Performance and (Re)Construction of the Body: Queer Perspectives on Köçeks

Wednesday, 18 July 2018
Distributed Paper
Atilla BARUTCU, Bulent Ecevit University, Turkey
Guzin YAMANER, Ankara University, Turkey
The relationship of masculinity and dance in Turkish society has always been problematic. One of the reasons is the fact that many dances are mostly identified with femininity except for the types dominated by "masculine" forms in the last few decades under the influence of Western countries such as hip-hop and break dance. Therefore dancing can be seen as a threat for masculinity by men. Turkish culture, on the other hand, includes a tradition that is performed by dressing directly as "woman" and often performed by acting "feminine" and it still continues to exist in certain regions of Anatolia. The dancer who performs this traditional dance is called as Köçek.

Köçeks represent the traditional dancer boys in Turkish culture who wear the clothes which are attributed to women today like skirt and fancy waistcoat. They first emerged in the palace life in Ottoman Empire as servants who provide the sultan and establishment of the palace entertainment and sexual service and this tradition survived until contemporary times as part of a wedding and celebration culture especially in the North-western region of Anatolia. The problem of this study is to question the historical progress of Köçek tradition which can be thought to open different doors to the reproduction of the body by performance. Our aim is to reread this tradition from Ottoman Empire to Turkish Republic with queer perspectives and to demonstrate that Köçeks, as already accepted traditional male dancers, provide a queer stance that can be destructive for gender roles by their performance which implies deconstruction and reconstruction of the body at the same time. This study is supported by the opinions and performances of 15 Köçeks, who are interviewed and recorded while performing, and is willing to support the queer colors of Anatolia.