In War and Peace: Shifting Narratives of Violence in Kurdish Istanbul

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    In this article, I draw on two years of ethnographic research to explore the multiple and contradictory ways Kurdish working-class men in Istanbul imagine, narrate, and conceptualize violence. How Kurdish workers remember and publicly speak of violence, self-defense, and retribution has notably changed in the context of the resurgence of the war between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK). I came to understand this storytelling of violence, omnipresent in all the social infrastructures of male Kurdish life in Istanbul, as a form of communicative labor through which a distinct historical consciousness and shared understandings of violence are created, networks for survival and dignity engendered, and moral selves crafted. These narratives refuse interpretation of the ongoing Kurdish struggle as mere terrorism or victimhood and instead recuperate Kurdish agency and counterviolence. In these narratives, “defense of the community” not only asserts peoples’ right to exist but also charges just violence with moral significance, turning those who protect their community against state violence into aspirational figures. [violence, narrative, morality, war and peace, memory, Kurds, Turkey].

    Original languageEnglish (US)
    Pages (from-to)554-567
    Number of pages14
    JournalAmerican Anthropologist
    Issue number3
    StatePublished - 2019

    All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

    • Anthropology
    • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)


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