Accepted paper:

Diaspora nationalism as a gendered discourse: the Circassian diaspora in Turkey


Setenay Nil Dogan (Sabanci University)

Paper short abstract:

There is a tendency in literature to theorise diaspora in unmarked and gender-neutral ways. Exploring Circassians in Turkey, this paper argues that diasporic experiences, formations and narratives are not independent of gender but grounded in gendered meanings, discourses and experiences.

Paper long abstract:

Since 1990s diaspora, a relatively old term has gained widespread circulation. It has become a tool for social science to investigate the hybrid, transnational and global sites of identities and politics which challenge the national order of things. The concept of diaspora rather than referring to particular experiences of some particular communities has now become crucial for social science to rethink the concepts of 'ethnicity' and 'nationalism' in the context of the processes of globalization. However, there is a tendency in the theoretical accounts of diaspora to to talk of travel, inbetweenness and displacement in unmarked ways, and studies that explore the domains of diasporic complexity such as gender and class are lacking. However diasporic experiences, formations, histories and narratives are not independent of gender but grounded on gendered meanings, practices, hierarchies, discourses and experiences. This study argues that diaspora and diaspora nationalism embraced by some diasporic groups is a gendered discourse. Within this study, Circassian diaspora in Turkey, an understudied diaspora will be explored to understand the gendered dimensions of diasporic identity and diaspora nationalism. From such a perspective, this study argues that the constructions of masculinity and femininity that are embraced by Circassian nationalists in Turkey have been central for defining, differentiating and locating the diasporic identity and experience. These constructions have been a significant part of the fragile stance that Circassian diaspora in Turkey has pursued vis-à-vis and through Turkish nationalism. Furthermore these constructions which are subject to change and reconstruction have worked to cope with the international developments regarding the post-Soviet conjuncture which has implied new understandings of the notions of homeland, identity and diasporic experience for the Circassian community in Turkey. Therefore particular constructions of masculinity and femininity have worked as formations of diaspora nationalism which locates itself not only vis-à-vis / through Turkish nationalism but also within the politics of the so-called homeland. Within diaspora nationalism, the discourse on the 'inbetweenness' of diasporas, connections with the homeland and host community, and diasporic condition are formed, recreated and reinvented through gender constructions. Exploring such gendered dimensions of diaspora nationalism allows us to rethink not only about diasporas but also about nationalism, ethnicity and globalization within which diasporas are embedded.

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Interrogating diaspora