Toward a critique of non-violence

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    Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois (2004: 9) show the continuum between “forms of violence and terrorism that are normally kept apart and compartmentalized” and call “to make public the other kinds of genocides that are easily transformed into ‘public secrets’ or normalized into invisibility.” Rather than considering the Holocaust as a sui generis catastrophe that is beyond cross-cultural understanding, comparison or reckoning, they force us to recognize the continuum of violence in order “to see the capacity and the willingness—if not enthusiasm—of the ordinary of the people, the practical technicians of the social consensus, to enforce genocidal-like crimes against categories of rubbish people.” The relegation of certain human groups into “less than fully human” or unworthy lives through the categories of the mad, mentally vulnerable, very old, sick poor, or the despised racial, ethnic, religious or sexual groups is a prerequisite of the mass violence and genocides. “Collective denial and misrecognition are prerequisites for mass violence and genocide. But so are formal bureaucratic structures and professional roles.” (21) In that sense, for Scheper-Hughes and Bourgois, the mass violence and genocides are ingrained in the common sense and knowledge of everyday social life. And the continuum of violence shows the hidden links between the violence in war and violence in peace, revealing how “terror as usual” operates as a public secret, as Michael Taussig suggests.

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    In March 1997, Meral Akşener, then Turkey’s minister of Internal Affairs, said that Abdullah Öcalan, the leader of PKK, was of “Armenian semen.” After the reactions of Armenians living in Turkey and some other groups, she argued, “I did not mean Armenians of Turkey, I meant the Armenian race in general.” Her statements were not just an example of everyday forms of state racism; they also showed the ease with which one can associate the others with each other in Turkish political discourse. Aksener’s attitude also deciphers how the state constitutes the terms of moral order, inclusion and exclusion, affective ties and allegiances.

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    Report on the Roboskî massacre:

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    The Justice and Development Party (AKP) came to power in Turkey with the 2002 elections. This period witnessed limited recognition of ethnic identities and the rise of liberal pluralism. The denial of Kurdish identity and other ethnic groups was replaced with limited recognition. Defining itself as a victim of the secular Republic and the army in general and the postmodern military coup d’état of 1997 in particular, the ruling Islamic party generated an effective discourse of democratization and civilianization of the Turkish state with the promise of bringing an end to the hegemony of the Turkish army on politics. Heralding the solution of Kurdish conflict through “civilian” means and justice through facing the authoritarian and secular tradition of the state, the AKP garnered significant support from the emerging civil society. However, in contrast to liberal hopes and its considerable power in state institutions, the AKP did not change the oppressive nature of the Kemalist institutions but rather mimicked the Kemalist precedent by controlling these institutions. In addition to “opening” policies, which turned out to be a source of disappointment, the government has been destroying the organizational capacity of the legal Kurdish party by means of a lawfare against almost all legal Kurdish organizations. Since 2009, about 8,000 Kurdish politicians and activists have been jailed. Among them are six elected deputies, around 70 journalists, 36 lawyers, more than 30 elected mayors and ex-mayors, executives of the BDP (Peace and Democracy Party), hundreds of students, 140 unionists, intellectuals and academicians.

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    Hilal Kaplan, “Uludere’deki günaha ortak olmayın,” Yeni Şafak.

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    Aretxaga (2005: 264) argues that the state cannot be merely understood as a sum of rational technologies. In order to understand the exercise of state power, one has to see the state “not as the product of rational technologies of control but as the subject of excess that bypasses any rational functionality.” This excess, she argues, is produced by the fantasy of statehood, total control, appropriation of the other and heterosexuality. In her usage, fantasy appears as the psychic glue of the social reality rather than a purely illusionary construct. Rational technologies are configured and animated by a substrate of fantasy that becomes an “objectively subjective” force that has a hold on the production of affects, the strange intimacy between the state and people, sensualities and bodily operations.


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Correspondence to Onur Günay.

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Günay, O. Toward a critique of non-violence. Dialect Anthropol 37, 171–182 (2013).

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