Hafza Girdap

Gendered Racialization and Social Justice – Seeking Interviews with Armenian Women Who Have Migrated from Turkey

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By Hafza Girdap

STONY BROOK, N.Y. — As both an activist and an academic, I am passionate about the transformative potential of both academic and civil society work to bring about meaningful change, particularly in the realms of social justice and gender equality.

In our globalized world, where human flows, ideas, and discrimination proliferate, I focus on the transformative journey of immigrant women in the United States. My research unravels the complexities of racialization, often clashing with cultural and international norms. It’s crucial to recognize that race, radicalization, and racism encompass more identity dynamics than just skin color and ethnicity, including religion, location, and sexuality.

As a recent Turkish dissident, I have experienced state-led discrimination and oppression firsthand. These atrocities against various groups based on religious, ethnic, ideological, and gender backgrounds profoundly impact society. Powerful state narratives perpetuate discrimination and violence, often resulting in migration.

Turkey’s historical context reveals complex struggles and challenges concerning minority rights. Discrimination and violence against minorities, including Kurds, Alevis, Armenians, Greeks, and Jews, have been pervasive, extending to language restrictions, cultural suppression, and violence. Patriarchy, evident in state structures and gender dynamics, shapes women’s roles within the nation-state. Gendered racism — discrimination, prejudice, and violence against women based on intersecting identities like race, ethnicity, religion, or sexual orientation — manifests in divisions such as Turkish/Kurdish/Armenian, men/women, secular/religious, and Sunni/Alevi.

These divides reinforce traditional roles, with Turkish-Sunni identity dominating state structures and norms. Minority women face dehumanization and discriminatory attitudes. This dehumanization normalizes violence and discrimination against these groups. Concepts of gendered citizenship and gendered racism highlight the marginalization faced by women from ethnic and religious minorities, as well as LGBTQ individuals. My research aims to explore the strong connection between gender and citizenship in Turkey.

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Exploring gendered oppression, discrimination, and populism through transnational feminist endeavors, I aim to bridge academia and grassroots activism. We confront societal perceptions that oversimplify and stereotype immigrant women from the Global South, often portraying them as a homogeneous, victimized group, neglecting their agency.

My research acknowledges the multifaceted nature of identities, particularly those of immigrant women from Turkey. Cultural identity, intertwined with politics, gender, ethnicity, and race, plays a significant role. Contrary to homogenizing experiences, my research delves into the unique challenges faced by immigrant women from Turkey in the United States, emphasizing their diverse backgrounds.

Focusing on women from different ethnic, religious, ideological, and sexual backgrounds, I name my research group “women from Turkey” instead of “Turkish women” to highlight their diverse identities. This approach showcases that stereotyping women from the Global South, particularly immigrant women from Turkey, is a mistake. We must contextualize their voices and experiences based on their identity-based diversities. My feminist ethnographic research will derive primary data from participants’ narratives, incorporating an intersectional lens to understand race, gender, class, and other oppressions. In-depth interviews with women from Turkey will explore their agency, racialization, and identification experiences in different spaces.

My work, both in academia and grassroots activism, aims to echo voices often unheard in narratives of gendered racism. In a global landscape filled with disparities, transnational feminist solidarity becomes crucial. We must explore decolonizing knowledge production, ensuring diverse voices are heard and valued.

As a transnational feminist activist scholar, I aim to challenge frameworks dominated by both Western perspectives and autocrat/oppressive/populist leaders, dismantling discourses affecting immigrant women. Drawing from the experiences of women from the Global South is crucial in emphasizing diverse perspectives.

Now, as individuals and communities from different backgrounds, we must unite our voices and strengths to document discrimination, violence, and persecution that force women to migrate and face further discrimination. Together, we can create awareness and take action. We must recognize the emotional impact of activism on immigrant women and their potential for reduced distress when advocating for equality. By reconceiving culture and religion as spaces for reasoned, autonomous, and democratic participation, we empower transnational feminist work to challenge all forms of gendered populism.

Research and civil society engagements are powerful tools for generating diverse perspectives and empowering immigrant women. Let’s use them to create a more just world.

I am specifically looking to interview Armenian women who have migrated from Turkey. If you’d like to support this research by participating as an interviewee, please email me at hafza.girdap@stonybrook.edu. Participation involves answering my questions during a personal interview, conducted either in person or via Zoom. You will be interviewed once, for no more than an hour, depending on your availability and preference, at a time of your choosing. To ensure privacy, I take strict measures to keep all participant information confidential, and your name will not be disclosed.

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