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Gender, Law, and Non-normativity in Egypt, Turkey and the Caucasus

Panel VII-24, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, November 4 at 8:30 am

Panel Description
  • In 1958 the popular Egyptian magazine Akher Sa’a ran a story about four people, designated “rijala yertadun fasateen y’ayeshoon hayat al nisa”, men “donning dresses and living as women”, in the Upper Egyptian town of Asyut. To their readers, the editors of Akher Sa’a presented biographical sketches of how these people came to be the way they were alongside staged photographs and followed by expert opinions from an Egyptian psychologist, the local minister of education, and a medical doctor. This article departs from that one. By intentionally annotating my full translation of the Arabic text, I disrupt the logic of these trans-human interest stories. Each of these portraits attempts to rationalize instances of gender/sexual alterity by offering a biographical account and (pseudo)scientific evidence that contextualizes the people and pictures on the page. Egyptians living beyond the gender binary were made legible to a broader reading public in the 1950s through the narrativization of their early childhood experiences, or in one instance, through a story about a deal between the subject and a spirit, djinn. My analysis denaturalizes the publication’s ethnographic impulse to narrate the causes of these cases and disrupts the contemporary and mid-twentieth century readers’ distinct but related instincts to locate transness in various indigenous contexts. In translating from Arabic I reflect on the linguistic (im)possibilities of holding trans and nonbinary people in language. While I engage the terminology of ‘non-binary’ to theorize the conditioning of trans-embodiment in Upper Egypt, I also hesitate to describe these subjects as trans or non-binary. Instead, I rely on somewhat verbose but more accurate descriptors such as, ‘living with intention beyond and in tension with the binary’, while remaining mindful of the particularity of these subjects’ trans-femininity. Moving from the emphasis on the causes of these cases to their conditioning is a critical gesture that shifts scrutiny away from the specifics of these individuals’ lives to the ways in which their articulation was inflected by the place of the magazine, Akher Sa’a, and Asyut, Upper Egypt. Ultimately, I labor to situate these four subjects beyond the interlocking binaries of man/woman, cis/trans, and East/West. In so doing, I collapse these structures and offer alternative portraits of trans-femininity in Asyut.
  • Dr. Serpil Atamaz
    In the last decade, men in Turkey have killed at least 5,000 women and physically or sexually assaulted thousands more, which has led to nationwide protests, social media campaigns, and public debates about how to prevent gender-based violence. In an attempt to understand the reasons behind mounting violence against women, scholars, government agencies, and women’s organizations have conducted studies exploring the issue from sociological, anthropological, psychological, medical, and legal perspectives. None of these studies, however, has paid attention to the long-term historical roots of this problem in Turkish society. Yet, identifying the origins of violent acts against women is essential to fully understanding and preventing them. That is where my work comes in. In order to shed light on how violence became gendered through specific attitudes, practices, policies, and legal codes in modern Turkey, this paper will explore women's murders in the early Turkish Republic (1923–1938) based on primary sources such as daily newspapers, statistical reports, court records, and proceedings of the parliament. By studying a large number of murder cases across the country, it will discuss the reasons behind killings of women and the sociological profiles of perpetrators and victims. This paper will also analyze the specific policies, legal codes, and debates related to murders of women, as well as how various segments of society defined, classified, and discussed the issue in the press, legal system, and parliament. Benefiting from the most recent scholarship on the social and cultural history of Turkey, this paper will reveal how women's murders manifested the broader anxieties in Turkish society over masculinity, sexuality, and morality, caused by political upheaval and the rapid transition from religious to secular patriarchy, some of which left their mark on the country’s legal, social, and cultural order up to the present day.
  • Sara Seweid-DeAngelis
    In the early decades of the twentieth century, castrated masculinity was key to assembling the respectable Egyptian household and securing heterosexual Egyptian effendiyya masculinity. By tracing the Black eunuch’s place in the emerging Egyptian nation, through a family system (Balibar 1990; McClintock 1995) in which the (male) nationalist elite grew up in close proximity to the ungendered and queered Black eunuch, this paper maps out how Egyptian nationalist politics were shaped by slavery, and how the male Egyptian effendiyya constructed their nationalist identity in opposition to the “emasculated” Black eunuch. Further, it argues that the figure of the effendi was under threat by the eunuch who came to embody emasculated, castrated masculinity, performed subjugated labor through their association with the harem, and their Blackness, which had long been associated with slavery in Egypt. In addition, this paper posits that the geopolitical site of southern Egypt (Upper Egypt) and its proximity to “Black Africa” and the slave routes through which enslaved Black African subjects traveled and where eunuch-making camps existed, contributed to the racialization of Egyptian men from rural origins whose dark skin, peasant origins, and proximity to “Black Africa” confined them to a civilizational periphery. In the urban north where effendiyya writers and cartoonists were actively shaping discourses around normative, ideal citizenship and belonging, the dark-skinned peasant remained on the margins. In this racialized colonial geography, this paper demonstrates that this site and those who came to be associated with it, namely the dark-skinned peasant, experienced a civilizational periphery, which effendiyya writers and cartoonists articulated in the burgeoning printed press.
  • This paper examines uses of the term “brother” in describing male relationships in memoirs of the First World War and interwar period by Ottoman Army officers from the Mashriq including Taha al-Hashimi, Nuri al-Sa‘id, Jafar al-‘Askari, Fawzi al-Qawuqji, ‘Ali Jawdat, Tahsin ‘Ali, Naji Shawkat, and Tawfiq al-Suwaydi, members of what Michael Provence called “The Last Ottoman Generation.” These relationships comprise a variety of forms, including fictive kinship, kinship through marriage, and siblinghood. Some bonds demonstrate forms of homosociality as theorized by Nils Hammarén and Thomas Johansson, strengthening male relationships in furtherance of either vertical homosociality, preserving patriarchy in ways explored by Ayşe Gül Altınay in the Turkish military, as well as horizontal homosociality, revealing friendship and intimate connection, similar to Mary Ann Fay’s findings regarding use of the term “brother” among 18th century military slaves in Egypt, or Josephine Hoegaerts’ study of fictive kinship and masculinity in the 19th century Belgian Army. Interestingly, some brotherly relationships comprised more than fictive kinship. Officers’ marriages reveal examples of marrying the sister or female extended relative of fellow officers, thereby becoming kin and sometimes brothers-in-law. This is most clearly evident in the case of Nuri al-Sa'id and Jafar al-‘Askari, but is also apparent in the case of ‘Ali Jawdat and the military officer uncle of his bride to be, Nazik ‘Ali Jawdat. Upon initial assessment, these marriages resemble “triangular” relations through which men strengthen male-male relationships through women, but further investigation may illuminate other aspects of courtship and gender expectations of marriage by men, expanding on works by Kate Dannies, Mary Ann Fay, Cem Behar, and Alan Duben. Another important “brother” relationship among officers is siblinghood. Three al-‘Askari brothers, two al-Hashimi brothers, three Shawkat brothers, and two Suwaydi brothers appear as officers in these memoirs. These sibling relationships add another layer to the concept of “brothers” and “brotherhood” that centers the family and familial relationships in the study of Ottoman officer experiences, building on recent pioneering work by Linda Maynard into sibling relationships in First World War Britain. These uses of “brother” in Ottoman officer memoirs reveal the entangled connections of family, masculinity, military training, and conceptions of the nation to shape discourses about male-male relationships. This work also identifies men’s attitudes and expectations toward marriage and establishment of families across late Ottoman and early interwar periods, in addition to the important network of relationships between siblings in the late Ottoman Empire.