08/10/2019 | Writer: Aslı Alpar

On the second day of the International Memory and History Conference, the challenges encountered in queer history writing and the fight against them were discussed in the second session.

“What we've forgotten is recalling what we remember, what we remember is recalling what we have forgotten” Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

The second session of the International Memory and History Conference organized by Kaos GL Association continued on September 28 with the title "LGBTI+ and queer historiography: Challenges and struggle".

Selin Berghan moderated the speech. Berghan began their speech by describing the writing phase of the book "Lubunya" published by Metis Publications and left it to the speakers, saying, "I am very happy to be together with the mantis (means young active males in Turkish queer jargon) of the same age as Kaos GL, thank you."

Remembrance as a source of inspiration

The first speaker of the session was Devrim Sezer, who discussed "memory as a way of settlement". Sezer began their speech by conveying how Kaos GL transformed their life and said they will discuss the different functions of remembering and the remembrance practices of LGBTI people.

"I want to talk about three different ways of remembering; official remembrance, remembering as a settlement with the past, and remembering as resistance," Sezer said, explaining these 3 styles. Sezer mentioned the politicality of the official remembrance while identifying as a unifying, selective and positive memory: "September 9 is remembered, but the great Fire of İzmir is forgotten. Because there have been a number of events that have been wanted to be forgotten."

Sezer stated that to remember as a means of settlement with the past is possible by looking to the incidents from the victim's point of view, and said "Other victims who have forgotten by the official remembrance would be brought to the forefront. It's got a dissenting side, it's focused on the darkness. It is an effort against oblivion."

Sezer summarized remembering as resistance as, "The past does not come across as a wreck, it emerges as an inspiration. It can be about a number of struggles that have not yet become a narrative, and it carries the claim to re-establish the future". Sezer left the floor to Fatih Torun, the second speaker of the session, saying that remembrance should include both dark and bright sides of history.

Woman fireplayer, the performativity of the nuptial chambers and gender building

In their speech, Torun mentioned how historians, with gender and feminist ideas, contributed to a 'queer apprehension' in Ottoman historiography. Mentioning two concepts introduced to the literature by Ottoman historians, Torun continued their speech with examples from the articles of Gülhan Balsoy, Serkan Delice, Irvin Cemil Schick, and Başak Tuğ, who investigated history in the context of gender with society.
Torun said, "I want to go back to 1675 and talk about fireplayers. When we say festivals in the Ottoman Empire, we think of weddings and circumcision celebrations. But I'm going to talk about 1675 in particular because there was a 45-day celebration this year. What's more, this year we see that there's a woman named Emine who was a fireplayer. The name in question can also be considered as Emîn because of the difficulties of reading the writing of the officer who wrote Emine's name from the archive records, but we can discuss another opportunity here thinking that the fireplayer was a woman" and discussed the duality of women and men in the Ottoman Era.

By giving examples from Abdi, one of the authors of the book on festivals, Torun drew a line with the concepts of performance and normality by comparing past sexualities with current examples and stated "Regardless of whether or not sexual intercourse took place in the nuptial night, I suggested that the primary sources were the subjects of political propaganda based on the performative meaning of the event."

“We wanted to step out of the official narrative through oral history”

Yildiz Tar, who took the floor from Torun, spoke about the oral history research of Kaos GL. "As we set out for this work, our problem was to build bridges while attempting to break up a consistent official narrative. We often know that the experiences of LGBTI+ people have been built a history outside of official history. We wanted to get to that."

Tar explained the connection between space and memory as "In our oral history research the thing that most affected me was the importance of the place in this regard. We've seen that different people have different narratives for the same place. We did not think about which one to bring forward but we tried to put that as it is".

"What we've forgotten is recalling what we remember, what we remember is recalling what we have forgotten" Tar said, adding that they are trying to turn oral history into a collective remembrance.

The story being told is your story too…

The Workshop prior to The International Memory and History Conference has come to an end. The conference that set off with the call of “Maybe the story that is being told is your story too. Maybe we are tracing something together, maybe we sang songs told stories to leave a trace. With respects to the ones that we walked together, to our separating paths, and to lives that gushes from letters…” continued till September 29.

*Photography: Semih Varol / Kaos GL
**Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz

Tags: arts and culture, life