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The walls within: working with defenses against otherness

Online Conference 5-11 July 2021

A personal journey of understanding the question of Muslim woman identity in Turkish and Western contexts.

My purpose in this presentation is to introduce the work of Rene Girard to those in this audience who may not be familiar with it. His 'mimetic theory' provides new insight into the way primitive communities sought to avoid violence and dissension by choosing a random victim as a scapegoat and by branding that one as the Other. Girard prefers to call the scapegoating mechanism a fact rather than a theory. James G. Williams, a leading proponent of Girard's work and translator of several of his books, proposes to call it an 'explanatory model.' (Williams, 1991, p. 260, n. 12) In the course of time the cycle of chaotic violence, followed by the, scapegoating of an individual or small group and the return to relative tranquility resulted in the establishment of the prohibitions, hierarchies, rituals and institutions that constitute what we call culture (Girard, 1987, p. 93. All references aDuring my participation to international group relations conferences, one of the small group works, while every participant begin to introduce yourself, I say: I am Turkish, I am a Muslim, I feel European. This was interpreted by consultant as 'There are members in group with strong ethnic and radical religious identification which is very provocative'. After this interpretation, I perceived this as an attack and irritation on me. I felt angry. There were questions in my mind like, 'Me, provocative and strong ethnic and religious identity identification. What is provocative part, and what is 'strong ethnic and radical religious' part. Being Turkish and Muslim and feel European or ?' During the coffee break talks, while we say hello and our names to each other, questions mainly were ' Where are you from?' and after getting an answer the second question is' Are you a Muslim?' I didnt know how to answer the questions. 'Where am I from? Do you mean country where I am living now, or county where I was born?' I felt a little bit uneasy about this question, I felt stuck, I said, ' I am here as a sociologist, as a organizational consultant, and then as a woman, as a Turkish, born in Bulgaria, lived in Turkey for now.' I felt offended, I couldn't just say 'Yes, I am a Muslim.' I said 'Yes, I am a Muslim, but not an observant.'' When I ask a question 'Are you a Christian?', The answer easily was ' Yes, I am a Christian who is practicing Christianity.''This questions disturbed me a lot; I started to find out what bothered me in this questions, why I felt irritated, angry, while it was easy to say ' I am Christian and practicing Christianity.'' why it was so difficult and with pauses to say, why I couldn't say 'Yes, I'm a Muslim', why I need to add 'but' part, why I couldn't confirm it in an easy way. It is not symmetrical, being a Muslim and being a Christian in the modern world.Then I started and think about it, and to analyze it. Firstly, being born in Bulgaria and lived there from centuries as Ottoman Turks, with collapsing of communism period in East Europe in 1989, expelled from Bulgaria relating with ethnic cleaning of Turkish Muslims and immigrated to Turkey; in Turkey, coming from this Turkish, republican, modern background and education, which is raised as citizens, as modern Turkish woman, where never thought about Muslim identity. Wouldn't it have been almost a lie to say 'Yes, I am a Muslim.' ,where you raised in this new Turkish nationalism, which didn't integrate Muslim background; being a Turkish modern woman, which meant getting away from muslim traditions. Secondly, relation to today's Islamism, today's Islamic movements. If you say, you are a Muslim, then there are things which are supposed to be done in conformity with Islamic religion, which means putting on the veil and following some rules of Islamic faith. I couldn't say in an easy way, in a shortcut, 'Yes' I am a Muslim', because then there are some expectations. Thirdly, in relation to the Western public, when you said 'Yes, I am a Muslim', this was going to be heard as a radical interpretation, associated with terrorist images and so on Stereotype images, stigmatization, the prejudices of the Western public, the prejudices of the republican modern Turkey against Islam, and the prejudices of the Islamic public meant that being a Muslim in the modern world is not that easy. Because it creates many complexities. What it looks like and how it feels to be a Turkish Muslim woman in European and Turkish context?In this paper I will study and reflect upon the meaning of 'Turkish Muslim Woman'. For this research I will use my personal lived experiences. These experiences have been acquired in various socio-cultural contexts: bulgarian-east european, turkish, west european. I will use psycho-social methodology (Petrov), psychoanalytical theory of trauma (Ferenczi);psychoanalyses, emotions and politics (Austead). References: Petrov R. (2009) Autobiography as a Psycho-Social Research Method, (in Hoggett, P. and Clarke, S. (Eds.) Researching Beneath the Surface. Psycho- social Research Methods in Practice, London, Karnac)Austead L. (2012) Psychoanalysis and Politics: Exclusion and the Politics of Representation, Karnac Books Ferenzci S., (2002) Disappearing and Reviving: Sandor Ferenczi in the History of Psychoanalysis, Karnac Books.