Current Institutional Affiliation
SAR Research Fellow

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2014
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
Sociology, State University of New York (SUNY) / Binghamton University
Crafting the Self in the Shadow of the Turkish State: The Formation of Yurtsever Subjecthood in the 1990s

My research explores the building of the yurtsever (patriot) youth movement in the 1990s when the Partiya Karkeran Kurdistan - Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) mobilization was at its height in Turkey. I specifically focus on the formation of yurtsever subjecthood in the high school setting when Kurdish youth, whose parents were deemed "backward" and "ignorant", were invited to be part of "civilization" and participate in the project of building the Turkish nation. My research investigates the processes that constituted yurtsever subjecthood as a historical process of subject formation that rejected assimilation and instead chose to be a part of struggle for recognition, even at the cost of their own lives under state of emergency conditions. Today, the youth of the 1990s refer to themselves as the "lost generation" to highlight the massive loss of lives and tutunamayan (disconnected) attitude of survivors towards life. I suggest that this critical moment in the mobilization of Kurdish youth and their struggle for recognition speaks to us about how subjectivities challenged and also reconfigured the Turkish political landscape where their experience of difference and inequality continue to be neglected, denied, or uncounted. I combine in-depth and semi-structured interviews with students and teachers who attended Ziya Gökalp High School in Diyarbakir, one of the main centers of yurtsever youth mobilization, archival research of PKK publications, as well as auto-ethnography, to examine the practices and discourses that shaped young people receptive to the PKK's mobilization efforts. Together, these research approaches will enable me to interpret in what ways the political practices of yurtsever youth challenged and reshaped the Kurdish movement in particular and Turkish politics in general. I expect that my study will contribute to interpreting the production of "the political" and also to comparative understandings of political mobilization and subject formation.