and even in everyday, normal cases I often think, why not? If there are children, why don't we all adopt? I find this procedure of making children very selfish, to leave your own DNA no matter what it costs.
Finally, even if adoption is understood as the act of providing children with a father, thereby confirming Turkish ideas concerning fatherhood, manhood, and patrilineality, women criticize their husbands' negativity toward adoption and attempt to overcome it using the Islamic law. Islamic law and men's rules [End Page 178] are not seen as identical, and women often reprimand the latter (never the former) for being supposedly backward and too traditional. Adoption, for these women, preserves the gendered social order and reproductive normativity that both Islam and a female "majority within the minority" recognize. There, at the margins of consanguineous kinship, Islamic law becomes for the first time in discussions with our informants, a shared female principle.
Research on minority women in other parts of the world presents sperm donation as another interestingly gendered choice: it is usually treated as acceptable by women, but not by men (Isikoglu et al. 2006; Van Rooij and Korfker 2009). Minority women in Thrace, however, including the "minority within the minority," strongly disapprove of sperm donation and counterpose the minority's regrettable (in their view) silence and discomfort surrounding IVF to an ostensibly appropriate skepticism about sperm donation as the symbolic equivalent of adultery. I., for example, defended her silence about using IVF by identifying as regrettable the blurring of the distinction between IVF and sperm donation:
In general, I avoid discussing such matters with our own people . . . because our own people, our world sees IVF as something that has to do with taking another's sperm and making a child that is not your husband's child, they don't know what IVF is, they like to believe that's what it is, that you use another sperm, so I avoid it.
A. defended her speaking up about ART by stressing the contrast between IVF and gamete donation:
Why not speak up? It is your child, from your own husband and from you, it is not from a stranger. It's yours and yet you hide it; why aren't you talking about it? Other couples should be able to take courage from you, to continue something good. Why do you hide it and let other people think, "She hides it because there is something wrong"?
Even though women from the "minority within the minority" scorn the idea of covering up the existence of infertility and the challenges it poses, they strongly approve of prohibiting sperm and egg donation. According to these women, infertility problems are to be solved through IVF and artificial insemination, as Islamic law prescribes. One woman informant put the point clearly: "Our religion is open to everything except those practices it prohibits; that is, I should not take sperm from another man, even if he is Muslim, too, and I cannot give eggs, either." Both I. and O., a 38-year-old working woman who tried IVF once, and condemns gamete donation as "messing too much with God's work," explicitly defended IVF through an appeal to Islam: [End Page 179]
God gives you the problem, that you cannot have a baby, but also offers you an alternative that you can get pregnant; that is, he shows you another way if you cannot do it by yourself; he shows you IVF.
Gamete donation appears to most within Thrace's Muslim minority as a troubling practice, carrying heavy symbolic connections to adultery and challenging dominant notions of patrilineality and manhood promoted by religion.24 By representing adoption as the fulfillment of patrilineal obligation (rather than as its denial), and by representing IVF as the enabling of marital obligations to procreate (as opposed to gamete donation), determinedly modern minority women have found a language familiar to Muslim life in Thrace through which to express their demand for morality, autonomy, and reproductive control. In this way, women of the "minority within the minority" meet the minority's majority through a common point of reference—Islam—and by constructing a unified Muslim identity capable of structuring the pursuit of modernity rather than foreclosing it. A secular ethics of self-fulfillment and autonomy thus sits comfortably alongside religious ethics in addressing issues of adultery, kinship, honor, and family. In this discourse, modernity comes to represent the articulation of one possible gloss on Muslim identity; that is, it is through Muslim identity that modern subjects get made—and not against it—as the mobility motif suggests in the context of education discussed above.
Conclusion: Modernity against majority and minority
For Muslims in Thrace, as we demonstrated above, women achieve modernity via their mobility into Greekness, as acquired through education; by contrast, ART crystallizes a Muslim praxis of modernity-making, premised on the redefinition of familial obligations in Islamic law. ART, then, occupies a space between sacralized motherhood and supposedly adulterous technological progress. Women of the "minority within the minority" proffer a distinct, motile, dual vision of modernity, consisting of, first, speaking Greek and receiving a Greek-language education, and second, reaching motherhood through technological assistance—which implies the increasing autonomy women have concerning their own bodies and family life, as does their speaking up about the private, even secret sphere of motherhood to outsiders. This is a dual vision because it entails both moving toward assimilation into Greekness and an assertive indigeneity as twin modernizing impulses. Acquiring a voice with which to address strangers beyond the borders of minority life—in this case, breaking taboos by talking about reproduction—has become part of this modernization project, reflecting "the primacy of sound as a locus of the [End Page 180] experience and knowledge production of the modern" (Inoue 2003, 158). That is, it is in the encounters between majority (anthropologists) and minority (informants) in our fieldwork that we have described here that the exposure of women's secrets acquired a new meaning, perceived by the majority within the minority as treacherous, a kind of "cultural adultery." Just a few years ago, for minority people in Thrace to disclose their intracommunal tensions to Greeks—that is, to strangers—was considered unforgivably inappropriate (Akgönül 1999, 252–253). At that time, both minority and majority teachers in the minority schools considered each other "strangers" and avoided sharing inappropriate "details" concerning minority schools and education (Androussou 2005, 69–70).25 Today, women's disclosure of intimate details about those aspects of communal life that are most strictly ethnoculturally differentiated—gendered and age-based norms regulating the behavior of women and children; educational preferences; reproductive challenges—appears to us as a demonstration of autonomous female agency, carrying with it an air of rebellion, of resistance to the minority's repressive norms. Both physically and symbolically, these women have chosen to situate themselves in a shifting social environment: sometimes Greek, at other times Turkish, and at still other moments Muslim, though rarely European or international.
Discussions concerning anthropology and feminism (Strathern 1987), feminism and Islam (Mahmood 2005), or all of the above (Jacobsen 2011) challenge the connections between women's agency and religiosity. In this light, Muslim women in Greece present a noteworthy case study, as they usually self-identify through their minority national status, while the Islamic element of their identity is relegated to the margins. As other research on European Muslims has suggested (Jacobson 1998; Schmidt 2002; Roy 2004; Andersson 2005), minority culture—a spoken formulation that reinforces the culturalizing tendency of conservatism within the minority community—generally dominates explicit appeals to piety as a rhetorical ground for identity-formation. Gamete donation, adoption, and exogamy, however, are all decisions that threaten male succession and Muslim/Turkish ideas of patrilineality; all bring Islam into the heart of women's conversations about their own identity and subjectivity. Islam here serves as a rigid, essentialist principle governing gender norms and relationships. We have documented the pragmatic utility of that moral test as a mechanism for women's demands for autonomy, but it is worth stressing the limitations of those demands. In contradistinction to studies in other European countries (Jacobson 1998; Jacobsen 2011), our research shows that Greek Muslim women's Islamic discourses confirm regimes of local/minority power rather than challenging them. Traditional values of femininity, such as [End Page 181] patience, acceptance, and endurance, are confirmed as Islamic even as they are scorned when represented in cultural terms as traditional, thus demonstrating rebellious and subordinate tendencies at the same time. Ethnographic material from our study, based on encounters with women who rejected the hijab, married for love, refused or reduced the burden of dowries, and acquired Christian names (Madianou 2005; Plexousaki 2006; Zografaki 2011; Demetriou 2013), while they defined themselves as Turkish (rather than Muslim), never led us to understand Islam as a framework for unabashed gender equality and female autonomy (Mahmood 2005; Jamal 2009; Jacobsen 2011). The compromise these women reached was more modest and much messier than that. This same group, who from the 1920s until the 1960s handled deep splits between "old Muslims" and "Turks"—a dichotomy demarcating religious "fanatics" from modernist "Greek haters" as equally detestable camps in their view (Iliadis 2004, 37)—managed to achieve a peculiar compromise in the form of a modernity moving in between Greek, Turkish, and Islamic ideas, morals, and practices. This space of productive in-betweenness—a fraught space between discursive poles (majority/minority, Greece/Turkey, West/East, Christianity/ Islam, and so forth)—has yielded a fragile tension that underpins these women's agency, desires, and subjectivities. They do not in the end simply fall into any of the camps that surround them. They exist in a hinterland: not completely liberal, not completely Muslim, but exemplifying perhaps what it means to be a modern minority.
Pinelopi Topali is Assistant Professor at the University of the Aegean. Her research concerns immigration, domestic work, ethnic identity, and religion, focusing on Filipina immigrants and Greek minority women in Thrace. She is the author of Σιωπηρές σχέσεις, διαπολιτισμικές επαφές: Η περίπτωση των Φιλιππινέζων οικιακών βοηθών στην Αθήνα (Silent relations, intercultural contacts: The case of Filipina domestic workers in Athens (Alexandreia, 2008) and Kόσμοι της οικιακής εργασίας: Φύλο, μετανάστευση και πολιτισμικοί μετασχηματισμοί στην Αθήνα του 21ου αιώνα (Worlds of domestic work: Gender, immigration, and cultural transformations in early twenty-first-century Athens; with E. Papataxiarchis and A. Athanasopoulou, Alexandreia, 2008).
Effie Plexousaki is Assistant Professor in the Department of Social Anthropology and History at the University of the Aegean. Her research concerns minorities and education in regard to collective identity and ethnicity focusing on the ethnography of the Mediterranean. Her latest publication, the edited volume Μεταμορφώσεις του εθνικισμού: Επιτελέσεις της συλλογικής ταυτότητας στην Ελλάδα (Metamorphoses of nationalism: Performances of the collective identity in Modern Greece; Alexandreia, 2014), explores nationalist formations and their transformations in Greece within today's global environment.
We would like to thank Chloe Howe Haralambous, our editor, for her valuable comments.
1. For the development of the rhetoric and aesthetics of "resistance" in Greek society during the economic crisis, see Kyparissis 2016; Sevastakis 2017. For treatments of resistance as a form of micropolitics pitted against neoliberal politics in Greek society during the economic crisis, see Theodossopoulos 2014; Knight 2015.
2. According to Eurostat, in 2016 Thrace had one of the lowest levels of average GDP per capita and was considered one of the poorest regions in the European Union (Eurostat—Statistics Explained 2016).
3. Except for Pomaks, who tend to define themselves as locals and stress their strong local ties to Thrace. [End Page 182]
4. For example, Kurdish people are often described as "uncivilized" or lately "terrorists" from the "East" and the periphery, as opposed to the "educated" people of the center (Mardin 1973; Apaydin 2005). Europeans themselves are lately described as "crusaders" and "fascists," as opposed to the "liberal" Muslim "East" (Deutsche Welle 2017).
5. Olga Demetriou (2005, 2013) describes how the minority adopted a historical narrative concerning the foundation of an autonomous political entity (Republic of Gümulcine), in 1913 and in 1919–1920, in Thrace. This entity lasted only few months and was considered by the minority the first Turkish state in history and a predecessor of the Republic of Turkey.
6. Feminist scholars have been highly critical of the masculine content of the concept of the modern, while struggles for women's emancipation became an integral part of modernization processes, thereby changing the masculine character of symbols of modernity such as education, medicine, technology, and public space.
7. This research, part of a long-term educational intervention (1997–), entitled "Education for the Muslim Minority Children in Thrace," was conducted by E. Plexousaki and funded by the European Social Fund and the Greek Ministry of National Education and Religious Affairs (scientific directors: A. Fragoudaki [1997–2015]; T. Dragonas [2015–], National and Kapodistrian University of Athens). For a systematic presentation and analysis of this project, see Dragonas and Frangoudaki 2008.
8. This was a three-year-long research program on assisted reproductive technologies, entitled "(In)Fertile Citizens: On the Concepts, Practices, Politics and Technologies of Assisted Reproduction in Greece," funded by the European Social Fund and the General Secretariat of Research and Technology of Greece (principal investigator: V. Kantsa; interviews conducted by V. Chatzigianni under the supervision of P. Topali, University of the Aegean). Informants in this second study had completed the Greek educational program, part of the intervention mentioned above; in both studies, field researchers were aided in approaching women of the "minority within the minority," who more readily responded to invitations coming from majority members.
10. The majority of our informants in the 1990s had only primary education, while in 2013 they had secondary (and sometimes tertiary) education.
11. According to Sutton 2008, 85, 88, the relationship of "modernity" to "the old years," also connected with "illiteracy" as ignorance, was the most significant moral issue that Kalymnian Greeks faced. On the discursive connections drawn between "tradition" and "backwardness" in the Greek majority and the minority, see Sutton 2001; Demetriou 2013. For a critic of Muslim minorities as "backward" and obstacles to modernity projects, see Dunkan 2004; Yi 2007; Benei 2008.
12. Moreover, people who moved outside Thrace and enrolled in schools in other municipalities were losing their access to bilingual education.
13. Muslim minority groups all over the world interpret their progress through education as an indication of their entering modernity. In China, alternative modernities are constructed through minority schools that spread knowledge of Islam and the Arabic language, help students to acquire "useful modern knowledge," and transform Chinese Muslims into cultural mediators between China and "developed" Arabic countries (Yi 2005, 12). Muslim Indians in Mumbai perceive Gulf countries as Muslim areas, and construct a notion of global Islam that is closely connected to modern science and technology. For them, upward social mobility is achieved by abandoning municipal Muslim schools that teach in Urdu in favor of English-speaking convent schools, while simultaneously attending Arabic-speaking Koranic schools that can ensure their [End Page 183] students will be socially recognized as Muslim Indians (Hansen 1997, 18–19). Finally, members of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria consider minority schools as an impediment to "progress" and regard bilingual Turkish- and Greek-speaking minority schools in Greece to be negative examples of educational institutions working against social mobility and personal development (Iliycheva 2010, 40–41).
14. This growing phenomenon is evidenced by the paucity of non-Greek provisions for the minority; there are only two bilingual minority high schools in Thrace today, not enough to absorb increasing numbers of minority students. Statistics show that from 1989 to 2008, the number of minority teenagers attending the first three years of classes at Greek high schools more than quadrupled, while the number of those attending the last three years of high school rose tenfold. This rise significantly exceeded the population increase in the minority (Askouni 2006, 185, 212). The period 2003–2004 also saw a rise in the number of minority children attending Greek-speaking elementary schools (Askouni 2011, 217–218).
15. n Southern European countries, children's education remains largely a parental obligation (Paxson 2004; Bouratzi 2015; Vlahoutsikou 2015) rather than a state obligation, as in rural Turkey, at least in dominant conceptions (Kaplan 2006).
17. Until 2007, preschool education was not compulsory in Greece. During the 1990s, attending kindergartens was extremely rare for minority children, which highlights the significance of the decision of some minority mothers to send their children to Greek-speaking kindergartens (Askouni 2011, 218–219).
18. According to Demetriou 2013, 158, "development," located in between "modernity" and "tradition," was a dominant minority discourse connected to family, marriage, and gender issues. For majority Greeks, the assertive expression of motherhood involved individual agency and invoked modernity, too, as its regulative norm (Georgiadi 2014; Vlahoutsikou and TeaziAntonakopoulou 2014).
19. Before entering the Greek educational system in the mid-1980s, some young men originating from a village near to Xanthi had moved to Turkey to study. This migration decision—in a period when Turkish modernity first adopted a politics of identity and a discourse of individualism (Keyman and Icduygu 2012)—came as a response to political upheavals in Greece, including a resurgent social movement demanding minority rights. In 1990–1991, the Greek government began a campaign against violations of minority rights; these Muslim men, having faced difficulties in Turkey, mostly returned to Thrace. It was at this point that their decision to choose Greek-speaking high schools led minority elders to stigmatize them in religious terms with lines like: Why are you going to the Christian school? Do you want to become a priest? Christian Greeks were equally contemptuous of this practice, and again expressed their hostility in religious terms through sentiments like: Muslims cannot go to school, they cannot educate themselves. Such skepticism about minority education on the part of both the majority and the minority communities was interpreted by young Muslim men as representative of the past, while they saw the minority's present and future in receiving a Greek-speaking education and finding employment outside the confines of the minority. As would later be true for women, these moves were understood as stepping into a better life. In addition, this orientation to education forged a new, homosocial male sociality autonomous from the domestic sphere that partially replaced traditional family ties. [End Page 184]
21. Women's circles have thus become prized spaces where women can discuss otherwise suppressed secrets of motherhood.
24. In the 1990s, reproductive technologies were imagined in Turkey as controlled by other, strange men, and as taking place in spaces where women's control by their own men had been lost (such as cities, hospitals, Europe, the USA); married women who sought out these technologies were suspected of committing adultery (Delaney 1991). Furthermore, gamete donation was (and still is) rejected in Turkey, while in Northern Cyprus, "Turkey's ethnical grey zone," it is allowed (Mutlu 2015, 217–218). Large segments of Turkish society perceived it as producing offspring of unknown lineage, created by a stranger's entering the family and committing an imaginary form of adultery with the married woman in question. In Greece, contestations over bloodline initiated by gamete donation are contestations of motherhood (Paxson 2004, 233, 237), whereas the origin of sperm is not particularly important to most women who use reproductive technologies (Paxson 2004, 238). In practice, however, women accept egg donation more easily than they accept sperm donation, which suggests that men's bloodline and honor do matter (Bellas and Matossian 2015). Moreover, a man's inability to biologically reproduce is regarded as a social deficiency and guarded as a secret by the wife, saving him from public exposure and humiliation (Chatzouli 2014).
25. This took place during the first of the training programs for minority schools, part of the Program for Reform in the Education of the Muslim Minority Children, organized in 1997 by Alexandra Androussou and Thalia Dragonas and addressed to both majority and minority educators.