Disposable Bodies: The Impacts of (De)Westernization on Femicide in Turkey

By Yaprak Damla Yildirim
Submitted to Session P6656 (The State and its Aftermaths: Civil Society, Religion, Violence, and Identity Formation, 2021 Annual Meeting
Cultural Studies; Gender/Women's Studies; Modernization;
LCD Projector with Audio Patch or Speakers;
Although there has been scholarly interest in the alarmingly high rates of femicide in Turkey, the existing literature focuses mostly on the conceptualization of femicide and the media representations of the cases, paying little attention to the oppressive structures that have led to the recent increase in femicides. In this paper, I aim to explore the role of Turkey’s westernization and de-westernization processes on the upsurge in femicides, by analyzing the public statements made by the state executives on the issue, legislative steps taken by the government to prevent femicide, and the shifts in the political agendas that oscillate between western progressivism and religious neoconservativism.
For my analysis, I use the data collected by We Will Stop Femicide Platform, a women’s organization in Turkey that work toward ending femicide, Anıtsayaç, a digital monument that documents the information of women murdered in Turkey, and Çatlakzemin, a feminist website that keeps records of the sexist discourses of the Turkish government. After observing the changes in the discourse of the state regarding femicide, I examine how both westernization policies and the non-western responses to such policies (re)produce a discursive category of “proper woman.”
Following a materialist feminist methodology, I argue that the femicide rates increase, for the unsettling dynamics in Turkey between western colonialism and eastern neoconservatism challenge authoritarianism of the Turkish state, as a result of which “improper” women become more disposable to restore authority. I propose that the disposability of “improper” women in Turkey has its roots in the so-called scientific taxonomy of humans in the West, through which the lives of humans were categorized based on racism, orientalism, and sexism, in order of significance and value, which rendered certain bodies disposable. Such colonial methodology persists in many practices in Turkey, including data collection on femicide for preventive purposes. Correspondingly, the paper suggests that the failure to prevent femicide in Turkey has one foot in the colonial epistemologies of European countries, which have increased their influence through the westernization the country has undergone, especially after the beginning of the European Union membership negotiations.