Narratives of Violence: temporality, corporality and justice
Nazan Ustundag (Bogazici University)
Paper short abstract:
This paper investigates narratives of violence by focusing on the different temporalities they employ. It argues that ideas such as justice, ethics and politics, as well as violence are constituted temporally and a careful attention to the construction of such ideas gives us new ways to explore the difference between violence and non-violence, conflict and peace.
Paper long abstract:
The ongoing war between the Turkish Army and the Kurdish guerilla group PKK has drastic affects on the geography and identity of people living in the South East Turkey. While displacement, murders and torture are the more visible aspects of this war, impoverishment and the difficulty of cultural reproduction are its less debated consequences. This paper argues that for people who live in the region the criteria used to differentiate violence from non-violence is not the use of guns as much as how events can be given meaning within different temporalities. Based on narrative accounts, this paper explores the different temporalities employed to explain the experience of conflict. I argue that in the narratives of Kurdish people two different temporalities are at work. On the one hand, a mythic temporality constructs PKK and the state as the good and evil fighting an ahistorical battle. In such a temporality PKK is closely linked to communal identity and yet, is also alienated from daily temporality, hence from intervention and politics. Stories of resistance and heroism mystify violence yet, also make it intelligible and acceptable. On the other hand, the temporality of everyday reveals both Kurdish organizations and the state as accountable actors. Here, discourses of poverty, interest and conspiracy are employed and a space is opened up from which violence can be narrated as an embodied experience. I claim that a careful attention to narratives of violence question our basic assumptions about politics, ethics and justice and forces us to critically engage with the liberal underpinnings of social science thinking.