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Negotiated Conformism: Gender Norms, Everyday Politics and Pro-government Actors in Turkey


Despite ideological alignment, right-wing populist constituencies and civic groups may openly resist and renegotiate the anti-gender and anti-feminist stances of populist parties through a process we call negotiated conformism. To analyse this phenomenon, we draw on two qualitative datasets from Turkey: one focusing on ordinary citizens who ideologically support and vote for the populist-conservative Justice and Development Party (AKP); the other on conservative and openly pro-AKP civil society organisations. Negotiated conformism brings three facts to light that contradict current literature on right-wing populism: 1) civil society actors and the constituency may demonstrate agency and independence from their parties with regard to gender equality; 2) populist parties fail to consolidate complete control over the civic space; and 3) multiple pathways exist to forge agency and subjectivity within populist gender orders and hierarchies. These findings highlight that populist constituencies are not homogenous and simply submissive actors, echoing only what the leaders of populist-conservative movements preach. The populist-authoritarian desire to polarise society into two clearly defined camps based on a conservative gender order does not always resonate with supporters. Our conclusion calls for the disaggregation and decentring of the ‘demand side’ of populism to account for its diverse practitioners and networks.
Keywords: Populism; conservatism; gender; LGBTQ*; civil society; agency