HISTORIES OF VIOLENCE AND THE ETHICS OF EXPECTATION IN TURKEY
The category of “minority” has been constitutive of “the people” in Turkey, distilling those who do not belong to the history and destiny of the nation from those who do. “Minority,” in this sense, is not simply a demographic classification, nor merely a matter of legal recognition. It carries the weight of a historical judgment, which scaffolds ethical community by delineating which populations, languages, and religions remain outside of the framework of collective obligation and responsibility. This paper examines comments delivered by a pro-Kurdish political party and a largely Kurdish mothers-of-the-disappeared group during the Gezi Park protests of 2013. These moments of public address participated in the broader spirit of state critique on display during those protests. They were noteworthy, however, for recasting the Gezi events as a late moment in a longer history of state violence, prefigured by a century of dispossession experienced by those who have been classed as minorities or threatened with that designation. The commentaries interrogated what we might call the negative historicity of the minority. They were not primarily aimed at repudiating that historical judgment as discriminatory or contrary to law, but instead sought to delocalize the judgment vested in the category of minority, to see in that judgment an increasingly generalized economy of political abjection, and in effect to view it as prefiguring an ethical community to come.
Kabir Tambar is an assistant professor in the Department of Anthropology at Stanford University. He has also taught in the Department of Religion at the University of Vermont and was a member in the School of Social Sciences at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton in 2011-2012. His work has largely centered on Turkey and has explored questions of citizenship, religion, and the politics of history. This research led to the publication of a book, The Reckoning of Pluralism: Political Belonging and the Demands of History in Turkey (Stanford University Press, 2014). Tambar has also begun new research on military rule and the instabilities of mass politics.