january, 2013; yerevan
We did not want to start by discussing history, because “building on the conviction that history has excluded us from its study, albeit in different ways, we wanted to create a project which did not take history as its point of departure.” We already knew “that the history of the genocide is also told from a male perspective, and the shame that continues to live in the bodies of women of Armenian descent is in many ways a direct result of the silencing of our great grandmothers’ stories who survived rapes, sexual aggression, forced marriages, homelessness and exile.” (from Milena’s peace published by Hrant Dink; Sealed Gates conference)
Storytelling, and especially the oral history tradition is one, which has been used for generations to pass stories down. (can we have some studies on oral traditions in armenian and turkish communities as a feminist practice? Esp. of indigenous peoples’). Relating to language through word of mouth allows the story flexibility and freedom from the constrictions of written documentation of a people’s lived experiences and history. It is more physical and collective in the sense that there is an act of gathering whether with two or more people and the action of telling and listening are bestowed upon those gathered – a kind of ritual. It comes as no surprise that when civilizations seek to prove their greatness – and thereby their value and power and the fact of their existence – they turn to their alphabets or written language. Just as it comes as no surprise that no great women ever lived, because the written language was colonized by men to represent other men and to produce a patriarchal mentality for conquering peoples without material letters, but with spiritual tongues.
We are deemed to not exist without the written language to prove our existence in history, but we have existed beyond language for millenia. We have existed through oral stories, through song, through the wisdom communicated through our bodies and spirit.
The Linking Our Stories group started out by prioritizing the present as a possibility for engaging with the past and creating a more collective future as subjects of study… excluded from history study their present as a link to the past., We began by telling the story of how we were told the story. Some of the results of this discussion can seem absurd upon reflection. For example, one of the participants from Armenia had been told and had internalized the stereotype that Turkish people smell. Another participant from Turkey had believed that Armenians were rich and that this was somehow a bad thing, if it was the case. By starting from our experiences of how we were told the story of the other, we created an environment of trust and confidentiality among one another, which led to the next part of our oral history method.
Because sexuality is a taboo topic across our cultures, we decided to concentrate our stories around the topic of sexuality itself. In many ways this is the furthest departure from any rational method of peace-building, both in the sense that women’s sexuality has been defined and limited by masculinist science as the root of women’s irrationality in order to cast women off as hysterical, promiscuous, shameful, frigid and so on, as
but most importantly, because we knew that we were willing and had already been doing the work of