In February 2023, AGITATE! launched our Feminist Knowledge Production event series, organized in collaboration with Richa Nagar’s graduate seminar on Feminist Knowledge Production at the University of Minnesota. We are pleased to share with you a recording of the first event in the series: a conversation with the translators and editors of ‘The Purple Color of Kurdish Politics.’ In this one-of-a-kind, newly translated collection of prison writings by more than twenty Kurdish women politicians, the contributors reflect on their personal and collective struggles against patriarchy and anti-Kurdish repression in Turkey. The writers also offer significant analyses of the radical feminist principles and practices through which they transformed the political structures and state offices in which they operated.
In this panel, held days after the devastating earthquake in Kurdistan, Turkey, and Syria, Emek Ergun, one of the editors of the book and a member of the AGITATE! Editorial Board, engages with volume contributors, Dilek Hüseyinzadegan, Berivan Kutlay Sarıkaya, Mediha Sorma, and Susan Benson-Sökmen. Hüseyinzadegan, Kutlay Sarıkaya, Sorma, and Benson-Sökmen have each translated stories that Kurdish women politicians wrote during incarceration. The translators reflect on their journeys as scholars and activists from various socio-political locations within the state of Turkey and how their co-constitutive commitments to Kurdish liberation, Kurdish women’s movement, and justice bring them together in this project of translation. Interbraiding questions of translation and solidarity, the panelists share how they grappled with the ethical and political dilemmas of translating the writings of Kurdish women politicians who continue to be imprisoned. They discuss the ways in which they determined the terms of translation and tackled that which was untranslatable. They share their concerns about the orientalist meanings that readers of an English translation may ascribe to the writings, even as they reflect on the colonizing violence of the English language. Alongside these themes, this conversation also gives a rare insight into the intersectional politics of the Kurdish women’s movement which struggles not only against the Turkish state but also regional and local patriarchal agendas that shape their experiences of oppression and marginalization. Taken together, the panelists give us a deep sense of the translational labors that went into creating this collection–one in which incarcerated Kurdish women challenge the epistemic violence that they have been subjected to by telling their own stories and by inspiring a feminist solidarity rooted in a common commitment to Kurdish liberation.
Emek Ergun is a feminist translator and Associate Professor of Women’s and Gender Studies and Global Studies at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte. Her work examines the ways in which politically subversive texts cross borders in translation and become transplanted in different localities facilitating epistemic exchanges, transformative encounters, and resistant solidarities among feminists situated in distinctive geopolitical contexts. Emek’s first single-authored book, Virgin Crossing Borders: Feminist Resistance and Solidarity in Translation was published by the University of Illinois Press in January 2023. Emek is a member of the AGITATE! Editorial Board.
Dilek Hüseyinzadegan is a feminist political philosopher and Associate Professor at Emory University, Atlanta. Dilek is working on a new project on post- and decolonial feminisms as well as their implications for interpreting and evaluating the canon of Western philosophy. She serves as the Philosophy Advisor and Co-Editor of the Turkish translations of Intellectual Biographies Series (Cambridge University Press and Is Kultur Yayinlari), and of Charles Mills’ The Racial Contract (Cornell University Press and Patika Yayinlari).
Berivan Kutlay Sarıkaya holds a PhD in Adult Education and Community Development from the University of Toronto and is Lecturer at Trent University. Berivan’s doctoral dissertation examines gender, state violence, incarceration, memory, trauma and resistance among Kurdish women. She is currently working on Kurdish women’s political prisoners’ experiences in Diyarbakir Military Prison, their contribution to building the current Kurdish women’s movement in Turkey, and their eventual displacement in Europe and North America.
Mediha Sorma is a PhD candidate at the Gender Women and Sexuality Studies Program at the University of Washington Seattle. She holds a BA degree in Translation and Interpreting Studies and an MA degree in Critical and Cultural Studies from Bogazici University, Istanbul. Her dissertation examines the ways in which Kurdish women in Turkey produce insurgent bodies, non-statist discourses of resistance, and anti-national epistemes of kinship through radical practices of mothering and reproduction.
Susan Benson-Sökmen holds a PhD in History from the University of Toronto and is a lecturer at Ryerson University and University of Toronto. She is currently working on a book manuscript, The Poetry of the Past-Resistance and Remembrance in the Kurdish Borderlands of the Modern Middle East (based on her dissertation) for Peter Lang Publishers.