Society for Cultural Anthropology
Oral Presentation Session
The Turkish cemeteries for the unknown are graveyards where the state buries the bodies of those people who remain unidentified or unclaimed over a certain period of time. In practice, it is a burial site for the deaths of marginal people, namely homeless people, victims of honor crimes, disowned members of blood families, and more recently, unaccompanied Syrian refugees. There is also a political dimension to these cemeteries for the unknown: these cemeteries are full of the bodies of political detainees who were disappeared under police interrogations and state violence. Historically, the state has deemed many radical leftists and Kurdish guerrillas unidentified, denied families and communities these bodies, and buried them as anonymous corpses.
Bringing together the stories of those people who died in the social margins and/or whose death were rendered marginal in Turkey, this paper examines a mortal topography of social margins. These margins may be ethnic, religious, sectarian, and economic in addition to gendered or sexed. A close focus on these mortal margins will allow me to discuss shifting, contesting, shattering, or emerging intimate alliances between the state, the family, religion, ethnicity, sex and gender. More explicitly, I will discuss the contours and limits of different sovereign and intimate claims over the body through the registers of ethnicity, economy, religion, and sex/gender.