Tugce (Too-ché) Ellialti

Dissertation Title: 

"Gender Justice in the Wake of Legal Reform and Socio-Political Change: Sexual Violence on Trial in Turkey" (tentative)

Faculty Advisors: 

Robin L. Leidner (co-chair), Emily C. Hannum (co-chair), Deborah A. Thomas (Anthropology), Fatma Muge Gocek (University of Michigan, Sociology and Women’s Studies)

Research Interests: 

Gender and sexuality, feminist theory, feminism and modernity in Turkey and the Middle East; violence against women; sociology of law; socio-legal studies; gender, law, and sexual violence; cultural sociology; political sociology; qualitative methods; social inequalities.

Contact: ellialti@sas.upenn.edu
Linkedin: Tugce on Linkedin


I am a PhD candidate in Sociology at the University of Pennsylvania. I received a Graduate Certificate from The Gender, Sexuality and Women's Studies Program in 2011 and am currently a Graduate Affiliate at the Evelyn Jacobs Ortner Center on Family Violence. My major research interests include sociolegal studies; gender, law, and violence against women; sociology of gender and sexuality; feminist theory; cultural sociology; and political sociology. My dissertation research, tentatively titled “Gender Justice in the Wake of Legal Reform and Socio-Political Change: Sexual Violence on Trial in Turkey” focuses on the institutional management of cases of sexual violence in the legal realm in Turkey.

Before becoming a candidate I passed my first comprehensive exam in Gender, Sexuality, and Feminist Theory (with distinction) and second comprehensive exam in Cultural Sociology. My MA Thesis, “Women’s Negotiation of Sexual Morality Through “Love”: Reflections on Virginity “Loss” and Premarital Sex in Turkey” examined the attitudes regarding premarital sex and virginity of educationally advantaged, upwardly mobile young women and men living in Turkey, and analyzed how socio-economically privileged young people, who claim to be “sexually liberated,” make decisions about their sexual lives.

Before arriving at Penn, I graduated from Bogazici University (Istanbul, Turkey) with a B.A. in Sociology and took an MA degree from Sabanci University (Istanbul, Turkey) in Cultural Studies.

Dissertation Research:

Inspired by the increasing visibility and publicity of sexual violence cases and the seeming discrepancy between the promise of the new civil and penal codes and their application in practice, my research seeks to explore how sexual violence cases are handled by prosecutors, courts, and forensic medical institutions, and to investigate how these state institutions produce and assemble legal and medico-legal discourses and practices in regards to the these cases. Based on ethnographic observations in courts, in-depth interviews with prosecutors, judges, and lawyers, and textual analysis of case documents and primary legal sources (legislation, statues, judicial opinions, etc.), I study how state institutions handle and process cases of sexual violence in the wake of legal reforms in Turkey. I focus especially on the categories, distinctions, and hierarchies that state institutions produce while deciding a) what acts of sexual violence will be subject to legal punishment, and b) which survivors will be entitled to what kinds of legal protection or redress. Finally, my research seeks to shed light on the implications of institutional responses to sexual violence against women for gender equality and justice in general, and for women’s access to state, law and citizenship rights and social justice.

By examining the legal domain of the state in the aftermath of legal reforms vis-à-vis violence against women and violations of women’s rights, I seek to understand not only how the law works in practice, but also how and in what ways the state is implicated in the production and reproduction of gender-based injustices and inequalities. Through the analysis of the legal and medico-legal discourses and practices employed in sexual violence cases, I explore the ways in which the state produces and reproduces gendered subjectivities through a) various assumptions that shape the entire trial process and create an ideological space for gendered moral judgments, b) gendered performances expected from the survivors of sexual violence in the court, and c) bureaucratic imperatives and legal documents such as medical reports that play central roles in court decisions in such cases.

This research not only offers sociological insights into the contemporary configurations of state, gender, and citizenship in Turkey but also provides a nuanced analysis of how state legal institutions handle and process sexual violence cases; how the state mediates citizenship rights in the aftermath of significant legal transformations; and how state discourses and practices regarding femininity, gender, and violence implicate women. In light of these inquiries, this study addresses how gendered state discourses imagine and construct state-citizen relations and how state responses to gender and gender-based inequalities affect access to law, citizenship rights, and justice.