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Affective geopolitics: Entanglements of geopolitical lives of Syrian refugees in Turkey
September 1, 2017 @ 12:15 pm - 1:45 pm
The war in Syria is transforming bodies and territories well beyond the sites of the fighting. Today, there are over 3 million Syrian refugees in Turkey and very few of these refugees live in camps while most live in cities. For Turkey, the war has reconfigured (geo)political and spatial imaginaries in ways that both express and exceed the real conditions of the crisis. In this talk, I address the embodied, affective geopolitics of the Syrian war from the perspective of ordinary Turkish nationals (in Istanbul, Konya, and Malatya, focus group research conducted in 2014-2016) in relation to their encounters both with Syrian refugees and the discourses that frame or contest Turkey’s official ‘open door’ policy. Building on recent works in politics of emotions, affect, and bodies in feminist geopolitics and political geography, our analysis focuses on 1) feelings of uncomfortable identification that can provoke a turn away from the other for fear of becoming more alike or of allowing a repressed likeness — such as sectarianism — to come to light; 2) feelings of threatening proximity wherein the denigration of Syrian bodies and lives converges with the desire for a spatial organization of bodies that would put literal boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’; and 3) how the imminent, embodied, and affective challenge posed by the influx of 3 million Syrians into Turkey requires addressing the ethics of how to hear and respond to the pain of others. I argue that, while geopolitical imaginaries are typically understood to spatially array enclosures of ‘us’ and ‘them,’ an affective and embodied approach to geopolitics opens these cartographies to topological dynamism and entanglement.
Dr. Banu Gökarıksel is Associate Professor of Geography at UNC-CH and the co-editor of the Journal of Middle East Women’s Studies (2014-2018). Her work engages feminist geography and geopolitics with a focus on gender, bodies and public space. Through the ethnographic and multi-method fieldwork research she has been conducting in Turkey since 1996, she analyzes the politics of everyday life and questions of religion, secularism, and pluralism. She is interested in similar questions about religious, racial, and gender/sexual diversity, shared spaces, and social justice in the US as well.