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  4. Archives de l'Atelier
  5. 2016

Desiring voice: Promises and disappointments of female public audibility in Turkish Kurdistan

Publié le 22 février 2016 Mis à jour le 25 septembre 2023

22 février

Marlene Schäfers
(University of Cambridge)

Salle Henri Janne , Institut de Sociologie (15e étage), Bâtiment S
Avenue Jeanne, 44, 1050 Bruxelles


Lacking or being deprived of voice appears to be a sure sign of social oppression, as much as raising one’s voice is readily taken to indicate empowerment and agency. Muslim and Middle Eastern women, in particular, have in this manner frequently been represented as silenced by the forces of patriarchy, religion, and custom. In Turkey, many Kurdish women in fact share such – one might call them Orientalist – discourses, while simultaneously being engaged in relentless struggles to raise their voices in the name of emancipation, modernization and societal progress, which the public audibility of female voices stands for.
In this talk, based on my ethnographic research with Kurdish women singers, I seek to investigate the mechanisms that have rendered female emancipation coterminous with the public audibility of women’s voices. What, in other words, are the conditions of possibility for the intense desires for voice that I observed on the part of Kurdish women in Turkey? I will argue that these conditions have to be located in a modern ideology of voice that intimately ties voice to self in scenes of public recognition. Yet, as I will moreover show, resulting female desires for public audibility are inherently ambiguous, since they expose those raising their voices in public to the violence of misrecognition and – literal – silencing.


Marlene Schäfers holds a PhD in Social Anthropology from the University of Cambridge. Her dissertation investigates the “desires for voice” held by Kurdish women in Turkey and the effects of the increasing circulation of female voices in Kurdish and Turkish public spheres. Theoretically she is engaging with issues of political subject formation, voice, affect, suffering and trauma. During the academic year 2014-15 she was associated with ULB’s Laboratoire d’Anthropologie des Mondes Contemporains (LAMC) as a doctoral fellow of the Fondation Wiener-Anspach. She holds a BA in history and political sciences from the University of Konstanz (Germany), and an MA in Ottoman history from Istanbul Bilgi University (Turkey).