States of Dispossession
Violence and Precarious Coexistence in Southeast Turkey
by Zerrin Özlem Biner
The military conflict between the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) and the Turkish Armed Forces has endured over the course of the past three decades. Since 1984, the conflict has claimed the lives of more than 45,000 civilians, militants, and soldiers, as well as causing thousands of casualties and disappearances. It has led to the displacement of millions of people and caused the forced evacuation of nearly 4,000 villages and towns. Suspended periodically by various cease-fires, the conflict has been a significant force in shaping many of the ethnic, social, and political enclaves of contemporary Turkey, where contradictory forms of governance have been installed across the Kurdish region.
In States of Dispossession, Zerrin Özlem Biner traces the violence of the protracted conflict in the Kurdish region through the lens of dispossession. By definition, dispossession implies the act of depriving someone of land, property, and other belongings as well as the result of such deprivation. Within the fields of Ottoman and contemporary Turkish studies, social scientists to date have examined the dispossession of rights and property as a technique for governing territory and those citizens living at its margins. States of Dispossession instead highlights everyday experiences in an attempt to understand the persistent and intangible effects of dispossession. Biner examines the practices and discourses that emerge from local memories of unspoken, irresolvable histories and the ways people of differing religious and ethnic backgrounds live with the remains of violence that is still unfolding. She explores the implicit knowledge held by ordinary people about the landscape and the built environment and the continuous struggle to reclaim rights over dispossessed bodies and places.
Chapter 1. Cementing the Past with the Future: The Materiality of Stone and Concrete
Chapter 2. Ruined Heritage
Chapter 3. Digging with the Cin
Chapter 4. Living as if Indebted
Chapter 5. Beneath the Wall Surrounding the Mor Gabriel Monastery
Chapter 6. Loss, Compensation, and Debt
""Biner’s book is an impressive account of the ways in which people live a life with the dead and the past in the present, and how death itself is never far away; it’s a book how people navigate through the pain, injury and loss of others as well as that of themselves. It’s an account of the ways in which people live a precarious life. Ultimately, it’s a book about hope for a better, different life. But it’s also a book that shows the suffocating effects of that hope being ravaged by new rounds of violence as the possibility of a livable life sways back and forth between sheer phantasy and toxic asset""—Politics, Religion & Ideology
""States of Dispossession is a highly original and rich ethnographic and theoretical work on violence in the Kurdish region of Turkey. It fills a pressing need.""—Lale Yalçin-Heckmann, Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology
""Zerrin Özlem Biner's book offers sharp analysis of how past violence, the built environment, and law shape the circumstances in which different people in the city of Mardin in southeast Turkey confront the present and envision futures.""—Stef Jansen, Manchester University