Program

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships , ACLS Fellowship Program

Project

Kurds Before the Court: Law, Terrorism, and Sovereignty

Project

The Law’s Enemy: Terrorism Trials in Turkey’s Kurdistan

Department

Anthropology and Global Studies

Kurds Before the Court: Law, Terrorism, and Sovereignty

Based on two years of ethnographic research in Diyarbakır, Turkey, this dissertation resituates the ongoing Kurdish political trials, which are generally conceived of as “extraordinary” for threatening state sovereignty, within the ordinary legal world. On the one hand, the project highlights the agentive power of surveillance and writing technologies through which certain forms of legal artifacts are produced and Kurdish political dissent is transfigured into an indictable terrorist subject. On the other hand, it explores the language games, corporeal performances, and courtroom protests that the defendants, both as a collective body and individual legal subjects, deploy to claim legitimacy for their political actions. By exploring both the technological and inter-discursive aspects of law, this dissertation establishes how terrorism trials are made a part of the ordinary legal world and, simultaneously, what forms of unmaking the defendants pursue.

The Law’s Enemy: Terrorism Trials in Turkey’s Kurdistan

“The Law’s Enemy” is populated by piles of Kafkaesque court minutes kept in the offices of human rights organizations, personal reflections of former prisoners on their life in high-security prisons, scenes of passionate and silent protests staged in the counterterror courts of Turkey’s Kurdistan. Based on three years of ethnographic and archival research, this book searches for the traces of political action and insurgent justice under duress. It concentrates on the mobilization of law by the Turkish state to establish territorial and popular sovereignty amid its protracted counterinsurgency war with Kurdish guerrillas. It argues that the normative ground of terrorism trials originates in not the letter of law but the unwritten rules of counterinsurgency war. In this war by law, this book examines how the law’s racialized and gendered enemies stripped of rights fight in the name of decolonization and national liberation.