Waiting Before the Law: Turkey's Anti-Terror Law and Legal Violence

Deniz Yonucu (EUME-ZMO Fellow of the Alexander von Humboldt Stiftung 2015-17), Chair: Banu Karaca (Istanbul / EUME Fellow 2016/17)

According to a study conducted by Associated Press in 66 countries, 12,897 prisoners were convicted of terrorism in Turkey in 2011. This number accounted for a third of all convictions. In this talk, Yonucu, drawing on courtroom observations and in-depth interviews with “terrorist” convicts and suspects as well as human rights lawyers, provides an ethnographically grounded analysis of legal violence in Turkey and discusses the implementations and effects of the country’s anti-terror law in relation to rising authoritarianism. While, recently, “there is no law in this country” has become the motto of the opposition in Turkey, Yonucu suggests that, rather than the suspension of the law, law, indeed, exits as an overwhelming and ever-present force in the lives of the non-deserving populations of the AKP regime (i.e. Kurds, Alevis, socialists and most recently alleged coup organizers and their sympathizers), hanging over their lives like the sword of Damocles. 

Deniz Yonucu is currently an Alexander von Humboldt Post-Doctoral Fellow at the Forum Transregionale Studien and the Zentrum Moderner Orient. She received her PhD from the Department of Anthropology at Cornell in May 2014. She holds two MA degrees in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and in Sociology from Bogazici University. After completing her PhD, she spent a semester at the LSE’s Contemporary Turkish Studies Chair. Her background is in anthropology and sociology, and her work draws substantially from critical legal studies, critical criminology, postcolonial studies and political philosophy. Her research focuses on anti-terror law, emerging forms of sectarian polarizations in Turkey, the criminalization of ethnicized and racialized working-class youth, sites of urban segregation and violence, and extra-legal security. In her works, Yonucu attempts to analyze the contemporary political history of Turkey by focusing on the experiences of the country’s marginalized, stigmatized and dishonored populations. She has published a number of articles and opinion pieces related to these areas of research. Funded by the Wenner-Gren Foundation and the Middle East Research Competition of the Ford Foundation, her dissertation, titled Operations Of Law And Sovereignty From Below: Youth, Violence And Disorder In Urban Turkey, focuses on marginalized Alevi populated working class neighborhoods in Istanbul and analyses the complex relationship between law, violence, counter violence and sovereignty in Turkey. Yonucu is currently working on her first book project tentatively entitled Violence and Counter-Violence in Istanbul’s Working-Class Alevi Neighbourhoods: Law, Order and Extra-Legal Security.

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