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Marlene Schafers

Fieldwork in Turkey

Fault lines of gender (Marlene Schafers, 2013)Fault lines of class (Marlene Schafers, 2013)Fault lines of ethnicity (Marlene Schafers, 2013)While doing fieldwork on the Kurdish women’s movement and women singers in Van (Turkey), the city was hit by two major earthquakes on 23rd October and 9th November 2011. Aside from claiming over 600 lives and leaving thousands injured, the earthquakes took away what for many women in Van constituted the centre of their lives: the home. Women found themselves in a fragile world of homelessness and temporary housing in the middle of winter, expected to fulfill the household tasks of houses that no longer existed, often faced with an increase in domestic violence due to the crowded living conditions in tents and containers, uprooted from their domestic lives. The earthquake violently exposed social fault lines running along but also cutting across gender, class and ethnic hierarchies. In the post-disaster scramble for aid and benefits, Kurdish women had to learn how to exhibit their destitution in an attempt at eliciting compassion from a humanitarian regime of NGOs while at the same time speaking the language of rights and bureaucracy in order to negotiate access to state allocations. While women’s homes were shattered and their life worlds reduced to rubble, they showed an incredible vigor and creativity at reconstructing their lives from the debris left behind.

From Top Right:

Fault lines of gender: A container city has been set up by the state. Immediately upon moving in, a family has turned their container into a small store selling bread – suddenly house wives act as shop keepers.

Fault lines of class: Her husband works as the housekeeper of the apartment block in the background – while her home has been turned into rubble, the middle-class residents her husband works for have just moved back into their flats.

Fault lines of ethnicity: She sought refuge in the city after her village was burnt by the Turkish army on the pretext of supporting Kurdish guerrillas – while her fragile shelter still stands, her hopes for receiving benefits from the state, which has so forcefully drawn her into its realm, have once more been shattered.