Evans-Pritchard Lectures 2021

Given by Dr Marlene Schäfers (Newton International Fellow, University of Cambridge)

‘Voices that Matter: Kurdish Women and the Dilemmas of Representation in Contemporary Turkey’

All lectures take place at 5.00 pm on Teams – 13, 20 and 27 May and 3 June

Kurdish women have captured unprecedented global attention as combatants deployed at frontlines in Syria, Iraq and Turkey. In much public discourse, these women are portrayed as unexpectedly yet courageously defying their own society’s putative attempts at silencing them. Kurdish women, it is alleged, are finally “raising their voices.” Rather than judging whether Kurdish women have finally acquired voice or are still being silenced, this series of lectures questions the commonplace association between silence and repression, voice and agency. Instead, the lectures ask how the voice has become such a central site for determining Middle Eastern women’s empowerment and agency, and how this animates the voice as a powerful nexus of governmental control and intervention, subaltern desire and resistance. Focusing on the struggles of Kurdish female singers, poets and women’s activists to raise their voices in eastern Turkey, the series investigates how these women’s voices shape subjects and assemble publics, circulate thanks to a variety of technologies, and become a site of governmental intervention and bureaucratic management. Bringing a material understanding of voice to bear on dominant figurative conceptions, the lectures critically reflect on the limits of the imperative advanced by contemporary politics of representation that one ought to “have a voice” in order to gain political agency. They demonstrate that one of the central postulates of liberal politics – that gaining a voice is inherently empowering – obscures how voices routinely draw the subjects emitting them into complex webs of political, moral and affective relations that do not stand apart from existing frames of hegemony.

Sorry, there are currently no talks scheduled in this series.

This series features in the following public collections: