International Feminist Journal of Politics

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2016 Enloe Award Essay


Kurdish female guerrillas in the armed political organization Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) established death as the ultimate form of agentive transcendence in the early periods of their participation. This article focuses on the uneasy relation between death and empowerment in female militancy. It explores how female militancy both unsettles and reinforces gendered binaries of militarism. In parallel, it looks at empowerment as a fragile and complex process connected to lived experiences and subject-making mechanisms within insurgent organizations. It analyzes Kurdish female guerrillas’ diaries, memoirs and author’s interview with an ex-guerrilla on the conflict between the PKK and the Turkish state in the 1990s. The autobiographical narratives reveal the formation of a transcendental ethos on female empowerment culminated in the goddess image. Yet, the narratives also reveal the dilemmas, contradictions and pain inherent in becoming ideal militant-subjects, particularly for female guerrillas. Through this exploration, I argue that such model of a posthumous empowerment dominates the ways in which women’s militancies are recognized and understood.

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