• Ayse Kosar
4. term, Sociology, Master (Master Programme)
Turkish Pepper and Cinnamon - a study on the interplay between cultural ideals, behaviour and
self-identity among ethnic Turkish youths in Denmark.
The focal point of the project is how the self-understanding of a group of Turkish singles is related
to the elaboration of external cultural ideals to sexuality, impression management and everyday life
behaviour. Methodologically, it is a biographical study where eight life stories are compared and
held up against relevant empirical data and theories.
According to my findings, the narrators try to maintain order in their life stories by making sense of
discrepancies in their lived lives and their narratives. The discrepancies occur particularly when the
narrators are experiencing having ambivalent attitudes towards their own sexual identity.
Furthermore, they are divided between the diversity of ideals, the structural opportunities and
constraints as well as their sexual needs versus their need for recognition in a private sphere.
The narrators are socialised in two contexts in which they experience a lack of consensus between
the ideals of sexuality. They meet a social norm presenting a tolerant view on sexuality in the
society. At the same time, they are primarily socialised by significant others who in general
subscribe traditional gender role ideals and can idealise sexual abstinence before marriage.
Narrators, and especially the female narrators, possess a higher degree of tolerant attitudes than
their parents. However, they have internalised a negative view on sex before marriage. The learning
of different sets of ideals is mostly based on unspoken socialising processes because sexuality is a
taboo in their families and ethnic groups. This leads to the narrators reproducing some overall
sluggish cultural ideals that they themselves ascribe meaning. Narrators end up facing dilemmas
between carrying out their own biographical projects based on their own will and needs versus the
wish to live up to external ideals and expectations in order to protect the families' total symbolic
capitals. They set up different strategies in order to navigate through everyday life with more or less
conflicting roles. This leads to the narrators attempting to maintain two normal biographies. Their
biographical work consists largely of being able to assume a behaviour that can be adapted to the
ideals, for instance through constructing new understandings and definitions of gender roles, values
and ideals. They are trying to plan the directions that their narratives take while trying to maintain
order between structural developments, sudden events, planned personal goals and individual
feelings and needs.

Habitus and the need for recognition are central elements in understanding why the narrators’
parents' ideals affect narrators’ behaviour and self-understanding. The narrators are aware of the
general developments taking place in attitudes and ideals in practice, yet they refer to sluggish
overall cultural ideals that are traditional. Their stories are built up in a modern, contemporary
society which celebrates diversity. Nevertheless, it is still not possible to deviate without
experiencing or fearing social sanctions.
Specific opportunities for expressing sexuality exist in the Danish context. The female narrators
have been under restrictive conditions and they are generally the ones who take up the fight for
equality. This is also influenced by the fact that women achieve some capitals and positions in the
social field which give them the confidence to assume roles that can make it possible to defy the
imagined traditional roles. When women’s behavioural patterns change over time, men also
redefine their biographical projects. The conclusion of this thesis therefore contradicts
understandings of men who demand that women are virgins since there are no homogenous views
on this issue. There are no distinctions of female victims and male perpetrators. Women are not
perceived as victims of an inequality of which men and parents are the only responsible. Women
are not necessarily the only victims of oppression and they may even wish the conditions under
which they live. Thus they partly reproduce the masculine dominance.
The narrators generally suppress their physical needs in favour of cultural ideals. Their behaviour is
often in accordance with what can be defined as legitimate according to those ideals. They are not
determined by the ideals, but they are under a symbolic violence and experience a sense of shame.
They exercise personal sanctions against themselves by labelling their own actions as wrong
because the external ideals and not their own ideals become the frame of reference for what is
defined as deviant behavior. Between ambivalent attitudes toward their own biographies, they try to
maintain a meaningful narrative.
Publication date2012
Number of pages103
ID: 66334969