some remarks

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Ankara, Turkey
I'm just a sociologist astonished by the marvelous sense of humor of the universe! So, why not be a bad hat?

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

'my body' bearing on an iffy avowal

"my body, my decision" "my girlfriend's body, her decision" "my body, my decision"

The resent debates about abortion in Turkey and our slogans against the 'pro-life' argument have made me think on the body again. I've just revisited Butler's Precarious Life, and rethinking the feminism in Turkey, a couple of paragraphs stuck in my mind tonight. Coming up with such a slogan asserting "my body, my decision", we might be overwhelmed the sense of autonomy which we consider belongs to us. The decision and the control over "my body" does not imply a simple ownership and rights. The institutionalization and instrumentalization of "my body" is of course a matter of the fight, though. Each time the state, its apparatuses and the patriarch encounter "my body" with the very presence of my vagina and womb, they also have to  face with their 'private' functions in the body of mine. And I enjoy that moment where they writhe in agony to neglect this cruel fact. I can read this in the face of those who feels menaced by me suffering the monthly cramps due to my period. It would be fine by them if I keep the reason of my feeling sick to myself and do not make them aware of the fact that I have a 'bleeding vagina'. 

"women do masturbate, too" March 8, 2012 / Istanbul-Taksim

Although Butler illustrates the relation of the body and the conceptualization of the death to mourning and grief, those paragraphs cited below may also be pertinent to the claim for 'my body', and its cultural existence, and the possibility of feminism in Turkey which has oscillated like a pendulum between the 'East' and the 'West' so far.

Judith Butler, 2004, Precarious Life: the power of mourning and violence, Verso: London & NY

The body implies mortality, vulnerability, agency: the skin and the flesh expose us to the gaze of others but also to touch and to violence, and the bodies put us at risk of becoming the agency and instrument of all these as well. Although we struggle for rights over our own bodies, the very bodies for which we struggle are not quite ever only our own. The body has its invariably public dimension. Constituted as a social phenomenon in the public sphere, my body is and is not mine. Given over from the start to the world of others, it bears their imprint, is formed within the crucible of social life; only later and with some uncertainty, do I lay claim to my body as my own, if, in fact, I ever do. Indeed, if I deny that prior to the formation of my "will," my body related me to others whom I did not choose to have in proximity to myself, if I build a notion of "autonomy" on the basis of the denial of this sphere of a primary and unwilled physical proximity with others, then am I denying the social conditions of my embodiment in the name of autonomy?
(p. 26)

There will be differences among women, for instance, on what the role of reason is in contemporary politics. Spivak insists that it is not reason that politicizes the tribal women of India suffering exploitation by capitalist firms, but a set of values and a sense of the sacred that come through religion. And Adriana Caverero claims that it is not because we are reasoning beings that we are connected to one another, but, rather, because we are exposed to one another, requiring a recognition that does not substitute the recognizer for the recognized.
(p. 48)

What allows us to encounter one another? What are the conditions of possibility for an international feminist coalition? My sense is that to answer these questions, we cannot look to the nature of "man," or the a priori conditions of language, or the timeless conditions of communication. We have to consider the demands of cultural translation that we assume to be part of an ethical responsibility (over and above explicit prohibitions against thinking the Other under the sign of the "human") as we try to think the global dilemmas that women face. It is not possible to impose a language of politics developed within First World contexts on women who are facing the threat of imperialist economic exploitation and cultural obliteration. On the other hand, we would be wrong to think that the First World is here and the Third World is there, that a second world is somewhere else, that a subaltern subtends these divisions. These topographies have shifted, and what was once thought of as a border, that which delimits and bounds, is a highly populated site, if not the very definition of the nation, confounding identity in what may well become a very auspicious direction.
(p. 49)

Arcade Fire - "My Body is a Cage" (from the album Neon Bible)
(ended like a hipster)

Thursday, February 9, 2012

children of resistance

"They think you are beautiful."
"No, I'm just clean."
"Hey sister! You're so beautiful."
"Thank you my dear. But, it's because of your beauty. I've been just thinking how beautiful you girls are."
"Our school is damaged you know. We can't go to school."
"Do you know when it will start again?"
"No. But we missed it. We love our teacher. She is a good person."
"Let me give you a secret. When I was in your age, I hated to go to school, and my teacher as well."
"Where are you from?"
"Do you know if another earthquake will occur again? That was scary, you know!?"
"I don't think it will happen again soon. At least not so disastrous one will happen soon."
"Do you know when?"
"Nobody could know when. But I don't think, it will be soon."
(That night, the second earthquake occurred. I can't forgive myself for this conversation. They are only children and trusted me. I 'promised' them for that it wouldn't happen again soon. Whom the hell did I think I am and said such a stupid thing to these kids? God? The Earth?)

"My husband works in another city."
"What do you do for a living?"
"Nothing. My man sends us money. Sometimes the relatives help as well. Are you a journalist?"
"No sister, I am not. I am a volunteer."
"You came here to help us? May God bless you!"
"Does the kid have a health issue?"
"She does. Since the earthquake. She's acted weird. She loved you, though. Sister, take my picture when I wash the clothes, huh?"

"You need to rest. Stay here tonight. We have enough place."
"I can't. I have to be back in two hours."
"You will get sick if you continue like this. Did you eat anything today?"
"I don't remember. I'll curl up here for a while, and listen S.'s singing and playing his bağlama. This will be enough for me."
"You don't look good."
"I will be. I'm psychologically down now. I'll be ok in 2 hours. I know myself.
"Don't be so stubborn and take a bite from this. And drink at least a glass of rakı, for God's sake!"
"I can take a bite. But can't drink. People can smell out it."
"So what?"
"It would be rude. I mean, everybody works. I said them I would disappear only for two hours."
"You can't work nonstop. You need a break. You are pushing it hard girl. They can manage one night without you."
"I know they can. But I've taken the responsibility. I've promised, I would be in charge."
"What was the last song he's just played?"
"Ciwan Haco, Xeribiye."
"How do you spell it?"
"Let me type it for you, give me your cellphone."
"What is it about, S.?"
"A dream about home. A dream about going back home. About the lost home. But not like a simple homesick."
"(Unheimlichkeit...) .... Let me go home. I mean, to the tent city."

"When I entered the tent, and saw them drinking and laughing... I don't know. I felt terrible. I was angry with them. I thought, how they could do such a thing under this condition. I prayed for them, begged Allah to forgive them. But at the same time, I hated them."
"Why honey? Please don't pray for them. There is nothing to beg Allah for forgiveness. Look, they have worked almost 24 hours nonstop since the earthquake. Most of us were here during the earthquake. They also need to do something to hang on as best they can. I know, religiously, you find it wrong. But, this does not mean they are bad people..."
"I know sister. This is exactly what bothers me. They are good people. I am not blind. But they were drinking. I'm not used to this. And I also know you have such a life in the West. But I can't help myself thinking that it's wrong that they could drink and laugh under this conditions."
"To keep working, we need something. You have got Allah. Most of us don't have a God. I don't know. Consider it as a therapy. I don't say that being an alcoholic is a good thing. But this does not make them alcoholic as well. They just need to have a leisure time, to get relaxed, keep their motivation. And believe me, just lying down in the tent does not help at all."
"I know sister. Believe me I also try to understand. But that night, I needed somewhere to escape, to breath. I came into the tent to smoke a cigaret, dropped in for a chat. So many things have changed so fast, and can't stop thinking about what will happen to me, to us now. Today is ok, yesterday is ok. But then? After I saw they were drinking and laughing, it occurred to me, you will all leave. Sooner or later, you all will leave. We'll stay here. What's gonna happen to us sister? You will go on your lives. It's temporary for you all. What about me? I don't know. Am I jealous? Maybe! But, do you see what I mean? I don't know what will happen to me. That's why I couldn't stand their drinking there, I couldn't stand that they could have a good time there. I love you all, Allah knows, I love you all. But, I was offended that night. I don't know why. It passed now though... but I felt terrible that night. I don't wanna hate you. But you'll leave, I'll stay here. My Allah help me! Please don't hate me for this, sister."
"I don't. I promise, this will pass. I promise, you will get over this. Sooner or later, you will."

"You are leaving us too. Huh, sweet witch?"
"Don't say like that bro. I'll be back in 10 days, you know it."
"10 days? You said 5 days. It's become 10 days already. And we are only on the way to the airport. After arriving Ankara, I'm afraid, you'll say you'll be back here in 20 days. Then, you will never come back."
"I gave my word, didn't I? I'll be back bro."

("we won't leave Wan")

"I wouldn't have left, if I'd known that I would find you like this. Do you ever sleep?"
"You look terrible. You need to take some vitamin and to rest."
"I'll be fine. You are here now. You are my vitamin."
"Please, for me! Sleep for a couple of hours now. Turn your phone off. I'll wake you up. I promise."
"I'll try. If the sweetest witch of the world asked for it, I'll try."

"Where are you from?"
"Why did you come here?"
"Just to give a hand..."
"Don't come! You don't do anything good by being here. You make it worse. Don't come! Don't help us!"
"Why do you think so?"
"You just make everything worse. You come here, then the people gets used to you. Then they expect something from you. Then you leave. Then the things get worse for them. Don't come! Don't help us! Leave us alone! We can take care of ourselves!"

"Don't send your psychologists and pedagogues to Wan! They just give harm by putting that stupid idea in the heads of people that they've been traumatized by the earthquake! This is what the West always does, always! They define everything. They give a definition to a situation, and a label next to it. 'This is that, you are this...' Then the person they define thinks that s/he has something wrong to be corrected. Then, here we go, that person has a psychological situation. Before defined, that person has nothing wrong, or doesn't see her/himself as a pathological case. They teach her/him to define her-/himself. And God damn it, this is always their [Western people's] definitions, their labels! There wasn't such an idea before in the heads of the people that they have to have something wrong with their psychic health just because they survived this earthquake. These people has survived the worst! They can handle it alone. But, no! They should go to Wan, and examine the people, put them into group therapies, define them with their invented categories in their little boxes, treat them as if they must be sick! Now, thanks to them [Western people], they feel really sick!"

(it says: "Xaçort means rebellion")

"Children asked always about her. They asked where the tall crazy sister is, and when she will come back again. They asked about H. and U. They had really good time with them. They always talked about them. They missed them."

"You are really good with children. Like you have known them for years."
"Usually, I'm not good with kids. They scare me a lot. You know, they are like zipped little persons. But the children of this area... they are different. I take them as equal. You saw, I bargained with them for the knives, and got a discount. They also take me as equal.  I am not saying this to exoticize them, but they are not like the ones in the West. They have their own character. They go to school, but work at the same time. They are responsible for themselves. They are in solidarity with each other as well. They look after each other. If they saw I'm in need, they'd look after me as well."

"I teach them how to fight. But also not to beat the weaker. I teach them to defend themselves, how to resist against the oppressors. Sooner or later, they will encounter 'them'. They must know how to escape, how to fight against 'them'."

"Hey kids! While taking the reliefs, some of you took our stuffs as well. It's OK! You can keep them if you really need. But if not, there was a sleeping bag belonging to a brother. It's cold during the night, you know. If you don't need it, bring it back only for 10 days. The brother needs it so long. Then, we'll give it back to you again." (They brought our personal stuffs they took back in 10 minutes. They said, there was a mistake, and they wouldn't have taken them if they had known that they belong to us. We insisted on that they could keep some of them. But they did not accept. H. tought them well how to 'loot' fair. We did not let them to be punished. They are just kids, and don't have the sense of private property. They got that their play ground mates needed something they have. They brought back everything what we needed. Because they were our friends.)

"The children in the West can't grow up. I mean, the parents do not let them grow up. Then, they can't handle the life in their 20s. They are still children in their 20s. Here, on the other hand, children get adult in their very early ages. 8 years old, he earns money, goes to school, and he can negotiate. Or a girl, she is responsible for her sisters and brothers. She works as well."
"(Unpaid domestic labour) ..... "
"Neither is normal, I think. 8 year old child shouldn't be concerned by the things in grown-ups world. You saw Rojbin. She was 4, and worried about his brothers. She didn't eat the chocolate H. gave her. She kept it to eat with her brothers. She came into our tent, sit there for an hour and did not complain about anything even for ones."

"Hey sis!? Do you smoke tabacco there?"
"Can you drew one for me?"
"How old are you, boy?"
"15. Does it matter?!"
"Not for me."
"It's a bizzare tabacco you have there. I'm just curious. I haven't seen it before. I smoke sometimes. Not always."
"Ok! But I warn you, it's kinda heavy."
"Where is it from?"
"England, I guess."
"Shut up!"

"I could not take my camera in my hand for a while after the earthquake. Suddenly, it seemed to me wrong. I don't know. Doesn't feel right. I've newly started to take pictures again."
"I know what you mean. I felt the same thing during the first earthquake. I was trying to reach my fiancee, was on the way from the Centre to the campus. I had my camera with me. And I was stuck for minutes. But, it's my job. I was on the way, there was a chaos, but I had to take those pictures. I had to push on the shutter release."
"Maybe, I'll bring my camera as well. And maybe, I can learn something from you."
"Do it!"

"It's about a girl, isn't it?"
"Yes, it is. You know her."
"She is....?"
"Yes, she is."
"That's why you wanna go."
"Love. After all of these dreadful things, disasters, struggle... you can say, something remains in me. Something related to being a human. Despite everything, you are a human. And the love.... it reminds you your humanness. Despite everything, you can still love, and fall in love. Then you realize that you are still alive, you really survived."

"The art".
"What do you mean?"
"These children survived the earthquake. I just wanna give them the environment where they could bring out the art from themselves. They've got it."
"How come?"
"The only things we need are books, lots of books. And crayons, paints, and dyes. The rest is up to them. And I believe there is a lot inside of them."
"I'll insist on asking: how come? Would you teach them?"
"They don't need that. They just need the materials and a space."
"A space for art? I don't think that would help them. I think we should stop and ask ourselves one question: who the hell are we and think we could let them do art? What would happen then F? We will leave. We won't stay here forever..."
"They don't need us. You know this. That painting that child drew for you. You saw it. They don't need us to teach anything. We would only provide the materials..."
"But then what? We create a space for art? How would we do that? Can you see that dare, that authority in yourself? They have that space already. It's just not like that we are used to. Besides, could you take this responsibility?"
"What responsibility?"
"Children don't forget. If you touch them ones, they don't forget. They don't forget the promises you give them. Starting such an action would be a promise. Would you stay here for years? You can't just leave after starting an art tent. They would expect more."
"I could."
"What about that power relation possibly built between you and them? How do you think you could overcome it? How would you define your position in such a relationship? A teacher? A volunteer? A hero?"
"As I said, I'll just help to built the tent which would create the space for them, and to supply the materials."
"But, still...  Don't you think we should be careful about whose garden we are trying to ride a horse in? I mean, we can't just build a children tent. A name, an institution, an organization would be asked as the one who is in charge of this 'artistic' endeavor."
"The university would be enough."
"I don't know. Something still bothers me. Something ethical. We bring the books, paints... This could help the children but at the same time ruin their lives forever. I don't know. I don't know how to overcome this power relation issue as well. What do you expect from them anyway?"
"Anything being their own product."
"But then what? I don't know. I'm a shallow woman when it comes to the art. Maybe that's why I can't get it."
"They have it in themselves. It's just needed to be dug out."
"Just be sure of not becoming the one who digs."

"We are not going there to play the hero. We will be there to give a hand."
"We shouldn't be in the position of the white hand giving the help."
"We should know our limits."
"Who are we?"
"Just a bunch of volunteers with limited resources but useful social networks."
"A bunch of anarchist."
"Individual collective."
"Guys, come on, seriously. We are nobody. Just a bunch of independent volunteers who can't move on if they won't go back."
"Like Lost?"
"Like Lost!"
"I hope, we won't end up with the same finale."