Perform_Factur_ing /Healthy/ Wo_Man: Iran, Turkey and Beyond: A Timely Reflection

by Melike Şahinol, Burak Taşdizen, Gülşah Başkavak

On February 10, 2022, the second panel of the IRSSC Closing Conference titled “Perform_Factur_ing /Healthy/ Wo_Man: Iran, Turkey and Beyond”* started with welcome remarks from the IRSSC project initiator, Raoul Motika and with the co-PI of the IRSSC project, Melike Şahinol, who led the sub-project “A Cartography of Hair:y_less Masculinities. A Comparison between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Turkey.” In addition to Melike Şahinol, Burak Taşdizen and Gülşah Başkavak were also involved in the project as well as in the organization of this panel.

Image © by Gülşah Başkavak

Motika first thanked all the participants and drew attention to the importance of the research focus “Human, Medicine and Society” under which this panel was organized. He especially thanked all the academics from Iran who engaged in collaboration under the difficult conditions brought by the pandemic. Melike Şahinol thanked both German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) for funding the wider “Knowledge Unbound” project of which IRSSC is a part, and all those involved in supporting it, especially Katja Rieck. Additionally, Şahinol also thanked all involved in her project: Mira Hazaa, providing Melike Şahinol with the initial literature review back in 2019, and the project team members Burak Taşdizen and Gülşah Başkavak for their efforts also in organizing this panel. Thanks also have been addressed to Raoul Motika for his role as discussant and to Emine Öncüler Yaylar for chairing this panel.

Şahinol drew attention to the non-binary character in formulation of the title of the project (Hair:y_less Masculinities) and the panel as they are inspired by Donna Haraway’s work titled Modest_Witness@Second_Millennium. FemaleMan_Meets_OncoMouse. Şahinol underlined that the constellation in the panel title is a non-binary of attempt to challenge gender and health concepts and how these concepts are performed and manufactured.  Here, with a posthumanist programmatic, the organizers draw attention to the importance of overcoming of the centrality of the human subject and the hegemonic anthropocentrism in philosophy and the sciences in general. The various approaches of New Materialism counter the widespread assumption that matter is a “passive substance waiting for human processing” with a concept of matter that instead ascribes to it a “self-organizing potential.” For instance, Karen Barad would conceptualize matter, in distinction to other concepts, as an evolving process of historicity brought out by intra-action. Matter and materiality would thus be understood as dynamic intra-active becoming or as a “coagulation of activity.” From an analytical point of view, it would make sense to draw attention to different actions and capacities for action processed by different actors – human or non-human, to not only give action a single name but to elaborate specific gradual details through concepts in order to show constellations of power, colonization, and processes of (de-)naturalizations.

By establishing the necessary background for the panel, it was pointed out that “Perform_Factur_ing /Healthy/ Wo_Man: Iran, Turkey and Beyond” aimed to bring together scholars working on masculinities, health and related issues in geographically, culturally, and academically diverse environments in order to discuss socio-technical and socio-cultural circumstances around empowerment, (medical) technology and the body. The panel addressed questions around managing and experiencing dis/abilities and health, media assemblages and medicalization processes of masculinities from a theoretical, empirical and artistic point of view.

In her presentation titled “Military Disability, Everyday Experiences, and Masculinity”, Nurseli Yeşim Sünbüloğlu (Kadir Has University) discussed the construction of gendered, militarized disability among combat-injured Kurdish conflict veterans in the interplay of official identity and embodied everyday life experiences of a continuing internal armed conflict. Sünbüloğlu emphasized the complex dynamic of inclusion (particularly through military gazi titles and social benefits) and exclusion (as person with disability) in veterans’ daily lives. She also stressed the need to take into consideration the dynamics of exclusivity and commonality as well as making sense of the everyday practices of military disability. The interaction between veterans and the general disabled population in Turkey follows a similar pattern: while veterans distance themselves from the wider disabled population on the level of military identity (gazi), they recognize commonalities in bodily experience on a daily basis.

Azam Naghavi (University of Isfahan) presented a co-working paper (with Mahtab Esmaeilipour) titled “Lived Experiences of Challenges of Love Among Iranian Girls with Physical Disability”. The authors highlighted that one of the unmet requirements of Iranian women with disabilities is in intimate relationships such as love and sex. The failure to address this demand is set against a larger cultural backdrop in which frank discussion of love and sex is often frowned upon. On the other hand, meeting the psychosocial needs of people with disabilities, Naghavi argued, is a challenge in Iran. As a result, people with disabilities are exposed to societal beliefs on love and sex that are improper, particularly for women, and this has detrimental psychosocial effects for this population. However, in their presentation, authors also referred to the fact that veterans with disabilities are more likely to be married. On the other hand, marrying women with disabilities would be seen as doing something good rather than being associated with romantic love, for example. Naghavi, in conclusion, pointed out that research on other cities of Iran or with married women with disability might have different findings.

Karen Hvidtfeldt (University of Southern Denmark) introduced her research project Medicine Man: Media Assemblages of Medicalized Masculinities (funded by the Independent Research Fund Denmark, 2018-2023) and the outputs of her research group. The research examines how everyday cultures and conceptions of middle-aged men’s bodies emerge as masculinity becomes increasingly both mediatized as media assemblages in popular culture, social media, news, and online health sites and medicalized. Accordingly, Hvidtfeldt emphasized three forms of practices shaping masculinities to be analyzed: Material practices, language-based practices, and cultural practices. While the female body has long been subjected to medical interventions and aesthetic treatments, and the early age male body has been subjected to more regulation, discipline, and medical diagnostic intervention, the middle-aged men’s bodies have dodged regulatory interference until lately. Today’s middle-aged men are subjected to rejuvenating treatments, modifications, and performance-enhancing substances. As to be discussed, masculinity would emerge from both gendered and medicalized technologies and thus allow us to acknowledge gender as performative and contextual and thus a research subject in flux.

In his presentation titled ”The Post-Stoic Soldier: Managing Mental Health During Britain’s Psywars‘”, Alexander Edmonds (University of Edinburgh) focused on stoicism as a collection of practices and moral standards that define mental health and health treatment in military communities, which are debated today. Edmonds examined how research participants communicate about suffering and violence in various military, clinical, and social situations – and the repercussions of such discussion – using ethnography with soldiers, ex-soldiers, and mental health professionals. Since the early 2000s, a “post-stoic” military subject has emerged requiring to speak about their mental health rather than suffer silently. This new issue would spring from Britain’s psywars, a term Edmonds uses in a broad sense to describe a military formation in which not only enemy and foreign populations, but also serving and retired soldiers, are psychologically managed. Instead of seeing military subordinates as problematic patients, Edmonds suggested that they have insight into the psywar contradictions, which have significant ramifications for mental health care, military institutions, and future wars.

After these four presentations, the panel was rounded with a performance lecture by the independent choreographer Setareh Fatehi. In her performance-lecture titled “(i) the disabled IRL”, Setareh Fatehi explored the notion of ableism in the context of international gatherings and remote communication. The technologies that act as a bridge between distant bodies, which are incorporated in the devices and the behavioral patterns of those who use them, might obscure the cognitive difference between I and the Other, giving the impression that “they are the same”. Fatehi raised the question whether the framework of ableism would shed light on the issue from a different perspective. Could it be that the bodies invited to the international and diverse dream of global thinking are getting disabled by the institutions that are only inviting their body and not the context that they are living in?

In the final discussion, it became clear that earlier concepts are contested by techno-cultural transformation processes. While on the one hand, for example, in Turkey, the inclusion of veterans with disabilities might have exclusionary effects, addressing veterans in Iran has resulted in rights for people with disabilities being enacted into legislation. This could also be an opportunity for women with disabilities for researching and discussing taboo topics such as love among people with disabilities. For British veterans, a process has been highlighted that moves away from “toxic masculinities” to a subjectification that produces post-stoic masculinities. The role that technologies play in gender construction was demonstrated by the project in Denmark, where masculinities related to health, beauty, and sexuality were established via (socio-technical) assemblages. In the performance lecture, it then became clear once again how technically mediated communication and also media performances can transport experiences of dis/ability and health, enabling collaboration from different socio-cultural spaces.

In the final discussion, the online format of the conference was addressed, too. As scholars whose work scrutinize disabilities, we are well aware of the empowering potentials of online formats for those individuals with limited physical mobility in cities that are most often inaccessible, or their impact in reducing the carbon footprint. Yet, online format cannot be taken for granted as a “remedy” in its current format. Research is needed in order to gain insight into how online formats contribute to or extract from the quality of gatherings to understand the efficiency of knowledge circulation of semi-present bodies in different cultural settings. The “atmosphere” of analogue events is missing in online events, facial expressions and gestures of people are transmitted to a limited extent at best. These are compensated in the design of online formats’ interaction tools, e.g. such as the applaud emoji, which was used during the conference. Shared, situated experiences and knowledge circulation, opportunities for informal exchange among the participants are often lacking, although this is important for sustainable cooperation. At this point, artistic research and practices would bring forth a crucial, critical voice that is needed in academia to tackle its workings which are far from universal law.

* Panel organizers: Melike Şahinol, Burak Taşdizen, Gülşah Başkavak (Orient-Institut Istanbul)
Chair: Emine Öncüler Yayalar (Bilkent University)
Discussant: Raoul Motika (University of Hamburg)

Citation: Şahinol, M., Taşdizen, B., & Başkavak, G. “Perform_Factur_ing /Healthy/ Wo_Man: Iran, Turkey and Beyond: A Timely Reflection,” blog post, 16 February 2022.

“Entangled Empowerment: Connecting Shared Hair Transplantation Practices for Men in Turkey and Iran” presented at the “Connecting Themes Conference: Contested Knowledge in a Connected World” in Berlin

Burak Taşdizen presents the selected findings of “Hair:y_less Masculinities: A Cartography”. Photograph: Kamyar Nematollahy.

Dr. Melike Şahinol and Burak Taşdizen presented the selected findings of the ongoing research project “Hair:y_less Masculinities: A Cartography” at the “Connecting Themes Conference: Contested Knowledge in a Connected World” organized by Max Weber Foundation in Berlin, Germany on September 16-17, 2021.

Their paper titled “Entangled Empowerment: Connecting Shared Hair Transplantation Practices for Men in Turkey and Iran” was part of the thematic discussion “Reshaping Gender Norms: The Intersections and Transformations of Gendered Empowerment” chaired by Prof. Christina von Hodenberg of German Historical Institute London. We share below the paper abstract.

Irrespective of gender, techno-medical possibilities are causing profound transformations in the human body, promising empowerment.  As a result, there is a growing cultural enthusiasm for cosmetic surgery, revealing itself in the promotion of a range of cosmetic treatment options tailored towards men and women alike in billboards placed around metropolitan areas of Turkey and Iran, the two of the most popular global destinations for health and beauty. These two countries, compared to the world, stand out with the number of hair transplantations carried out for men regarding their facial and chest hair. Connecting these two countries through their shared hair transplantation practices for men, we aim to discuss unifying but contested elements of masculinities construction that are intertwined with empowerment.

We discuss three dimensions, enabling and contesting the emergent empowerment through hair transplantation practices. First dimension regards purity and cleanliness, which could often be traced to religious meanings and affects. Secondly, empowerment is framed by socio-political currents as in different moustache and beard styles often associated with specific socio-political attitudes. Last dimension points to the emergent beauty norms often related to emergent masculinities. Our qualitative research discloses individual yet connected empowering practices and techniques around hair transplantation entangled with the three above-mentioned dimensions reshaping masculinities.  

Şahinol & Taşdizen, 2021

You could read more about the conference here, and find the conference program here.

“Colonizing Men’s Bodies: Natureculture Metaphors Around Hair Transplantation” presented at the panel “Is There a Middle Eastern Body?”

Dr. Melike Şahinol and Burak Taşdizen have presented the selected findings of the ongoing research project “Hair:y_less Masculinities: A Cartography” at “I U A E S: The Re-invention of Traditions in the Middle East” conference at the panel “Is There a Middle Eastern Body?” chaired by Prof. Dr. Claudia Liebelt and Dr. Melike Şahinol. The presentation titled “Colonizing Men’s Bodies: Natureculture Metaphors Around Hair Transplantation” discussed the narratives of medical practitioners and patients which utilize natureculture metaphors to explain the hair transplantation process, both during and after.

The conference was hosted by Orient-Institut Istanbul via Zoom on August 7-9, 2021.

4S/EASST 2020 Conference Programme is out!

As we mentioned earlier, we will present our preliminary research results at the upcoming 4S/EASST 2020 conference. Our paper is titled “Everyday Cyborgs: Men with Implanted/Transplanted Hair (and its Eigensinn).” To read our abstract and go through the abstracts of other presentations in the session, visit here. See below for time/date details.

Tue, August 18, 10:00 to 11:40am CEST (11:00am to 12:40pm IST), virPrague, VR 04.

To see the entire conference programme, please visit here.

“Everyday Cyborgs: Men with implanted / transplanted hair (and its Eigensinn)” accepted for panel #174 EASST/4S Prague 2020 Virtual Meeting

We are very happy that we will be able to present our abstract on Everyday Cyborgs: Men with implanted/transplanted hair (and its Eigensinn) (see below) in the panel #174 Techniques of Resilience. Coping with the Vulnerabilities of Hybrid Bodies by Nelly Oudshoorn during the virtual meeting of EASST/4S Prague 2020 “Locating and Timing Matters: Significance and Agency of STS in Emerging Worlds” to be held between August 18 and August 21. We will be discussing our project A Cartography of Hair:y_less Masculinities. A Comparison between the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Republic of Turkey to a certain extent with approaches to understand the techniques of resilience as an important component of conceptualizing  vulnerabilities and part of the cyborg theory.

Everyday Cyborgs: Men with implanted/transplanted hair (and its Eigensinn)

Melike Şahinol (Orient-Institut Istanbul), Burak Taşdizen (Orient-Institut Istanbul)

In recent years techno-medical reconfigurations of men’s bodies, an example to which are interventions in balding due to aging (Syzmczak and Conrad 2006), has medicalized men’s bodies and thus masculinities A reason for this is that cosmetic surgery has become not only more accessible (Edmonds 2009) but also more popular among men with hair transplantations/implantations being one of the most chosen cosmetic surgical procedures by men (American Society of Plastic Surgeons 2019).

Extending the focus on ‘body companion technology’ from the concrete technologies implanted into/on the body/ies, towards including emerging biotechnical entities, such as (synthetic) hair and its implantation/transplantation processes, this research focuses on men’s bodies and their materialization as ‘everyday cyborgs’ through hair implantation/transplantation procedures. Concentrating on men undergoing such procedures in clinics in Turkey and Iran, we argue that these procedures could be regarded as empowerment of vulnerable subjects for they enable self-actualization. As these procedures are embedded in a web of biopolitical currents (i.e. economy, professional settings, etc.), consolidation of gender differences through the reproduction of a particular type of masculinity could be underway.

Considering the self-will (Eigensinn) of the bios, and thus hair, our complementary to the body companion technology concept helps to see hair as biotechnical entity, with the agency to reject its new territory, requiring ongoing care on part of the patient’s body. Thus, this research conceptualizes the techno-medical (re)locations of hair in men’s bodies within a “socio-bio-technical framework” (Şahinol 2016) and scrutinizes how and the ways in which these ‘everyday cyborg’ bodies deal with emergent vulnerabilities.


American Society of Plastic Surgeons. 2019. 2018 Plastic Surgery Statistics Report.

Edmonds, Alexander. 2009. “Learning to love yourself: esthetics, health, and therapeutics in Brazilian plastic surgery.”  Ethnos 74 (4):465-489.

Şahinol, Melike. 2016. Das techno-zerebrale Subjekt: Zur Symbiose von Mensch und Maschine in den NeurowissenschaftenTechnik – Körper – Gesellschaft. Bielefeld: transcript.

Syzmczak, Julia E., and Peter  Conrad. 2006. “Medicalizing the Aging Male Body: Andropause and Baldness.” In Medicalized Masculinities, edited by Dana Rosenfeld and Christopher A. Faircloth. Philadelphia: Temple University Press.

Research Colloquium at Orient-Institut Istanbul

“Cartography of Hair:y_less Masculinities” was presented by Dr. Melike Şahinol and Burak Taşdizen at the Research Colloquium held by Orient-Institut Istanbul on April 1, 2020, followed by a Q&A session with a participating audience from Germany, Turkey, Iran and Pakistan. The colloquium was moderated by Dr. Katja Rieck.

The colloquium took off with a welcome speech delivered by Prof. Dr. Raoul Motika and followed by the presentation and a discussion.

Dr. Melike Şahinol discussed the theoretical framework for the study, which brings together biomedicalization, post-human feminism, and masculinity studies. Later, Burak Taşdizen disseminated the preliminary research results from the fieldwork that has been continuing since February, 2020. The preliminary research results indicate that there are cultural differences of hair practices in Turkey and Iran and thus different masculinities taking shape through hair:y_less. Not only socio-cultural or socio-political factors were discussed, but also historical and geographical connotations for the shaping of post-human masculinities.

The colloquium took place online, via Zoom, due to physical distancing required by COVID-19 outbreak.

Search OpenEdition Search

You will be redirected to OpenEdition Search