The Politics of Gender in Azeri-Russophone Literature
Sevinc Jafar’s novel Fakhriya (2018), first written in Russian and then translated by Javid Abbasov to Azeri, focuses on one Azeri woman’s experience during the Karabakh war (late 1980s-1994). The Karabakh war was an ethnic and territorial conflict in the enclave of Nagorno-Karabakh in southwestern Azerbaijan, between the majority ethnic Armenians of Nagorno-Karabakh (backed by Armenia) and the Republic of Azerbaijan. During the Karabakh war, Armenian troops demonstrated horrific brutality, especially towards women, whom they brutally and sometimes publicly sexually assaulted (Isgandarova 176). In my thesis, I will argue that despite the cultural hegemony under Russian colonialism, women in Azerbaijan used the discourse of colonial modernity to transcend traditional gender roles. I will explore the ways in which colonial language politics implicitly inform constructions of gender in Soviet and independent Azerbaijan; indeed, the fact that Jafar’s work was written in Russian suggests that it remains the language of modernity in Azerbaijan. As I will show, Jafar uses Russian to express women’s experiences of sexual violence during the Karabakh war beyond the gender roles that dictate the limits of appropriate speech in Azeri.
Presented in absentia on April 27, 2020 at "Student Research Day" at MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta. (Conference cancelled)
Faculty Mentor: Sara Grewal