Archive for the 'feminism' Category

25
Nov
12

Der Clara-Zetkin-Park. Ein kleines Stück Leipziger Kolonialgeschichte

Clara Zetkin

Wenn Leipziger den Namen Clara Zetkin hören, verbinden sie damit meistens zwei Dinge: ein kleines Stück historische Revolution und einen wunderschönen Park. Was die meisten nicht wissen ist, dass die imposanten Bäume nicht nur im Herbst schön aussehen und Schatten spenden, sondern wachsende Produkte einer dunkel-deutschen Kolonial-Geschichte sind. Tatsächlich wurde „unser Clara-Park“ für eine Garten-Ausstellung entworfen, dessen zentraler Teil eine großzügig angelegte Menschenschau war. Informationen darüber zu bekommen, ist noch immer nur über alternative Quellen (1) möglich. Beispielhaft dafür liest sich der Text zur Geschichte des Clara Zetkin-Park auf der Homepage der Stadt Leipzig:

„Wer sich mit den genannten Parkanlagen etwas näher beschäftigt, begibt sich auf einen interessanten Streifzug durch die Leipziger Geschichte der Gartenkunst von der zweiten Hälfte des 19. Jahrhunderts bis in die Gegenwart.“ (2)

Die Frage, weshalb die Leipziger Geschichte der Gartenkunst für die Besucher_innen/Bürger_innen von Interesse sein sollte, aber nicht die Kolonialgeschichte, bleibt so unbeantwortet wie die Frage, weshalb der Bundestag das Thema deutsche Kolonien in seinen Diskursen gekonnt ignoriert. Grund genug weiter zu forschen und Informationen zu teilen.

Als Clara Zetkin (1857-1933) in Leipzig eine Ausbildung zur Volksschullehrerin machte, knüpfte sie Kontakte mit der revolutionären, antimilitaristischen Arbeiter- und Frauenbewegung. Sie gehörte bis 1917 der marxistischen Fraktion der SPD an, die sich später in den Spartakus-Bund (USPD) abspaltete. Wie August Bebel und Wilhelm Liebknecht übte Zetkin massive Kritik an der Deutschen Kolonialpolitik. Mit dieser Position machte sich die Frauenrechtlerin in der Mehrheitsbevölkerung nicht beliebt. Das wurde spätestens durch die so genannten “Hottentottenwahlen” 1907 deutlich. Dort verlor die SPD ein Drittel ihrer Reichstag-Sitze, weil sie sich nach dem Genozid an den Herero und Nama in “Deutsch-Südwest” (heutiges Namibia) gegen die Gewährung weiterer Gelder für die Kolonialtruppen entschieden hatte.

10 Jahre zuvor eröffnete die Deutsch-Ostafrikanische Ausstellung im heutigen Clara-Zetkin-Park unter der Leitung von Leutnant Blümcke, der zuvor unter Gouverneur Hermann von Wissmann in der „Schutztruppe“ in Deutsch-Ostafrika diente. Sie war Teil der Sächsisch-Thüringischen Gewerbe-Ausstellung und eine von vielen Ausstellungen, die zu Beginn des Deutschen Kolonialismus auch das Fußvolk für die “Koloniale Idee” begeistern sollte. Und das Fußvolk kam in Scharen. Denn die als Sensationen angepriesenen Kolonialausstellungen erfreuten sich zu einer Zeit, zu der es noch kein Fernsehen oder Billigflüge gab, großer Popularität.

Ziel der Ausstellung, zu der insgesamt rund 635.000 Gäste pilgerten, sollte es sein “…neben die hoch entwickelte moderne europäische Kultur die eigenartig gestaltete afrikanische, welche die ersten Stufen unseres Kulturlebens etwa erst zu erreichen bestrebt ist, zum Vergleich zu setzen.” (3). Auch Fabrikanten und Unternehmer sollten durch die Ausstellung angeregt und auf die neuen deutsch-kolonialen Absatzmärkte aufmerksam gemacht werden. Gesponsert wurde der massentauglich verbreitete Sozialdarwinismus von Leipziger Unternehmern, dem Stadtrat und dem Staat. Um sich mit der wirtschaftlichen Leistungsfähigkeit der deutschen Industrie zu brüsten wurden keine Kosten und Mühen gescheut. So sollte das “Schutzgebiet” möglichst originalgetreu nachgebaut werden. Dazu zählten zwei Kolonialstationen (Usungula und Mquapua), ein militärisches Expeditionslager, eine evangelische Missionsstation und die Haupthandels-Straße Barra-Rasta in Dar es Salaam, die in der Ausstellung als Souvenir- und Cafémeile diente.

In den Gebäuden selbst fanden die Besucher unzählige ethnographische Gegenstände, landestypische Produkte und Bilder. Darunter auch

“einige sehr interessante Stücke aus der Sammlung des Herrn Gouverneur v. Wissmann, von ihm (…) in den Gefechten gegen die Wawamba erbeutet.” (4).

Um den Besuchern ein “wahrhaftiges” Antlitz der “schützenswerten” Zone zu verleihen, wurden auch Menschen aus Fleisch und Blut ausgestellt. Für dieses “authentische” Erlebnis reiste der Beamte Karl Kaufmann am 27. Dezember 1896 mit Erlaubnis der Kolonial-Abteilung des Auswärtigen Amtes und des Gouverneurs DOAs nach Dar es Salaam. Sein Auftrag: Anwerbung von “Eingeborenen”. Vier Monate später erreichte Kaufmann mit 47 BewohnerInnen DOAs Leipzig. Bei der Auswahl der “Eingeborenen” achtete Kaufmann darauf, dass sie vorher möglichst wenig Kontakt mit Europäern hatten. Schließlich ging es laut seinem Auftrag darum

“… Vertreter der innerafrikanischen Stämme zu gewinnen, da die Suaheli als etwas Bekanntes – wie viele Suaheli-Karawanen gab es in den letzten Jahrzehnten in Deutschland zu sehen! – niemals die Anziehungskraft ausüben konnten, wie Repräsentanten anderer Stämme.” (5).

Das gesteigerte Interesse wurde durch Kannibalen-Gerüchte angeheizt. Die Ausstellungs-Zeitung verkündete am 12.April 1897:

“…dass bei besonderen Festlichkeiten dort Menschen verspeist wurden, und dass auch drei Matrosen von Sr. Majestät Schiff “Leipzig”, die sich im Jahre 1888 zur Zeit des Buschiri- Aufstandes vom Schiffe entfernten, von ihnen verspeist sein sollen. Herrn Kaufmann gaben die Leute auf sein Befragen die Erklärung ab, dass sie früher Menschen gegessen hätten, der drei Matrosen könnten sie sich aber nicht entsinnen…”.

Auf diese und ähnliche Weise konstruierte mensch die “Anderen” entlang einer Differenz, die sich bis heute durch Dualismen auszeichnet: “Primitive” vs. hoch entwickelte Kulturen. “Naturkinder”, “Ungläubige”, “schwarze Teufelsanbeter”die vor noch mehr Unheil geschützt werden muss – durch eine als hoch entwickelt geglaubte westliche Zivilisation. Ein “Schutz” der heute auch gerne von so genannten Nicht-Regierungsorganisationen als Entwicklungszusammenarbeit verkauft wird. Aber das nur am Rande.

Die in ihren nachgestellten Behausungen eingesperrten “Primitiven” durften ihre “gut beheizten Räume” nur einmal für einen Rundgang mit ihrem Fänger verlassen, wo dieser sie in Tänze, Kämpfe und traditionelles Handwerk einführte.

Trotz der “guten Beheizung” und der medizinischen Betreuung starb ein junger Angehöriger der Wassukuma kurz nach der Eröffnung der Ausstellung an einer Lungenentzündung. Er wurde auf dem Leipziger Südfriedhof bestattet. Er war nicht das einzige Todesopfer. Viele der “Ausgestellten” starben. Dokumente von ihnen gibt es nur sehr wenige. Eines davon stammt von Abraham. Er wurde in der “Eskimo-Völkerschau” ausgestellt und starb wie alle anderen Ausgestellten dieser Schau an Pocken. In seinem Tagebuch vermerkte er:

“…Donnerstag, 7 November. Hatten wir wieder betrübtes gehabt. Unser Gefährte, der led. Tobias wurde von unserem Herrn Jakobsen mit der Hundepeitsche gehauen…” (6).

Herr Jakobsen und sein Bruder waren auch von Interesse für das Leipziger Völkerkundemuseum. Das kaufte nämlich 1885 deren ethnographische Sammlung aus Nordwestamerika. Wie die ausgestellten Gegenstände erworben wurden, wird dem Besucher damals wie heute nicht verraten. Zum Völkerkundemeusum gäbe es noch viel zu sagen, doch dazu ein anderes Mal. Nur so viel: An der Fassade der Stadtbibliothek am Wilhelm-Leuschner-Platz, das damals als Völkerkundemuseum erbaut und genutzt wurde, prangt noch heute die Amazone aus der Armee der Dahomey (heutiges Benin), das zu jener Zeit gerade von Frankreich besiegt worden war. Und wer sich nicht nur für die Artefakten interssiert, sondern auch dafür, was aus den Menschen dieser Völkerschauen geworden ist, kann einen kleinen Geschmack aus unserem Nachbarland bekommen. In Zürich wurden nämlich im Januar 2010 die Skelette von fünf Seenomaden der Kawésqar-Indianer, die vor über 130 Jahren nach Zürrich für eine Völkerschau verschleppt wurden, erstmalig nach Chile zurückgeflogen worden.

Koloniale Spuren in Leipzig gibt es viele. Sie führen unter anderem zu akademischen Elite-Institutionen wie dem Institut für Ethnologie, dem Institut für Geographie, sie führen aber auch zu öffentlichen Orten wie dem Grassi-Museum, dem Ring-Messehaus, zum Krystallpalast-Varité, zur Nikolaikirche, zum Völkerschlacht-Denkmal, aber vor allem zum Leipziger Zoo, dem Ort, der früher Menschenschauen bewarb wie heute neue Tiergeburten. Im Leipziger Zoo werden die kolonialen Spuren zwar geleugnet, aber weiterhin “authentisch” reproduziert:

“Abendveranstaltung “Hakuna Matata” in der Kiwara-Lodge. Erleben Sie eine spannende Tour mit den Zoolotsen durch den abendlichen Zoo, ein spannendes Programm mit afrikanischen Tänzern und Trommlern und ein Bufett im exotischen Ambiente der Kiwara-Savanne. Tickets und weitere Infos im Safari-Büro.”

(1) http://www.engagiertewissenschaft.de

(2) http://www.leipzig.de/de/buerger/freizeit/leipzig/parks/clara/allg/

(3) Ausstellungs-Zeitung vom 29.4.1897

(4) D.K. Blümcke 1897, S.23

(5) Ausstellungs-Zeitung vom 29.5.1897

(6) Tagebuch von Abraham, übersetzt von Bruder Kretschmer 7.11.1880 nach Thode-Arora 1989, S. 125

Wer sich stärker für das Thema interessiert, dem sei die Homepage www.leipzig-postkolonial.de empfohlen, auf der in Kürze Texte zu postkolonialen Orten in Leipzig erscheinen. Die Seite wird von der Arbeitsgruppe Postkolonial/Engagierte Wissenschaft e.V. betrieben, die regelmäßig auch “postkoloniale” Stadtrundgänge in Leipzig anbieten.

Infokasten:

Deutschland begann mit der Kolonisierung verstärkt “erst” Ende des 19. Jahrhunderts. Die größte Kolonie war Deutsch-Südwestafrika, auf dem Gebiet des heutigen Namibia, das von 1884 bis 1915 kolonisiert wurde. Ab 1904 kämpften deutschen Truppen gegen die Herero, die erbitterten Widerstand leisteten. Später schlossen sich auch die Nama, die im Süden des Landes lebten und von den Deutschen “Hottentotten” genannt wurden, dem Kampf gegen die deutsche Kolonialmacht an. Die meisten Historiker bezeichnen den Krieg gegen die Herero und Nama als Genozid, da die Ziele nicht nur Sieg und Unterwerfung miteinschlossen, sondern vor allem Vertreibung und Vernichtung.

Schätzungen gehen davon aus, dass damals 50 bis 70 Prozent der bis zu 100.000 Herero und die Hälfte der damals rund 20.000 zählenden Nama, ums Leben kamen. Tausende von ihnen starben in Konzentrationslagern. Zu den verfolgten Völkern gehörten auch die Damara und San. Der Krieg wurde offiziell am 31. März 1907 für beendet erklärt. Erst 1908 wurden die letzten Konzentrationslager aufgelöst. Am 22.3.12, einen Tag nach dem 22. namibischen Unabhängigkeitstag und dem internationalen UN-Tag gegen Rassismus, lehnte der Bundestag einen Antrag der Linksfraktion vom 29.2.2012 ab, in dem diese forderte, das Parlament möge den Krieg gegen die Herero und Nama in Deutsch-Südwestafrika als Völkermord anerkennen.

Dieser Artikel erschien leicht gekürzt in der 46. Ausgabe des Feierabend, dem libertären Monatsheft aus Leipzig, November 2011

12
Oct
09

“The problems occur at night” – Being a transsexual in Istanbul

It’s late afternoon in Taksim, the centre of Istanbul. Ebru, Demet and some of their friends are sitting in a violett painted, yet quite empty room, somewhere in a side street of the lively district. The women chat over a cup of tea, exchanging the latest news: new relationships, politics, the job market, cooking recipies. Everything seems normal untill I enter the scenery, asking them how life as a transsexual in Istanbul feels for them, what sort of difficulties they face. One of the women looks at me, confused by the question. She responds: „It’s good, my life is good, I don’t have many problems.“ I am puzzled. Demet jumps into the conversation: „But as a transsexual, she means, we face problems in our lifes, don’t we? Friends of us get killed by their lovers, we are harassed by the police, shop-keepers charge us more because of our sexual identity. We have problems.“
Problems that prompted Demet and her friend Ebru six months ago to rent the little room we are sitting in now. Problems that caused them to offer a safe space for transgender and transsexual friends, for counseling, debating, exchanging news, chatting.

Ebru Kırancı and Demet Demir on the İstiklal Cadessi in Istanbul

Ebru Kırancı and Demet Demir on the İstiklal Cadessi in Istanbul


Working conditions and legal situation

News that did not make it to the news: One day after the last Pride Parade at the end of June 2009, a 19 year old transvestite from Şişli/ İstanbul was killed. The story of facts is as short as her life. The transsexual was picked up by a customer in the centre of Istanbul. What happened afterwards in the customer’s car remains unclear. The dead body of the transvestite has been dropped by its murderer in Zeytinburnu, another district of Istanbul, around 20 minutes away from the centre. A relative of the transsexual sewed the case and LGBTT people in Turkey tried to spread the news over their own information channels like their homepage or facebook groups. Besides this, no public attention has been paid to the killing of this young person. Recently there is no media coverage of violence against transvestites. The only way to do something, says Demet, is to protest. “Then the police is forced to find the murderers.”

One of the major problems transsexual face are linked to working conditions for transsexuals, especially in cases where they earn their money as sex-workers. “We can’t even work at home.The state and the local government use to close houses in which transsexuals and transvestites work, even if we live there.“ Due to a new regulation, private houses are assaulted and closed down for three month. After this period local authoratives close them down again for the same period. This has not always been like that claims Demet: “I saw the coup d’etat in the 1980s and how everything changed. Before the coup the environment was considerably friendly. After the coup transsexuals have been unrightfully taken to prison, raped, murdered. This continued until the new millenium. Since 2000, after the EU-negotiations things became more easier for transvestites, at least for a brief period. Then when AKP came into power things started to get more difficult again. Before they came into power 2002, they would close down houses for 10 days. Recently the period has been expanded to three months. Even the state runned brothels are closed down one after the other under the islamist-neoliberal AKP (Justice and Development Party) administration. After 1995 there were around 10.000 sex workers. Around half of them were registred. Now there around 4000 registred sex-workers but the total number is near a hundred thousand. So the number of unregistred sex-workers has been increased incredibly.“

In order to survive many of the sex-workers go to the street where they are confronted with new difficulties. On the pretext of blocking the traffic, disturbing public life, sex-workers get arrested on a regular basis due to a law that has been passed by the islamist-neoliberal AKP government in power. Another law that made life more difficult for transsexuals is the recently passed, so called, exhibitionist law. Transsexuals, officially being accused of showing their sexual organ in public, Ebru argues that „even transsexuals who show up in the most conservative dress are taken over by the police“. „They take you to the police department where they charge you between 60 and 70 YTL. On top of that we are supposed to pay food and rent. It is not possible to live like that. We can’t work. In this situation we say just give us a monthly payment. But they don’t want that either. They want us to starve and die,“ Demet adds. According to her, this situation where transsexuals can’t neither work in their homes nor in the streets, forces transgender people who work in the sex-business to their last station of choice – the highways. „There our friends get raped and killed by the customers or cars run over them. The responsible organ for that is the state because they force us to work there.“ Moreover, the state began a programme based on a court decision, that has been passed around two years ago on which basis transsexuals and transgendered are transferred into mental institutions. Being transsexual, according to the court, was considered, as a mental sickness that needs to be cured. „We know about 100 transsexual and transgender people that have experienced such assaults by state representatives. “We could only convince a couple of them to sew them because they are scared“, says Demet. „However, when we file reports concerning sexual harrassment at the police station the answer we get is: ‚it’s probably because you shook your tail, thats why he jumped on you ’“, says Demet.

However, there are also more positive examples. Başak, a friend of the group, recently got accepted as a teacher in an elementary school. The kids don’t know about my sexual identity, she says and claims that so far no problems have been occured, even not with teachers or parents.

Family situation and marriages among transsexuals
Demet came out when she was 22. Afterwards she lived for one year with her parents “but I am an exception”, she states. In contrast to her, Ebru has not seen her family for 20 years. Both of them agree that after coming out in the family it is hard to find a place in the transsexual community. Sex-work is mostly the only chance to survive for transsexuals. „Usually,“ Demet says „if you give money to your family they still consider you their daughter, if not then you are the fagot kid. Most families of transsexuals cut ties untill they die. If they die though they are hunting for what remains of the person“. Demet knows around 10-15 transwomen who got married while their husbands know about their sexual identity. However, when they get divorced, the men generally take advantage of this knowledge and pretend that they did not know before and that now, when they find out, they want to get divorced.


Transphobia among heterosexuals and LBGTs

Being a transsexual, even in the westernized centre of Istanbul, means being constantly in struggling not only with state authoratives representing a strongly patriarchal system but also with the Istanbulite population, including family, neighbours and shop- and house owners who perform a starkly unfriendly social environment for transsexual and transgender people. Interestingly, not just heterosexual oriented people exclude transsexuals and transgender socially, politically and economically. Yet there exist also transphobia among gay and lesbian people, another reason for Demet and Ebru, who worked in a well established LGBT organisation to open the first little association for transvestites and transsexuals.While many gays and lesbians feel that “transgender” is simply a name for a part of their own LGBT community, others actively reject the idea that transgender people are part of their community, seeing them as entirely separate and distinct. In the latter cases it is for instance controversely debated if transsexuals are homosexuals or not. The old discussion among scholars that are involved in gender studies becomes here a precarious tool for discrimination: What is the difference between gender and sexuality? If for example a transwoman is attracted only to other women, she is either lesbian by nature, being a woman, or is otherwise a heterosexual man which causes transphocic LGBT to exclude other transvestites transsexuals from their community. The implacability of the question whether a transgender person considers him- or herself as homosexual or not has been overcome by the rise of Queer Theory in the 1990s and the Queer community, which defines “queer” as embracing all variants of sexual identity, sexual desire, and sexual acts that fall outside normative definitions of heterosexuality. Thus a heterosexual man or woman as well as a transgender person of any sex can be included in the category of queer through their own choice.

More information on webpage of the lgbtt group or on other LGBT platforms in Turkey such as

LGBT Rights Platform

Kaos GL
LGBTT Association

Lambdaistanbul
LGBT Solidarity Association

MorEL (PurpleHand)
Eskisehir LGBT Initiative

Pembe Hayat (Pink Life)
LGBT Association

Piramid LGBT Diyarbakir
Initiative 

Siyah Pembe Ucgen (Black Pink Triangle) Izmir Association

Cases of hate crimes against transsexuals, transgender and transvestites who have been murdered in Turkey in the last two years:

On 15 July 2008 Ahmed Yıldız was shot dead in Üsküdar, Istanbul
On 10 November 2008, transsexual Dilek Ince was shot dead in Ankara.
On 19 December 2008, an unidentified transsexual was shot dead with two bullets through the chest at a roadside in Gebze.
On 10 March 2009, transsexual Ebru Soykan was stabbed to death at her home in Cihangir, Istanbul.
On 20 March 2009, transvestite L.D. (29) was stabbed in the stomach and wounded by three people in Eskisehir.
On 22 March 2009, the body of a transvestite, whose head and sexual organ had been cut off, was found in a rubbish container in Bursa.
On 27 March 2009, Yasar Sert (35) killed Sükrü Gençer (57) for suggesting a sexual relation (Edirne).
In Istanbul, the bodies of Yasar Mizrak (44), Mehmet Naci Zeyrek (30), Enes Arici (25) and Ercan Coskun were found in a well. The murderer, Özkan Zengin, said he had killed them for being gay.
On 11 April 2009, Melek K. (25) was stabbed to death in her home in Ankara.
See full article

14
Sep
09

Intersexions – Feminist Anthroplogy, Gender, Culture and Sexuality – a review

Feminist stanciling: Red Riding Hoods mother warned her about the patriarchy. (Photo by David Wolf)

Feminist stanciling: Red Riding Hoods mother warned her about the patriarchy. (Photo by David Wolf)

The time of pristine identities and categories are over. Which place take “gender” and “culture” in the new feminist anthropology? Which impact have sexuality, biological and social gender on the constitutions of subjects? What role does racism play here? And what have feminists to say about the critiques of ethnographic representation?

Intersexions or – how the editors alternatively name it – the goodbye of Othering – has been chosen as a title to illustrate that gender can not be seen as a singular category but as an overlapping of differences in the focus of biological gender and sexuality. Gender, in the view of the editors, never comes to exist by itself but is constructed, articulated and socially realized with and through other differences such as class, ethnicity, race et cetera. Studies where gender has been linked to these differences led to a decentralization of gender. Especially the radical critique of western, white feminism in and outside sciences through post-colonial feminists and feminist of color questioned the notions of “women” and “gender” as central categories of social hierarchies and emphasized a “politics of difference”. Also the question of gender in regard to these differences is (re-)produced and embedded into local and global systems of power. In accordance to these debates the authors of the papers that are presented in the Intersexion Reader discuss specific key points of the overlapping of differences and question categories and dichotomies such as man/woman, hetero/homsexual that are articulated by Queer Theory and feminist anthropology that re the basis of western notions of identity and sexuality.

Sylvia Yanagisako is focusing on sexuality, gender and reproduction and shows the consequences of what happens if we concentrate our discussion only on only one of these notions. She is developing her arguments by opposing David Halperins study of homosexuality in antique Greece who is ignoring gender, and Emiliy Martins analysis of body images of women in the USA who is ignoring sexuality. She claims that it is not enough if feminist and mainly heterosexual anthropologists in the US are working on gender and reproduction while social scientists of Gay&Lesbian Studies are working on sexuality. Moreover, a field of study such as sexuality, she argues, should not be conceptualized only as an autonomous field of sexual desiring since it risks to develop an ontological aura. In general she highlights that every social practice is constituted by a multiplicity of discourses. The categorizing and explaining of these discourses, she argues, does not show us how these discourses are articulated in all day life of people. In order to understand how they are articulated and put into practices, Yanagisako claims a feminist culture analysis that is taking as its starting point where and how do people link discourses and how they realize these links.

Similarly Brigitte Kossek is emphasizing the construction of sex and the power interest of naturalizations. In line with other post-colonial approaches of Cultural Critique where culture and imperialism are associated to each other, Kossek analyzes how culture is used and abused as a possibility to put scientific power of definition over the “Other”. Instead of questioning cultural difference, it is asked here if the conclusion that there is cultural difference does something else than evoking systems of power. In general, Kossek sees no neutral point from where we can differentiate sex and gender or nature and culture.

Contrarily to this assumption Sabine Lang is argues in favor of an analytical separation of sex and gender who made it possible for instance that the phenomenon of the “berdache” is not a sort of homosexuality that people are born with but that it is a system of multiple gender. She is analyzing that it is not the choosing of sexual partners which is central for the identity of north American two-spirits but their ethnic and spiritual awareness which can furthermore not be separated from the political-economic situation of the indigenous population in the USA.

Hilde Diemberger demonstrates that the Khumbo in Nepal do not distinguish between sex and gender or perceive the human body apart from kinship, religion or gender. She is contrasting her own experience of pregnancy in Nepal and the conceptualizations of he Khumbo that have been applied to her with the concepts of pregnancy in the West. Yet, to be pregnant in the West, she says, is far away from being “the most natural thing in the world” but is embedded in powerful societal and political contexts, from which it can not be perceived and experienced apart.

Susanne Schroeter in contrast is arguing for a universal connection of sex and gender. In her point of view human generativity and sex are linked to each other. Anatomical differences and their functions in the reproduction are perceived universally. Presenting empirical ethnographic material, she outlines that an understanding of sexuality can not be achieved without taking gender constructions into account. In each society, she argues they are the starting points of specific gender constructions or lead back to them ideologically. In this approach gender and other sort of differences as mentioned above, such as ethnicity and class are difficult to theorize.

What unites the contributions of Intersexions is that the relation of sex, gender and sexuality can not be answered on an abstract basis but only in regard to existing life realities. Without the inclusions of other fields of difference only a very reduced view and analysis is possible. So even if it is impossible for social scientists to understand and analyze the intertwining of systems of power, as Kossek articulates it, the articles of Intersexions show that our efforts should be directed towards a decovering and deconstruction of systems of powers and systems of difference.

14
Sep
09

Impurity is Fertile – Gender Relations in a Turkish Village by Sabine Strasser (1995) – a review

Painting by: Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, 1593-1651/53), Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1620, oil on canvas, 78 3/8 x 64 inches, Uffizi, Florence.

Painting by: Artemisia Gentileschi (Italian, 1593-1651/53), Judith Beheading Holofernes, 1620, oil on canvas, 78 3/8 x 64 inches, Uffizi, Florence.

How is gender difference constructed? How are ruling ideas of differences distributed so that hierarchical gender relations are perceives as legitimated and natural? Which are the playing rules and values that constitute the common life of men and women? Is violence a tool to maintain and communicate male hegemony? In how far women participate in that power system or even act in favor for violence against other women? These are the basic question that Sabine Strasser, a feminist anthropologist from Vienna had in mind when she conducted fieldwork in a Turkish village at the Black Sea in order to analyze gender relations. Her topics touched fields of interest such as social structures in the village, religion, kinship, house and soil, marriage and divorce, fertility and wealth, pregnancy and education, politics of space, migration, integration and segregation, social norms and expectations, and folk belief including the the Evil Eye and demons.

In the view of women in the respective village, social order is seen equivalently with sexual honor, health and fertility. Men are expected to be sensible and capable to produce many children, preferably sons. According to her empirical data, Strasser basically describes two dualistic principles: the creative male principle and the nurturing female principle. Applying the method of participant observation, she perceives how women are moving in a gendered system of social inequality. Arguing that the dominated women are sharing and legitimating the same ideas with their dominators by perceiving power relations as a sort of service that is of advantage for the whole society such as (re-)production of humans and social norms, Strasser stresses the forms of coping within this negotiated reality. For example, women in the view of men must not be paid since they”eat up” the economical surplus during the year anyways. While women are accepting being part of this social and moral system or going through individual crisis in which the female body becomes the outlet of the “concerned soul”, Strasser shows how women suffer sicknesses and get obsessed by demons as well as develop strategies to deal with and survive in the dominant patriarchal system in which they are obliged to obey and/or how they manage to escape and compass. One central issue she is writing about in great detail is the field of mental and physical illness. By becoming sick, confused and obsessed by demons, women on the one hand are perceived as threatening the social order they live in. On the other hand they gain relief during the process of sickness that allows them to withdraw for a while form their social and moral obligations. A strategy of unburden the individual and transforming or reproducing and re-establishing the social order is healing which results, as Strasser views it, in a physical and mental cleansing of the women. Strasser is pointing out that that while the “sickness attacks” seem to occur on a more subconscious level, the causes for the symptoms are perceived very consciously by the women. This also implies that they do not only allocate the responsibility to supernatural powers such as demons but that they see causes in the inability to master the expectations and contradictions social order they are living in that does not allow them the choice to decide and move by themselves.

One of Strasser’s interview methods includes that she is representing the narratives of her interviewees in indirect speech. She is arguing against the representation of direct speech because her conversations with the women was deeply affected by her own image structures. With the indirect speech she seeks to avoid the appearance of authenticity since content and form are always deformed through her own interpretations. Although this approach highlights the self-reflexivity of Strasser’s study the rality of the Turkish village she presents to her readers is rhetorically described as the ultimate truth. By writing for instance: “ Every woman needs legitimated and controlled sexual relationships,” she is not just rhetorically repeating the hegemonic discourse of the village but also ignoring that this is only part of one dominant discourse. Basically, my main critique of Strasser’s work is a structural critique of forms of writing. By making no visible and rhetorical differences between her different form of speeches (indirect speech of direct interviews, feminist and anthropological analysis, subjective narratives and representations that appear as facts), and giving rare information about sources of information (who has been interviewed? How people have been interviewed? What were the interview questions?), the reader is faced with a epistemological dilemma: where does the author know from what she is writing about? What are her own opinions, what are her analytical conclusions and what are the narratives of the villagers or former villagers who mainly live in EU-states by now?

Although “Impurity is Fertile” confronts the reader with many important aspects and details about womens lives in a traditional Turkish village, it fails due to the above mentioned reasons to present the collected data in a convincing way. Nevertheless, does the book inspire the reader to perceive and rethink the gender dynamics of its own society in a new challenging way.




Blog Stats

  • 154,996 hits

Archives