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Brotherhood in Dispossession: State Violence and the Ethics of Expectation in Turkey

By Kabir Tambar

Cite As:
Tambar, Kabir. 2015. “Brotherhood in Dispossession: State Violence and the Ethics of Expectation in Turkey.” Cultural Anthropology 31, no. 1: 30–55.


The category of minority has been constitutive of the concept of the people in Turkey, distilling those who do not belong to the history and destiny of the nation from those who do. Minority, in this sense, is not simply a demographic classification, nor merely a matter of legal recognition. It carries the weight of a historical judgment, which scaffolds political community by delineating which populations, languages, and religions remain beyond the framework of collective obligation and responsibility. This essay examines comments delivered by a pro-Kurdish political party and a largely Kurdish mothers-of-the-disappeared group during Turkey’s Gezi Park protests of 2013. These moments of public address participated in the broader spirit of state critique on display during those demonstrations. They were noteworthy, however, for recasting the Gezi events as a late occurrence in a longer history of state violence, prefigured by a century of dispossession experienced by those who have been classed as minorities or threatened with that designation. The essay asks how these invocations of history enabled interventions into imagined futures. The commentaries were not primarily aimed at repudiating the historical judgment of minority as discriminatory or contrary to law, but instead sought to delocalize the judgment vested in the category of minority, to see in that judgment an increasingly generalized economy of state violence, and to view it as prefiguring a political community to come.


futures; politics of history; ethics; protest; minorities