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.
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,” https://hairyless.hypotheses.org blog post, 16 February 2022. https://hairyless.hypotheses.org/?p=563