Silence, Voice and Political Agency: Women and LGBTQ Antimilitarists in Israel and Turkey


KHAS Core Program

10 March 2021, Wednesday, 18:00

Political agency is often conceptualized through a dichotomy between silence and voice. Within this framework, silence denotes domination and submission whereas voice is a prerequisite for empowerment, resistance and agency. On that basis, scholars and activists urge individuals and groups to break the silences and voice their discontent to become agents of social and political transformation. Drawing on women and LGBTQ antimilitarists’ objections to the compulsory military service in Israel and Turkey, I argue that this framework falls short of explaining agency, or its impacts. A more nuanced understanding necessitates deconstructing the silence/voice dichotomy, especially focusing on the varied outcomes of each in particular contexts. While silent acts of objection by women and LGBTQ antimilitarists do not suggest an absence of political agency or resistance, and may indeed stimulate change; vocal acts of objection may lead to loss of agency and further detriment, as they not only come at the expense of the co-optation of individuals’ claims into state and military agendas but also result in the deprivation of their right to refuse. My analysis contends that taking gender and sexuality as analytical categories makes important contributions to the literature, and helps us re-imagine movements, agency and change.