Women and their Voices in the Book of Dede Korkut

Funda Güven

Women and their Voices in the Book of Dede Korkut

(66th Annual Meeting of the PIAC Göttingen, 2024)

The Book of Dede Korkut stands as one of the most significant narratives of the Turkic people, passed down through generations to convey their experiences and history. Additionally, it plays a pivotal role in shaping the identity of Turkic communities, with its messages often articulated by revered elderly figures, representing not only tribal elders but also familial elders. Beyond its role as a historical record, geographical work, or collection of stories, the book also influences the construction of family ties and roles. Recent scholarly discussions on gender roles and the gender binary in Turkish society have prompted a reevaluation of works of folkloric production, seeking to uncover the origins of gender norms embedded in language and customs. Women characters in these narratives were often depicted by male members of society who wield authority derived from their age and social status. When the sociolinguistic studies increased among scholars in Turkey over the past two decades, it sparked a heated discussion concerning the representation of women in the Book of Dede Korkut. While some scholars argue that women are portrayed without a name in certain tales (Günay & Oğuz), others focus on traditional interpretations according to which women have dignified roles as mothers and wives. This paper aims to analyze the discourse of the portrayal of women and their voices in the stories of the Book of Dede Korkut. Drawing on Nancy Hartsock’s interpretation of power, it seeks to answer questions such as ‘who speaks?’, ‘whose interests are served?’, ‘when did this perspective emerge?’, and ‘whose voices are absent?’, building upon Foucault’s theory of power (Hartsock, 1987).