The Zenne: male belly dancers and queer modernity in contemporary Turkey
Theatre Research International
Cambridge University Press
20 - 36
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This article explores the history and contemporary revival of male belly dancers-zenne or köçek-in Turkey and in cities with large Turkish populations, such as Berlin. What does the current revival of male belly dancing tell us about the relationship between modern ideologies of sex and gender and narratives of modernity as they have taken shape in Turkey? The zenne dancer embodies the contradictions of contemporary Turkish culture, which includes a variety of same-sex practices, along with sexual taxonomies that have developed in collusion with discourses of modernity. The revival of zenne dancing can be seen as part of a series of global transformations in the visibility of gay, lesbian, and trans people in popular culture and public discourse. However, it is also an unpredicted consequence of the Justice and Development Party's (Adalet ve Kalkinma Partisi, AKP) purposeful revival and romanticization of Turkey's Ottoman past, which has been ahistorically remembered as more pious than the present. Re-emerging in the twenty-first century as an embodiment of competing definitions of sexuality and modernity in contemporary Turkey, precisely at a moment when Turkish national identity is a hotly contested issue, the zenne dancer is queer ghost, returning to haunt (and seduce) the present. © Copyright International Federation for Theatre Research 2017.