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REMNANTS Report Summary

Project ID: 284094
Funded under: FP7-IDEAS-ERC
Country: United Kingdom

Final Report Summary - REMNANTS (Living With Remnants: Politics, Materiality and Subjectivity in the Aftermath of Past Atrocities in Turkey)

The REMNANTS project, entitled “Living with Remnants: Politics, Materiality, and Subjectivity in the Aftermath of Past Atrocities in Turkey,” was a large comparative project in ethnography and history studying the legacy of the Armenian genocide and other violent events committed against Turkey’s minority communities through the long durée of their impact in the making of contemporary social relations and political forms. The project entailed a development of innovative methodologies for the study of violence in the aftermath of its immediate physical occurrence through anthropological research on its spatial, material, and temporal expanse. Field and archival research was undertaken in four locations in South and Southeastern Turkey where minority communities who were targets of violence used to live. The researchers on the REMNANTS team ethnographically explored contemporary inhabitants’ social and political worlds in these specific locations by reference to their engagements (both discursive and non-discursive, tangible and intangible) with ‘remnants’ of the communities who used to live there prior to the violent events. The team developed the notion of ‘remnants’ as a historically specific as well as conceptual and methodological tool for the study of the aftermath of violence. In the process of the research project, the team developed both a new methodology for the study of violence through its endurance, as well as new conceptualizations of violence (in its spatial, material, and temporal expanse). One of the central conclusions of the REMNANTS project research is that past atrocities in Turkey (the Armenian genocide, the repression of Kurdish uprisings, the forced exile of Greek Orthodox communities, and the political oppression of the Alawis, among other minority groups such as Arabs, Jews, and Syriac-Assyrians) are not only issues pertaining to ‘the past,’ but questions which have had a long-term legacy in the making of contemporary forms of politics and sociality. The REMNANTS team therefore studied past atrocities as having an endurance in Turkey. This has led to the conceptualization of catastrophes not as single events with an ending, but as having an ongoing impact with a force in the making of contemporary social, economic, and political relations. The REMNANTS team ethnographically researched the forms of this endurance of violence committed in the past. This led to reconceptualization of violence as an analytical notion, as well. Further than associating violence singularly with its physical implementations (on the human body), our research concluded that violence can also be studied through its traces in the spaces and materialities, as well as in the intangible and spiritual worlds of people several generations after its original act of atrocity. We have theorized violence, therefore, as having multiple forms and as having the capacity to transmogrify in a long durée. Engaging with post-humanist philosophies, we derived theoretical concepts out of our ethnographic and region-specific research which will be of interest to scholars studying violence inter-disciplinarily. Methodologically and theoretically our research concludes that the study of violence must incorporate the material / spatial as well as the temporal, further than the physical, in its conceptualizations.

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United Kingdom
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