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Being Back in Oñati and Human Rights Talk (30.11, 17:00 CET) "Law and Games of Justice in Northern Kurdistan"

19 Nov 2021 16:30 | Cansu Bostan

On November 30, 2021, I will give a talk at the IISL with the collaboration of the Department of Equality, Justice and Social Policy, Basque Government. This is very meaningful for me for many different reasons.

Seven years later, now, as a visiting PhD candidate to complete my doctoral thesis, I am back in Oñati, Residence and the Institute where I studied my Masters in 2013-4. It is not a coincidence that I am back after all these years. Oñati, Institute, and the lovely friends I have here have always facilitated my journey in academia. Three years after my Master’s, when I decided to return to academia to conduct my PhD in 2017, I was working for an NGO in Istanbul with flexible hours. This made it not easier, as friends who have been in the process would relate to since even reaching out to the announced positions after getting detached from the academic environment requires a full-time commitment. It was dear Susana Arrese’s social media post through which I saw the announcement of recruitment of PhD Candidates in the Sociology of Law Department, Lund University, wherein I ended up spending my last four years. Oñati Community, which I am happily a part of, provides this solidarity and equal access to everyone against the backdrop of isolated networking in contemporary academia.

Oñati not only provided me this access to my current affiliation but also inspired the topic of my forthcoming PhD thesis, which is co-supervised by one of my previous teachers from the IISL Master’s and current Scientific Director of the Institute, Martin Ramstedt, together with Ida Nafstad, Associate Professor in Lund University. My PhD research project was initiated by a curiosity provoked but left unsatisfied by my MA research project’s fieldwork conducted in Şırnak, Northern Kurdistan, in 2014, when the Peace Process collapsed in 2015 was still ongoing in Turkey. Throughout that research, in which I looked into the contesting discourses on peace, I came to realize how embedded the imaginary of death into the subjectivities in the region. From the organization of the spaces to the way the narratives were formulated, it was impossible to ignore the domination of death haunting daily life, which can be illustrated by the word choices of one of the respondents of my interviews conducted within the scope of that research. “We missed it by ten minutes,” said she, while telling me how they survived the Şırnak massacre in 1992, “a mortar shell hit our house 10 minutes after we left.” When introduced within the broader context that my fieldwork provided, those words echoed that death was no longer experienced as the end of life but what defines it. Her choice of words revealed death as a reference point: ‘missing it’ instead of ‘surviving it,’ arousing my curiosity regarding the boundaries of the law. How could law be responsive to such an experience shaped by the destruction of the linear flow of life ending with death when its scope was limited to life and living and its temporality to linearity?

Tracing this curiosity, I conducted ethnographic fieldwork in Amed, Northern Kurdistan, between April-September 2019 for my PhD project, and my thesis, during the analysis, revealed the contesting and competing formulations of justice in Northern Kurdistan as what enables the movement and responsiveness of law in different ways. This ethnographic contextualization and disclosure eventually informed the concern of my inquiry in this study around the question of how the law responds to different justice aspirations in Northern Kurdistan and how its formations change when it attempts to be responsive to them. Against the backdrop of the Necropolitical practices of the Turkish State in Northern Kurdistan marked by the gravelessness in different forms such as enforced disappearances, mass graves, unidentified murders, destruction of the cemeteries and gravestones, my thesis, and also the talk I will give, a) reveal the exclusions of the modern spatiotemporal boundaries of the nation-state, its law, and justice narrative of Turkishness, b) explore the subjective experiences forming justice aspirations in Northern Kurdistan and their translations into the experience-distant language of the state law, and c) trace the appearing and disappearing legal spatialities in Northern Kurdistan, beyond the state law.

If you are interested, I am looking forward to discussing my project with you all, friends and colleagues from the Oñati Community. If you can make it, let's talk about human rights and justice and imagine the paths for sustainable peace worldwide within the platform facilitated by Basque Country, whose memory would provide us with significant points to learn from in this quest for peace and justice.

For more information about the talk, please check the events section.

Cansu Bostan

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