‘She just does not fit in here’: Identity, politics of appearance and aesthetic labour in Turkey’s retail landscapes | Intellect Skip to content
1981
Volume 7, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 2051-7106
  • E-ISSN: 2051-7114

Abstract

This study looks into the politics of appearance in the retail sales labour market for women in Turkey and explores how norms of ‘being presentable and fashionable’ prevailing in different retail landscapes map onto intersections of class, status and the fault lines of Turkey’s identity politics. In an attempt to understand how such norms are constructed, this article employs the discussion on aesthetic labour and focuses on the aesthetic labour requirements in large-scale retailers selling or competing with global brands, small-scale retailers and retailers. The article relies on data derived from participant observation, in-depth interviews and focus groups conducted with saleswomen and employers in different retail landscapes in five cities of Turkey between 2009 and 2012. The study suggests that large-scale retailers and shopping malls require retail workers to convey an appearance and deportment that fits in with globally circulating images of what is taken to be ‘normal’, middle class and fashionable, leading to the exclusion of saleswomen with headscarves as they are perceived to manifest a particularity and deviation from a normalized middle-class identity. On the other hand, in chain stores competing in the area of global veiling fashion, the headscarf is usually a requirement as a part of the globally relevant, Islamic middle-class image that retail workers are expected to embody. The norms of aesthetic labour in both kinds of large-scale retailers differ sharply from small-scale retailers, where embodying local gendered norms, and the ability to manage relations in local marketplaces surface as the most salient requirements from retail saleswomen.

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2020-10-01
2024-02-25
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