Traditional Tattoos among the Baraks of Gaziantep, Identity Construction, and Gender RelationsAyşe Yeşim Demir
This article examines, in the context of identity construction and gender relations, the fading practice of tattooing among the Gaziantep Baraks of Anatolia. From a historical perspective and specifically in the context of power dynamics, the study explores the embodiment of cultural patterns as the body becomes a ‘space of performance’ through tattooing. It argues that the body is not unreservedly and passively subject to power structures —rather, it is a constituent element in identity construction. The article is based on field research conducted through participant observation and in-depth interviews in March 2014 in the villages located in Barak plain, Gaziantep Province. The research reveals that the tattoo became fashionable among the Baraks shortly after it was commercialized. The findings also indicate that this practice may have been strategically abandoned in the process of connecting and adapting to the national/supraethnic identity.
Gaziantep Baraklarında Dövme Geleneği, Kimlik İnşası ve Cinsiyet İlişkileriAyşe Yeşim Demir
Bu makalede, Anadolu’nun Gaziantep Baraklarında sönümlenmekte olan dövme pratiği, kimlik inşası ve cinsiyet ilişkileri bağlamında incelenmektedir. Dövme aracılığıyla, bir performans alanına dönüşen beden üzerinde kültürel örüntülerin nasıl somutlaştırıldığı sorgulanırken, bu süreçler, iktidar ilişkileri kapsamında ve tarihselleştirilerek irdelenmektedir. Makale, bedenin iktidar yapılarına koşulsuz tabi ve edilgen olmadığını, aksine kimlik inşasında kurucu bir unsur olduğunu savunmaktadır. Bu makale, 2014 yılı Mart ayında, Gaziantep’in Barak Ovası’nda bulunan köylerde katılarak gözlem ve derinlemesine görüşmeler yoluyla gerçekleştirilen bir alan araştırmasına dayanmaktadır. Araştırma, dövmenin ticarileştikten sonra Baraklar arasında moda haline geldiğini ortaya çıkarmıştır. Öte yandan bulgular, bu pratiğin ulusal/üst kimliğe bağlanma ve uyum süreçlerinde stratejik olarak terkedilmiş olabileceğini göstermektedir.
The traditional practice of tattooing stands out in various regions of Anatolia, particularly in the Southeast, and is practiced by various ethnic groups using common motifs (Yenipınar and Tunç, 2013). This article explores this tradition with a focus on the Gaziantep–Barak plain, wherein the practice is less common compared to other cities in the region (see Akalın, 2019; Begiç and Çapık, 2020). Today, tattooing is observed only among the elderly in the Barak region.
This study examines the practice of tattooing among the Gaziantep Baraks of Anatolia in the context of identity construction and gender relations. It is based on the findings obtained from a March 2014 field research conducted among the tattooed and non-tattooed residents of the Tüm, Kemlim, Keçebaş, Kersentaş, Şivip, and Güneyse villages. The research was conducted through participant observations and in-depth interviews. The researcher found the chance to observe the everyday life of the Baraks during her stay in the village, where she was hosted by a female participant.
All of the tattooed research participants were women aged 70 or above. It was found that there used to be a few Barak men sporting tattoos; however, none of them are alive today. The practice of tattooing was brought to the Baraks by the Gurbets, another ethnic group in the region. The practice gained popularity primarily as a decorative art form shortly after it had become commercialized. For women, a tattoo often indicated one’s affiliation to the Barak group and served among women as a symbol of superior social status. However, it was also practiced for healing. Tattoos were also applied on male bodies, particularly because they were believed to increase fertility.
Previous studies on traditional Anatolian tattoos have focused primarily on tattoo motifs (see Hazar, 2006; Begiç and Çapık, 2020). It was observed that the tradition of tattooing practiced by the Baraks shared common patterns with other tattooing practices in Anatolia. However, unlike their neighbors, the Baraks were not aware of the motifs behind these tattoo designs and even stated that they were not interested in learning about such symbolic meanings. This research seeks to understand the significance of the tattoo tradition in the Baraks’ social lives as opposed to focusing on the local interpretations of the tattoo motifs.
Previous researches conducted on this subject in other Anatolian cities misleadingly represent tattooing as a “tradition of the elderly” (see Hazar, 2006; Akalın, 2019). Moreover, in some of these studies, the tradition is considered a strategy for city branding (Çağlayandereli and Göker, 2016). However, it is unclear why and how the practice of tattooing has faded over time. This article aims to fill this gap in the literature by historicizing the emergence and abandonment of the tattoo tradition among the Baraks. The research has revealed that this practice may have been strategically abandoned in the process of connecting and adapting to national/supraethnic identity.