Deniz Yonucu

Deniz Yonucu has graduated from the Department of Anthropology at Cornell University in May 2014. Her dissertation, titled, Operations Of Law And Sovereignty From Below: Youth, Violence And Disorder In Urban Turkey, focuses on Alevi populated working class neighborhoods in Istanbul and analyzes the complex relationship between law, violence and sovereignty in Turkey. She holds two MA degrees in Social Sciences from the University of Chicago and in Sociology from Bogazici University. She spent the academic year 2008-2009 at Columbia University in the Department of Anthropology.  Her works have focused on the criminalization and marginalization of working class youth in Istanbul, operations and manifestations state violence in Turkey as well as their effects on Alevi youth. She has published several articles related to these areas of research. She has also taught courses related to issues of urban marginalization, violence and state terror.  She currently resides in Istanbul and is awarded with Salt Research Grant to further develop her research on the state violence in Alevi populated neighborhoods.

Deniz Yonucu’s project: 

From Center to Margin: Rethinking the Gezi Uprisings with Istanbul’s Alevi Neighborhoods

The Gezi uprisings of Summer 2014 attracted large groups of people from diverse ethnic, religious and class backgrounds. However, the Turkish government has attempted to represent the uprising as an Alevi one in official discourses. Indeed, all of the six young people killed during the Gezi demonstrations were Alevis. This has been used as an evidence to support the view that the uprising was a particularly “Alevi” one by pro-government journalists. Alevis are a Muslim minority group, who have been stigmatized as internal enemies and heretics for centuries, both in the Ottoman Empire and in modern Turkey. Alevis are also known for their active participation in leftist politics. Since their establishment in the 1960s, working class Alevi neighborhoods have been shelters for urban guerrillas and revolutionary militants. The paper I will present at the workshop will draw on extensive field-work in an Alevi populated neighborhood of Istanbul between 2010-2012 and on my observations during and after the Gezi demonstrations. I will discuss how and why the government seeks to reduce the Gezi events into an Alevi uprising and shed light on the possible consequences of such attempts. At the broader theoretical level, I will elaborate on the production and provocation of conflict as a reproductive technique of governance and domination, underlining the effects of reduction of political conflicts into cultural ones.

Recently, there have been several police operations in Istanbul’s Alevi populated neighborhoods, especially in Okmeydanı where the police killed a 15-years-old Alevi boy during the protests of Summer 2014. I argue that these operations are organized by the government as a preventive technique to move the possible upcoming uprisings away from the center and into the margins. Such a move will not only concentrate clashes into the already marginalized neighborhoods but also fragment the Gezi movement by compartmentalizing its most radical and active segments. In order to thoroughly analyze the Gezi uprisings and discuss how they may evolve, we need to pay close attention to transformations in Turkey’s Alevi populated neighborhoods. Drawing from Walter Benjamin and Carl Schmitt, I argue that zones of exception are the places where the rationale and operations of (sovereign) power becomes more clear and apparent. Hence, a thorough analysis of Turkey’s Alevi populated neighborhoods will provide analytical tools to understand the techniques of rule that emerge in the context of urban conflict and then spread across time and space.

It is no coincidence that Istanbul’s Alevi neighborhoods are known as the Gaza of Istanbul.  The techniques of the Israeli state to divide and suppress the Palestinian liberation movement have long been adopted by the government in Turkey. I believe that the case of Alevi neighborhoods in Turkey provides a comparative perspective in analyzing social movements and state techniques in the Middle East.  Accordingly, my paper will also provide an overview of the a) relations and processes that turned Istanbul’s Alevi populated neighborhoods into state of emergency zones b) militarized spatial control techniques of the Turkish state c) the radicalizing effect of the police’s violent presence in the neighborhoods d) post-Gezi police presence in these neighborhoods and its effect on the neighborhood and national scale.



OpenEdition suggests that you cite this post as follows:
Barbara Bishay (June 17, 2014). Deniz Yonucu. eume-city. Retrieved July 21, 2024 from

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