Beyond the Glitter: Belly Dance and Neoliberal Gentrification in Istanbul

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Cultural Anthropology, Volume 21, Issue 4, p.633-680 (2008)



With manifold projects of historic preservation, gentrification, and urban renewal, Istanbul has transformed over the last two decades into a preeminent metropolis and tourist destination against the backdrop of an increasingly neoliberalized and moderately Islamic, yet secular, E.U.-aspirant Turkey. In this article, I examine through an embodied lens the complex interplay among shifting practices of belly dance, new Islamic veiling, and urban space in contemporary Istanbul. In an analysis grounded in a series of ethnographic sites that include an elite concert hall, a tourist restaurant, a dance class, a local nightclub, and a retail store, I argue for a performance-centered and gender-sensitive examination of urban gentrification that is often missed in recent political economic analyses.