Accepted paper:

The cost of other desires: the political economy of visibility and LGBT activism in Istanbul


Eirini Avramopoulou (Panteion University)

Paper short abstract:

In this paper, I propose to explore the relation between the demand for legal recognition and the desire for visibility as negotiated and claimed by different LGBT activists in Istanbul while facing the effects of prohibitions, exclusions and displacement.

Paper long abstract:

She held a microphone in one of her hands while using the other to slowly unbutton and unzip her trousers. Placing her hand between her thighs, she started moving her body bit by bit while breathing slowly in a gradual rhythm that promised climax. Her masculine auto-erotic movements and the low lighting in the room made confusion more visible in the eyes of the audience. Some reacted in shock, others felt moved while gradually and repetitively the movement culminated in sexual peak and in the performance's end. Ana Hoffner's transgendered (FTM) performance took place in Istanbul during the 16th Pride Week of 2008 while accusations of harming the morality of Turkish society and family structure aimed at the closure of the LGBT organization Lambda and when Pride Week was being marked by police's sovereign presence and by the recent death of several transsexual people. In this paper, I will analyse the reactions to this performance and ask: under which kinds of bodies, sexualities and genders can one enter the sphere of public visibility and demand recognition by the law? What is the cost of making visible certain other desires? I am interested in exploring desire within the 'political economy' of visibility that I define both in terms of the effects of neoliberal processes of commodification affecting identity claims and gender performances and also as a psychic process affected by the cultural and legal regulations working to discipline bodies and legitimise civic and social policing of genders, sexualities, pleasures and satisfactions.

panel IW007
Desire and the ethnography of economic and political change