The Obsession of the Turkish State with Kurds: You Belong To Me or the Black Earth

By NAZAN ÜSTÜNDAĞ  – July 19th at 6 pm London time/ 7 pm Berlin time/ 8 pm Cape Town and Jerusalem time/ 1 pm New York Time/ 12 noon Chicago time/ 10 am Vancouver time

Part of the Psychoanalysis and Politics series Crises and Transmission

This paper addresses the obsession of the Turkish state with Kurds and claims that the deep psychic attachment of the Turkish state to the figure of the Kurd stem from the fact that the state cannot otherize him/her since in the Turkish polity there is no place for the other. In order to recognize a group as the “other” we need to think of it as having desire. However, notwithstanding certain brief intervals when the question was asked “what do the Kurds want” albeit with negative connotations, the Turkish state and the public have not been interested in the desire of Kurds. Rather the Turkish state has been obsessed with annihilating the capacity of Kurds to experience desire and fantasy. Further, a related argument the paper makes is that by binding Turkish citizens to this aim, the Turkish state rules not only over Turkish citizens behaviors but also their unconscious drives.

Nazan Üstündağ received her Ph.D. in 2005 from the sociology department at Indiana University Bloomington. Between 2005 and 2018 she worked as an Assistant Professor at Boğaziçi University, Department of Sociology. Between 2018 and 2020 she was affiliated with the Transregionale Studien in Berlin as an Academy in Exile and IIE-Scholar Rescue Fund fellow. Between 2020 and 2023 she received a fellowship from the Gerda Henkel Foundation Patrimonies program. Nazan Üstündağ’s work concerns feminist political theory, political imaginaries, gendered subjectivities and state violence in Kurdistan. Her first book with the title Mother, Politician and Guerilla: Political Imagination in the Kurdish Women’s Freedom Movement will be published in September 2023 by Fordham University Press.

Image: Jules-Eugène Lenepveu (1835–98) Antigone Gives Token Burial to the Body of Her Brother Polynices, an Woodner Family Collection Fund, 1991, Metropolitan Museum of Art.

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