Voices that Matter: : Book talk with Professor Marlene Schäfers

When and Where

Thursday, November 09, 2023 1:00 pm to 3:00 pm
SS2098 (Natalie Zemon Davis Seminar Room)
Sidney Smith Hall (100 St. George Street, Toronto)


Marlene Schäfers, Assistant Professor, Utrecht University


Book talk with Professor Marlene Schäfers (Utrecht University), author of 
Voices that Matter: Kurdish Women at the Limits of Representation in Contemporary Turkey, a fine-grained ethnography exploring the sociopolitical power of Kurdish women’s voices in contemporary Turkey.

“Raise your voice!” and “Speak up!” are familiar refrains that assume, all too easily, that gaining voice will lead to empowerment, healing, and inclusion for marginalized subjects. Marlene Schäfers’s Voices That Matter reveals where such assumptions fall short, demonstrating that “raising one’s voice” is no straightforward path to emancipation but fraught with anxieties, dilemmas, and contradictions. In its attention to the voice as form, this book examines not only what voices say but also how they do so, focusing on Kurdish contexts where oral genres have a long, rich legacy. Examining the social labor that voices carry out as they sound, speak, and resonate, Schäfers shows that where new vocal practices arise, they produce new selves and practices of social relations. In Turkey, recent decades have seen Kurdish voices gain increasing moral and political value as metaphors of representation and resistance. Women’s voices, in particular, are understood as potent means to withstand patriarchal restrictions and political oppression. By ethnographically tracing the transformations in how Kurdish women relate to and employ their voices as a result of these shifts, Schäfers illustrates how contemporary politics foster not only new hopes and desires but also create novel vulnerabilities as they valorize, elicit, and discipline voice in the name of empowerment and liberation.

Marlene Schäfers is Assistant Professor in Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University. Her research focuses on the impact of state violence on intimate and gendered lives, voice, memory, and representation, and the politics of death and the afterlife in the context of modern Turkey and the Kurdish regions. Among others, her work has been published in the Journal of the Royal Anthropological InstituteComparative Studies in Society and History, and Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East. Voices that Matter: Kurdish Women at the Limits of Representation in Contemporary Turkey, published in 2023 with the University of Chicago Press, is her first monograph

* The event is co-sponsored by NMC Kurdish Studies Initiative.