Shielding Hope, Killing Hope: Entitlement, Precarity and the Limits of Belonging in Turkey

Tuesday, November 12, 2019, 12:00pm - 1:30pm
Event Sponsor
Abbasi Program in Islamic Studies, Mediterranean Studies Forum, Department of Anthropology
Encina Commons 123
Shielding Hope, Killing Hope: Entitlement, Precarity and the Limits of Belonging in Turkey

This talk will track the unequal distribution of hope as a collective structure of feeling in relation to both the migrant condition and differentiated citizenship in Turkey. On the one hand, I explore the tension between ethnic privilege and economic precarity as experienced by ethnic Turkish migrants from Bulgaria for whom cultural and legal belonging has historically been promised. Turkish immigration policies have worked in lockstep with national aspirations for ethnic and religious conformity, offering this group of migrants in Turkey an advantage over others. On the other hand, I ask what happens to the category of political hope when we simultaneously reckon with claims of inclusion based on ethnic kinship and the refusals of historically dispossessed citizens to participate in hopeful imaginations of a national future.

Ayşe Parla received her Ph.D. in anthropology from New York University, and is an assistant professor of anthropology at Boston University. Parla’s work on transnational migration, precarious labor, differentiated citizenship, and the governance of ethnic and religious diversity is situated at the intersections of the politico-legal and the affective-moral realms in Turkey, its borderlands and diasporas. Her first book, Precarious Hope: Migration and the Limits of Belonging in Turkey (Stanford University Press, 2019) is an ethnographic study of the historical and legal production of hope among ethnically Turkish labor migrants from Bulgaria. Exploring the tension between ethnic privilege and economic vulnerability, the book reconsiders the terms of belonging in Turkey’s contemporary migration and citizenship regime. Her work has also appeared in such journals as Alternatives, American Ethnologist, Citizenship Studies, Differences, International Migration, Public Culture and edited volumes, including, most recently, her chapter on “Critique without a Politics of Hope,” in A Time for Critique, edited by Didier Fassin and Bernard Harcourt (Columbia University Press, 2019).  Parla’s current book project, tentatively entitled “Cemeteries, Necropolitics and Present Absences” is on the postgenocide legal dispossession of Armenians in Turkey and the cultural normalization of dispossession. Tracking necropolitical policies of destruction and the confiscation of Armenian cemeteries as well as the care and preservation by the community of other remaining cemeteries, the project pursues the entanglements of silence, absence and survival. Before joining the Department of Anthropology at BU in 2018, Parla taught at Sabancı University in Istanbul, and was a fellow, between 2016-2018, at the Institute for Advanced Study, Princeton.

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