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Archived Voices, Acoustic Traces, and the Reverberations of Kurdish History in Modern Turkey

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 April 2019

Marlene Schäfers*
Department of Conflict and Development Studies, Middle East and North Africa Research Group (MENARG), Ghent University, Belgium


This article investigates how middle-aged to elderly Kurdish women in Turkey engage with large collections of Kurdish music recordings in their possession. Framing them as archives, women mobilize these collections as central elements in a larger, ongoing Kurdish project of historical critique, which seeks to resist hegemonic state narratives that have long denied and marginalized Kurdish voices. While recognizing the critical intervention such archives make, the article contends that, to be heard as “history” with a legitimate claim to authority, subaltern voices often have to rely on the very hegemonic forms, genres, and discourses they set out to challenge. This means that subaltern projects of historical critique walk a fine line between critique and complicity, an insight that nuances narratives that would approach subaltern voices predominantly from a perspective of resistance. At the same time, this article argues that a more complete picture of subaltern archives requires us to attend to the voices they contain not just as metaphors for resistance or political representation but also as acoustic objects that have social effects because of the way they sound. By outlining the affective qualities that voice recordings held for the Kurdish women who archived them, the article shows how their collections participated in carving out specific, gendered subject positions as well as forging a broader Kurdish sociality. Paying attention to history's “acoustic register” (Hunt 2008), this suggests, promises to open up perspectives on subaltern historiography that go beyond binary frameworks of resistance and domination, critique and complicity.

Sonic History
Copyright © Society for the Comparative Study of Society and History 2019 

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