Inheriting Anatolia: Representation, Knowledge Production and Imagination
The Turkish government’s 2013 demand for restitution of several artifacts has fueled heated debates about the structures of colonial and imperial relations and the limits of decolonial critique. Raising the question of ‘what belongs to whom and under which conditions’, these debates have opened a new ground to reinforce civilizational narratives onto the politics of dispossession. Inheriting Anatolia investigates the ways in which the debates on restitution are transforming the heritage field in Turkey. The research project has been designed to illustrate how a region inheriting imperial history (that has usually been left out of restitution debates) can change our perspectives on dispossession and ownership in the field of heritage.
The project asks: ‘how do we inherit what belongs to everyone’ and aims to answer this question through ethnographic, archival and legal research. It examines the intertwined nature of histories of state violence and their effects in the constitution of the legal notions of ownership and inheritance in the field of heritage. To grasp the role of dispossession in the (re)production of Anatolian artifacts as ‘universal’ or ‘world heritage,’ it traces the ways in which the artifacts are cataloged, classified, and represented in the archives of selected museum collections in Turkey as well as in Western Europe. Mobilizing ethnographic research in multiple sites in Anatolia, the project analyzes the modalities of inheritance that are cultivated by actors in the heritage field. Conceptually it (re)connects the notions of heritage and inheritance that are severed by global heritage regimes, which redraw the boundaries between what is considered public and private.
Commoning Love: The Love-Pilgrimage of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi
Commoning Love centers on the modalities of ownership, inheritance and responsibility that are generated in the context of religious heritage sites in contemporary Turkey. Promoted by UNESCO, the love pilgrimage of Mevlana Celaleddin Rumi (1207-1273), a 12th century Sufi Muslim mystic, scholar and poet, has been subject to (trans)national processes of institutionalization since the early 1920s. Along with the processes of heritagization, Rumi’s teachings on love have been claimed by large crowds with no connection to its religious history. Several communities around the globe started being formed around shared experiences of sensing the spiritual love of Rumi. His popularization in non-Muslim majoritarian contexts has fueled debates on appropriation and spiritual colonialism in times when Islamophobia became a pillar of systematic discrimination in the US and in Europe. Engaging with these debates, this project tackles with the following question: What happens when we intend to inherit what supposedly does not belong to us and yet belongs to everyone? It seeks to conceptualize different modalities of spiritual inheritance beyond biological kinship, private property and dogma without denying the power they continue to hold in the formation of alternative spiritualities.
Through online and on-site ethnography, oral histories and archival research the project illustrates the multilayered relations between the national and global policies of heritagization and their effects on diverse ways that visitors relate to the site. It aims at exploring 1-) the processes of Rumi becoming part of Intangible Cultural Heritage of Humanity 2-) diverse modalities of inheriting Rumi’s spiritual love generated by the love-pilgrims 3-) the modalities of inheritance based on sensing. Conceptualizing different understandings of inheritance allows us to investigate terms of belonging operating beyond the logics of private property and biological descent.
When History Goes Mad: Rewriting the History of State Violence in Dersim, Turkey
Tentatively entitled “When History Goes Mad: Rewriting the History of State Violence in Dersim”, her thesis explores emotional attachments to divine-madness (budela) in the politically contested post-genocidal landscape of Dersim (officially Tunceli), the only city in Turkey where the Alevi-Kurdish population forms a majority. Through historical and ethnographic material collected in Dersim along with oral history interviews conducted with members of the Dersim diaspora living in Germany, the project analyzes the role of state violence in the biographies of divine-madmen and in the emotional attachment towards those figures. Tracing life stories of the divine-madmen figures allows for reassessing the historical events that became landmarks in the collective memory of the contested space of Dersim: The genocidal violence experienced in 1915 and in 1938, the coup d’état of 1980 and the civil war between the PKK and the Turkish Armed Forces that began in 1984. Analyzing the ways in which the divine-madmen has been memorialized and sacralized grants exploring the peculiar experience of the ‘political’ in a region that has been pathologized and labelled as “irrational” by diverse political actors throughout the late Ottoman period and Turkey’s history. The project proposes that tracing the political connotations of divine-madness challenges the limits of what can be articulated within the realm of politics through a special emphasis on what is not conducive to be instrumentalized by political or social movements.