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“It used to Be Forbidden”: Kurdish Women and the limits of gaining voice

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Abstract
Women’s rights and human rights projects in Turkey and elsewhere routinely construe and celebrate subaltern voice as an index of individual and collective empowerment. Through an ethnographic study of Kurdish women singers’ (dengbêjs) efforts to engage in their storytelling art in Turkey, this article questions the equation between “raising one’s voice” and having agency. It investigates two concrete instances in 2012, in Istanbul and Van, where Kurdish women publicly raised their voices. It shows that public audibility does not necessarily translate into agency, because these spaces, like most, discipline voices ideologically and sonically. Audibility is not a neutral achievement but an ideologically structured terrain that shapes voices and regulates whether and how they are heard and recognized. Voices routinely have ambiguous and even contradictory effects once they become audible in public. It is not simply a matter of “having voice” or “being silenced.”
Keywords
voice, dengbêjs, Kurdish women in Turkey, women’s rights, audibility

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Citation

Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:

Chicago
Schäfers, Marlene. 2018. “‘It Used to Be Forbidden’: Kurdish Women and the Limits of Gaining Voice.” JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN’S STUDIES 14 (1): 3–24.
APA
Schäfers, M. (2018). “It used to Be Forbidden”: Kurdish Women and the limits of gaining voice. JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN’S STUDIES, 14(1), 3–24.
Vancouver
1.
Schäfers M. “It used to Be Forbidden”: Kurdish Women and the limits of gaining voice. JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN’S STUDIES. Duke University Press; 2018;14(1):3–24.
MLA
Schäfers, Marlene. “‘It Used to Be Forbidden’: Kurdish Women and the Limits of Gaining Voice.” JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN’S STUDIES 14.1 (2018): 3–24. Print.
@article{8560586,
  abstract     = {Women{\textquoteright}s rights and human rights projects in Turkey and elsewhere routinely construe and celebrate subaltern voice as an index of individual and collective empowerment. Through an ethnographic study of Kurdish women singers{\textquoteright} (dengb{\^e}js) efforts to engage in their storytelling art in Turkey, this article questions the equation between {\textquotedblleft}raising one{\textquoteright}s voice{\textquotedblright} and having agency. It investigates two concrete instances in 2012, in Istanbul and Van, where Kurdish women publicly raised their voices. It shows that public audibility does not necessarily translate into agency, because these spaces, like most, discipline voices ideologically and sonically. Audibility is not a neutral achievement but an ideologically structured terrain that shapes voices and regulates whether and how they are heard and recognized. Voices routinely have ambiguous and even contradictory effects once they become audible in public. It is not simply a matter of {\textquotedblleft}having voice{\textquotedblright} or {\textquotedblleft}being silenced.{\textquotedblright}},
  author       = {Sch{\"a}fers, Marlene},
  issn         = {1552-5864},
  journal      = {JOURNAL OF MIDDLE EAST WOMEN'S STUDIES},
  keyword      = {voice,dengb{\^e}js,Kurdish women in Turkey,women{\textquoteright}s rights,audibility},
  language     = {eng},
  number       = {1},
  pages        = {3--24},
  publisher    = {Duke University Press},
  title        = {{\textquotedblleft}It used to Be Forbidden{\textquotedblright}: Kurdish Women and the limits of gaining voice},
  url          = {http://dx.doi.org/10.1215/15525864-4296988},
  volume       = {14},
  year         = {2018},
}

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