Fear makes the soul: Constituting whiteness through moral panics in postcolonial Germany (Cultural Studies, 2023)
On the New Year’s Eve of 2015/2016, around a thousand refugees attacked and harassed passersby in the main train station of Cologne. The discussions and the media coverage of what came to be known as the Cologne incidents revolved around the racial complexion of the attackers, their refugee status, and their religious backgrounds stirring moral/sex panics in the midst of the so-called “European refugee crisis.” This paper argues that with its historical predecessors from colonial Germany onwards, racialized moral/sex panics such as Cologne forge regimes of truth and redistribute wealth, attention, and sensibility through the materialization of Whiteness in bodies through the register of the soul. It situates the racialization of non-White bodies within these moral/sex panics in the same analytic field as the racialization of white bodies. Shifting the focus to the latter, it concerns itself with the racial formation of Whiteness in postcolonial Germany by looking at the history of the present.
In 2012, Amsterdam Gay Pride Canal Parade hosted a Turkish Boat, organized by Dutch citizens of Turkish descent. The newspaper articles consistently emphasized what an advancement this was for the Turkish migrants, considering their ‘cultural background.’ Simultaneously, public opinion on the former immigrants from Turkey and Morocco, as intolerant towards LGBTI people and how they are ‘gay bashing on the streets,’ was still present. The scholarship on homonationalism and gay imperialism has been dealing with questions of Orientalism, islamophobia, and racism since the 2000s. The question of agency within this scholarship, however, was not dealt with extensively. This paper will engage with this question by mapping out Dutch homonationalism and focusing on how this specific context produces historically contingent subject positions – such as gay, lesbian, Muslim, Turkish, or Moroccan-Dutch – that are hierarchized within the Dutch public sphere. None of them is innocent of power or neutral, the power configuration among these subject positions lay the ground of agency upon which the subject can act.
Curious Steps: Mobilizing memory through collective walking and storytelling in Istanbul (with Bürge Abiral, Dilara Çalışkan, and Ayşe Gül Altınay, 2019. In Women Mobilizing Memory; Altınay, Contreras, Hirsch, Howard, Karaca, and Solomon eds., pp. 84-104)
After more than two decades of feminist interventions in the gendered histories and memories of Turkey and the Ottoman State, and following recent initiatives like the virtual Women’s Museum Istanbul that seek to create alternative memory sites, we—a group of young people, students, and faculty—came together to create a “gender and memory walk” of the Beyoglu neighborhood in Istanbul in 2014. Currently organized in three Istanbul neighborhoods, Curious Steps brings together diverse groups of people for collective walks through urban spaces to listen to women’s and lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex (LGBTI) stories researched and told by young volunteers. The walk has employed a growing repertoire of interventions to accomplish several interrelated goals: drawing attention to the silencing of non-Muslim women’s lives, work, and struggles in the city; making visible the nationalization and militarization of public spaces; introducing forms of alternative memorialization; co-witnessing and co-resisting with memory activists; exploring feminist and LGBTI struggles connected to space; making visible sites of sexist and homo/transphobic violence; exploring the gendered memories of recent cases of urban transformation; problematizing the marginalization of women and LGBTIs in other rights struggles; and drawing attention to multiple layers of dispossession that mark public space.