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Sexuality and Reproductive Rights

Panel XIII-24, 2023 Annual Meeting

On Sunday, November 5 at 1:30 pm

Panel Description
  • Examining the divergent histories of the mainstream LGBTI movement and Kurdish queer/trans activism in Turkey, this paper critically scrutinizes the concept of (Turkey’s) “queer times,” used by Turkish scholars and activists to historicize “queerness” within the context of sexual politics under Justice and Development Party. In recent years, queer and trans Kurds have been under an increasingly intensive, extensive, and sophisticated regime of surveillance for their involvement in Kurdish and LGBTI movements, for attending and organizing public events and protests, and for explicitly voicing a trans and queer Kurdish cause by deploying radical narratives of Kurdish national struggle. These narratives have long been criminalized in a context of state-sponsored stoking of fears of national disintegration and moral degeneration while recently being strategically used by TERFs (Trans Exclusionary Radical Feminists) and Turkish cisgender women further to demonize trans and Kurdish causes in the public discourse. Drawing from ethnographic fieldwork with Kurdish queer and trans activists in Istanbul and Diyarbakir, participant observation at the LGBTI Assembly of People’s Democratic Congress (HDK – Halkların Demokratik Kongresi), virtual meetings with a city-wide Pride Week Committee as well as following their disputes on social media with trans-exclusionary radical feminists, it examines how queer and transgender Kurds have developed a sense of Kurdish queer cause filled with affective dis/attachments, negotiations (of value), and insurgent ethos whose meanings have been shifted and refashioned in response to their national struggle and the economic depravity they were born into. The paper shows how queer and trans activists become the political subjects of the longstanding warfare between the Turkish state and the PKK as their lives and activism destabilize asymmetrical power relations, individual freedom, and liberal non-violence dominant in the mainstream political discourse of the LGBTI movement in Turkey. This work contributes to and expands queer studies of “homonationalism” (Puar, 2007) and anthropological literature on activism (Abu Lughod, 1990; Howe, 2014) by showing how their lives cannot be adequately described through dyadic frameworks of domination and resistance in a securitized landscape working on the register of intimacy and security, all of which have historically been shaped and shifted by the longstanding warfare between the PKK and the Turkish state.
  • How do anti-sexual violence groups form and sustain their activism under autocratic regimes and amid democratic backslidings? Using the case of the anti-sexual violence groups that emerged online in Egypt in 2020, I investigate the role of emotions in sustaining the movement in the absence of political opportunities, organizational resources, and frame resonance. Drawing from the literature on emotions and social movements, I apply an analytical framework consisting of three concepts, emotion work, emotional opportunities, and emotional transformation. I show how the emotional work carried out by the online groups and the emotional opportunities inherited from former movements have played a role in mobilizing survivors of sexual violence and transforming the emotional culture around the issue. The data was collected through carrying out interviews with founders and followers of key online accounts supplemented by a review of the groups’ online posts and the public prosecutors’ statements. The article adds to the existing literature on social movements by demonstrating the mechanisms through which emotions matter and affect movements.
  • Male circumcision in Turkey is viewed as not only a religious obligation but also a rite of passage toward manhood. Young boys are typically circumcised between the ages of three and eleven and circumcision is ritualized through celebrations, gifts, and special outfits reminiscent of Ottoman sultans. This article examines the processes through which the ritual of male circumcision brings the male body into the fold of modern Turkish nationalism. It shows how the Turkish gender, religious, and nationalist ideology maps, via male circumcision, communal boundaries, and national borders, and their associated anxieties, onto the contours of the male body. In doing so, the article argues, the foreskin becomes associated with femininity, infidelity, and disloyalty. By examining the complex relationship between different modalities of power (disciplinary power, biopower, and necropower) and the body in Turkey, the article contributes to the literature on the relationship between masculinity, the body, and nationalism.
  • Following the 2011 revolutions and social movements in the SWANA region, much of the scholarly attention has focused on visible and public forms of protests that paved the way to essentialize al-shari' (the street) as the main and 'authentic' site of protest. Whether by mainstream media, or the academic and think tank research, this conceptualization shapes what constitutes as 'dissident' and 'revolutionary' and what constitutes a "not-the-right-time protest.' This approach to learning from the past decade's popular protests of what has been framed as the 'Arab Spring,' ignores everyday protests that may be invisible, or those that are perceived as 'not revolutionary enough' or even framed as 'outsider' protests. Based on autoethnographic and ethnographic methods, my intervention will focus on two forms of what I call everyday 'over' protests as forms of 'outsider protests': 1- sex workers' protests in prison and 2- street drag protests. Based on an autoethnographic account of my second detention in early 2012, I conceptualized the sex workers' protest in Adra prison in Damascus in early 2012 as an 'outsider protest.' I also conceptualize the figuration of 'over queer' as an outsider queer not only from the state and community but also within al-jaw, an underground cisman-dominant community in Syria. I borrowed the term 'over queer' from many of my interlocutors, describing the 'over queer' as who is incarcerated for walking in the streets for wearing an 'over makeup,' with an 'over outfit,' and who is either imagined as a trans woman, a crossdresser, a drag, or a femme luti (‘fag’). In doing so, this paper engages closely with debates on the racialization of 'affective economies' to develop notions of queer protest every day and what are the limitations of such theoretical framework to understand non-binary and 'outsider' forms of everyday protests in contemporary North Africa and Southwest Asia region.