08/10/2019 | Writer: Gözde Demirbilek

The International Memory and History Conference sought answers to the question "How is history being written?" for queer and LGBTI+'s.

“Is a struggle effectual enough to be the sole voice of a whole culture?” Kaos GL - News Portal for LGBTI+

The International Memory and History Conference organized by Kaos GL Association started with a workshop held in Izmir on September 27, and continued with the session "In pursuit of history: LGBTI+ and queer museum experiences".

Today's program of the conference began with the opening speech of Oya Burcu Ersoy. Then, the session "How the history is being written?" was moderated by Aksu Bora; Göze Orhon's "Memory regimes: How do we remember, how do we forget?", Onur Çimen's "Ambiguous sources of queer history" and Yilmaz Yeniler's speech, titled "Aspects of archaeology and queer theory at the self-reflective crossroads" took place.

Bora started the session by saying, "When this event was first mentioned, I was so excited about the way it was mentioned that I wanted to be a part of this event. I wanted to be a part of the new decisions about the archive, I would like to thank my friends at Kaos GL."

“Trying to be encouraged from the memory that we’ve built”

The first speaker of the session, Göze Orhon, started their speech by quoting Oya Burcu Ersoy as saying, "You do not disappear when no one talks about you. But the only way to prove that you exist is to talk about yourself."

"Why did I care about that sentence? For this: The memory issue is more about self-explanation. It's about being the perpetrator of your self-expression. It's about claiming rights and perpetratorship in a story that's built or will be built on ownself. These aren't things I pulled out because they are in the spirit of what's being done here. When we look at the history of the issue, we see a similar trace. Today, this spirit has made memory construction a pluralistic, democratic demand for building different memory narratives. It's because of this reason that the ones that excluded, disadvantaged, muted are the claimants of the history and they mention the memory as a political act as a way of claiming what is owed to them."
Orhon pointed out the relationship between identity and memory:

"Identity and memory build each other. So, what kind of political homosexual identity we're going to build today is very closely related to our answers to the questions we have set to the questions of; what we remember, what we want to remember, what we've set in the past as bearing in this narrative. Let's go back to the example before: we care about explaining the past poverty and impossibility because if we have come from these conditions to the recent Pride Marches that hosted tens of thousands of people, we want to point to the initiative, the perpetratorship that came in between"

"Again, it's another thing that's common more or less in all narratives, a state of loneliness. Knowing yourself, but feeling lonely, which is that Yeşim, Oya, Yasemin (lesbian activists involved in the oral history studies of Kaos GL) tell us that it is this state of loneliness that drives each of them into action. This narrative of loneliness and its aftermath tell us what it means to be a political community, to build it together, how it is an empowering practice. So we want to emphasize this co-power-finding situation in the memory we build today."

Sources of queer history that resist the official history

The second speaker of the session, Onur Çimen, began their speech by referring Sappho as, "They may forget who you are, but one day in history someone will remember who you were."

Çimen questioned the ability of the struggle of the all existences outside of history and "straight" thought to be the sole voice for a whole culture:

"No doubt, the answer to the question of why the history excluded all sexual beings as old as known history and excluded from the straight thought, i.e. lesbians, trans', gays, and anyone we now accept that their multitude is greater than we can define, would be the same with why did any minority had been left out of the history. Therefore, any history writing will begin with the micro-history of the struggles for securing a place in history. So, is the desire to come together and ensure their existence unconditionally and indefinitely of all sexual beings enough to start a history writing? In other words, is it possible to make history with just the political/social/cultural struggle of all sexual minorities that can no longer be ignored? If we're going to talk about any queer history, can this history be written solely through some institutionalized identities? Is a struggle enough to be the sole voice of a culture?"

Çimen underlined that fiction in the face of reality can be a way of fighting and wished that the conference would be an event in which we considered all these questions. And ended their speech with these words:

"By choosing a policy of persistent exclusion, another desire beyond conveying the experience and asserting oneself appears in the attempt of all these beings that do not accept mainstreaming to try to express themselves in a literary process; a desire to play with uncertainty, to protect this wealth and to become identityless. If we do not believe that we are at the end of history, it is not possible to give a definitive answer that the writing of history is over or should be continued in a certain way. But queer is uncertain where history will come from, resisting official history, But producing the resources of queer history that will self-destruct when it comes to, exploring new ways of writing, starting new collaborations for these productions, and always rethinking about what the written ones would mean at a future date."

Imprisonment of the envisagement regarding the past

The last speaker of the session, Yilmaz Yeniler, started their speech with a photograph from excavation and asked, "So what is archaeology, what is its purpose?"

"Now we can add an 'objectivity' next to the definition of 'excavation science'. It is still possible to observe the belief in performing an 'objective science' in the excavations. Objectivity is closely related to the ambition to interpret the finds, which are analyzed by creating many 'categories' to eliminate the intermediate positions/transitions created in archaeology."

Yeniler then expressed the following sentences about the effects of archaeology on gender and sexuality studies and social memory:

"Gender and sexuality studies were seen in archaeology as purely political expressions, and we can still say that this is still seen this way in mainstream literature. The things that are not norm in the social gender and sexuality; belong to the 'private', 'unknowable', 'hidden' areas, and trying to uncover them is to propagate something. As I mentioned earlier, archaeology itself is political, and unless we go beyond the norm and raise our questions about the 'other' areas, it is inevitable to move away from the complexity of the past."

"Although the power of stereotypical, essential, normative interpretations decreases over time, I think there is still a long road that archaeology needs to cover. Even while gender studies are increasing in number with a feminist perspective, this normativeness has found its place within. We must save the family, monogamous marriages, sex for reproduction in our modern lives from being imprisoned in our visions of the past.

*Photography: Semih Varol / Kaos GL
**Translation: Yiğit E. Korkmaz

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