The decades-long armed conflict between the Turkish state and Kurdish guerillas has left behind tens of thousands of dead and disabled people on both sides of the conflict. This talk focuses on the disabled Turkish ex-conscripts, who are glorified in the nationalist discourse as honorable sacrificial heroes, “ghazis,” while also grappling with socio-economic marginalization, corporal stigma, and emasculation anxieties in their daily lives. Against the backdrop of this tension-ridden double-life, disabled veterans’ organizations have championed a reactionary agenda around the issues of democratization and minority rights, becoming the leading actors of an ultranationalist campaign against Turkey’s pending EU membership.
Based on the findings of two years of multi-sited fieldwork in Turkey, this talk examines the tensions between the nationalist construction of the disabled veteran figure and veterans’ embodied experiences as lower-class disabled men through the analytical lens of gender. Situating disabled veteran bodies at the intersection of the institutional practices of the state, nationalist discourses, and cultural formations of gendered normativity, the talk explores the structures of feeling that drive disabled veterans’ political activism in contemporary Turkey.
Salih Can Aciksoz is currently a Mellon Faculty Fellow in Asian and Middle Eastern Studies at the College of William and Mary. He completed undergraduate training in Molecular Biology and Genetics and Sociology at Bogazici University in Istanbul, Turkey. He received his Ph.D. in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin in 2011. His dissertation titled “Sacrificial Limbs of Sovereignty: Disabled Veterans, Masculinity, and Nationalist Politics in Turkey” is an ethnographic study of gender, embodiment, and political subjectivity in the context of the Kurdish conflict. His work has appeared in Medical Anthropology Quarterly and Ethnologie Française. His areas of research interest include gender, violence, body and disability, trauma and memory, social movements, state formation, nationalism, sovereignty, and reproductive technologies, particularly within the context of Turkey and the broader Middle East.
MENAS Colloquium Series, Spring 2013
Friday, February 8, 2013