Politics of Kurdish Face: Queer Affect and Intimate Counter/insurgency in Turkey

By Emrah Karakus
Submitted to Session P6388 (Feeling Gender in Turkey, 2021 Annual Meeting
Queer/LGBT Studies;
This paper takes the question of “what can a Kurdish face do?” as a window to explore how the widespread counter/insurgency and surveillance in Kurdish Turkey affectively and intimately generate queer and transgender subjectivities. Based on a 9-month of ethnographic study in Diyarbakir and Istanbul, I suggest that queer and transgender Kurds become the subjects of political violence in two prominent ways: They adopt and often shift the meanings of already existing communal practices informed by what locals call “party” ethics, referring to the ideals and practices influenced by the socialist ethics of the PKK. These practices include notions of “bedel” (debt) and “coming face to face”, often used when solving their everyday disputes. Secondly, they develop multiple strategies to adapt and/or disorient racialized desires and counterinsurgent fantasies for a Kurdish face/look, by constituting a self and ethics of versatility, or what they call becoming “chameleon,” where one’s adaptability to the situated contexts and changing circumstances provides more benefits and power over others.