The Gendered Grammar of Occidentalism: Modes of Addressing Violence Against Women in Turkey
Speaker: Meltem Ahıska (Associate Professor, Department of Sociology,
Boğaziçi University [ Istanbul ], Turkey )
Date: Wednesday, April 28, 2010
Time: 7.30pm – 9.30pm
Venue: Duke of Windsor Social Service Building , 15 Hennessey Road ,
Wanchai, Hong Kong (Wanchai MTR Exit A2)
Incidents of violence against women, mostly in the form of killings of women by family members, together with ongoing forms of domestic violence, rape and sexual assault, have become more visible in Turkey in the recent years. The issue of violence against women surfaces as a grave problem in media, and a wide range of actors including politicians, journalists, civil society organizations and academics address the question in various ways. The most widespread and dominant way of explaining this disturbing social question have been by reference to “tradition” and creates a “tradition effect” in Dicle Koğacıoğlu’s terms in a very important article on the issue. Interestingly what is rendered as tradition and regarded as “backward” is also connected to ethnicity and a certain conception of the “East”. In other words, the question is usually posed as belonging to Kurdish people who are labelled as Eastern and regarded as an obstacle to Westernization as a synonym of modernity. In discussing this question, which is also politically charged due to the severe conflicts with the Kurdish, I employ the framework of Occidentalism that I developed before. I take Occidentalism as a historical and dialogical construction of modernity in Turkey in relation to the so-called “East” and “West”. I argue that Occidentalism has established a performative grammar of power, which can be put into service for explaining away, and legitimizing gender discrimination and violence by using the terms of a projected Westernism.
Meltem Ahıska is Associate Professor of Sociology at Boğaziçi University . She is the author of The Magical Door of Radio: Occidentalism and Political Subjectivity (Radyonun Sihirli Kapısı: Garbiyatçılık ve Politik Öznellik) and the co-author of ‘The Indivisible Unity of the Nation’: Fragmenting Nationalism(s) in the Demcoratisation Process (‘Milletin Bölünmez Bütünlüğü’ : Demokratikleşme Sürecinde Parçalayan Milliyetçilik(ler)). She has contributed to Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward Said with a chapter entitled ‘Orientalism/Occidentalism: The Impasse of Modernity.’ Her articles and essays on Occidentalism, social memory, gender and related issues have appeared in various publications including Defter, Toplum ve Bilim, New Perspectives on Turkey, and The South Atlantic Quarterly. She has published a book of poems, and co-curated exhibitions, the most recent being ‘The Person You Have Called Cannot Be Reached at the Moment: Representations of Lifestyles in Turkey , 1980-2005.’ Her book, Occidentalism in Turkey: Questions of Modernity and National Identity in Turkish Radio Broadcasting by I.B.Tauris of London is forthcoming.
Professor Meaghan Morris
Department of Cultural Studies
Organizer: Gender Studies Programme, The Chinese University of Hong Kong
Sponsor: Lee Hysan Foundation
Inquiries: Email: [email protected]; Tel: 2696 1026; Fax: 2603 7223