2013 "Burning heart women": Melodised narratives of pain and loss among the Yezidis of Armenia

Guest lecture at Centre for Gender Studies and Centre for Ethnomusicology, Kunst University of Graz, Austria, 20th of March.

Among Yezidi women of Armenia, sad thoughts are often told in a melodised tone of voice. This specific vocal register, which the Yezidis call "words about" (kilamê ser), is the preferred way to express pain, sad feelings and talk about traumatic events. Performers are mostly elderly women, who define themselves as "burning hearts" (dilşewat), that is, in a state of eternal mourning and pain. Whereas in many traditions around the world laments are said to be cathartic utterances, “burning heart women” seem to embody a physical pain which they will never get rid of. They act in daily life as suffering bodies sacrificed for their relatives. Based on fieldwork, this presentation describes how the formal and performative characteristics of Yezidi melodised speech contributes to the construction of a gender specific way of being-in-the-world, analysing the ways in which "burning hearts" embody and perform the pain of loss.