Current Institutional Affiliation
Associate Professor, Anthropology, Mount Holyoke College

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2007
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Anthropology, Stanford University
The Making of Human Rights in Turkey

My research explores human rights training programs for state officials in Turkey, where academics and human rights activists teach human rights sensibility to various social and political actors involved in Turkey’s governance (the police, mayors, judges, prison administrators social workers etc.). The implementation of a comprehensive national human rights policy is increasingly viewed as an essential requirement for Turkey’s membership in the EU. Uncomfortable with many of its provisions, nationalists both within and outside the state bureaucracy in Turkey view EU’s human rights policy as part of foreign/Western impositions on Turkey. For many state officials, human rights secure “rights for terrorists” and threaten national security and sovereignty. Both the EU and human rights circles in Turkey put great emphasis on the human rights education of state officials, viewed as the primary human rights violators in the country. Training programs serve as critical sites to study the interpretation, translation, modification, contestation and re-articulation of what universal human rights come to mean in the Turkish governmental context. Studying how different actors address the issue during the training reveals how human rights discourse interacts with the ideas of national polity in Turkey. My project aspires to move beyond the normative framework in studying human rights in a non-Western context, articulated within the binary of the country’s accomplishment versus failure in implementing those rights. It aspires to explore what human rights do in a liminal setting where the term occupies a controversial position. Studying "the making of" human rights assumes that “failures” in implementing human rights do not correspond to passive moments of doing nothing. Rather, they are productive instances of doing something else. My research aspires to find out what the failures in implementing human rights in Turkey’s governmental realm actually end up producing.