Coup de Genre: The Trials and Tribulations of Bülent Ersoy; Berlin 11 May 2012

This presentation takes as its subject the real and fictional trials of Bülent Ersoy – a fantastically outrageous Turkish transgender singer/film star, whose public gender ‘transition’ coincided and collided with the 1980 military coup d’état in Turkey and its aftermath. There is a confused but fascinating feature film that came out in 1981, starring Ersoy (playing herself as a man and a woman), about her gender ‘crisis’, which relies on documentary footage to build sympathy for the star’s admittedly unusual and exaggerated persona. Interweaving an analysis of The End of Fame with Bülent Ersoy’s real life trials, Lebow and Ertür explore the trans-queer challenges posed by the star’s public persona, not only to genre and narrative, but to the law itself, allowing a unique perspective on the fitful logics and legal hysterics of the Turkish September 12, 1980 coup d’état.

Dr. Alisa Lebow is a filmmaker and film scholar originally from New York, currently residing in London. Lebow is a Senior Lecturer in Screen Media at Brunel University, teaching documentary theory, history and production. Previously she taught at universities in Bristol, Istanbul, and New York. She has written on documentary theory, with an emphasis on first person film (First Person Jewish, University of Minnesota Press 2008; The Cinema of Me, editor, Wallflower Press 2012; ‘First Person Political’, forthcoming in BFI Companion to Documentary, 2013). She is co-founder of docIstanbul, the documentary research centre based at Bogazici University, and the organizer of the XVII Visible Evidence conference in Istanbul. As a filmmaker her work includes For the Record: The World Tribunal on Iraq (2007), Treyf (co-directed with Cynthia Madansky, 1998), and Outlaw (1994).

Basak Ertür is a doctoral candidate in the School of Law at Birkbeck College in London. Her current research focuses on political trials, performance and performativity. She is the editor of Manual for Conspiracy (Sharjah Art Foundation, 2011) and the co-editor of Waiting for the Barbarians: A Tribute to Edward Said (Verso, 2008) with Müge Gürsoy Sökmen. Ertür’s published translations into Turkish include Judith Butler’s Gender Trouble and Precarious Life. She is the co-producer and co-director of a documentary entitled For the Record: The World Tribunal on Iraq (2007).

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