"What is the relationship between an event of historical violence and its subsequent commemoration? Brilliantly challenging our received understandings of historical representation, Victims of Commemoration analyzes how the violence of the past persists in the formation of public spaces and built environments."—Kabir Tambar, Stanford University
"A brilliant contribution in the wider literatures of violence and trauma, collective memory, commemoration and memorialization, ethno-national identity, and the ethnographies and geographies of each."—Kyle Evered, Michigan State University
In Victims of Commemoration, Eray Çaylı draws upon extensive fieldwork he conducted in the prelude to the mid-2010s when Turkey’s global image fell from grace. This ethnography—the first of its kind—explores both activist and official commemorations at sites of state-endorsed violence in Turkey that have become the subject of campaigns for memorial museums. Reversing the methodological trajectory of existing accounts, Çaylı works from the politics of urban and architectural space to grasp ethnic, religious, and ideological marginalization.
Victims of Commemoration reveals that, whether campaigns for memorial museums bear fruit or not, architecture helps communities concentrate their political work against systemic problems. Sites significant to Kurdish, Alevi, and revolutionary-leftist struggles for memory and justice prompt activists to file petitions and lawsuits, organize protests, and build new political communities. In doing so, activists not only uphold the legacy of victims but also reject the identity of a passive victimhood being imposed on them. They challenge not only the ways specific violent pasts and their victims are represented, but also the structural violence which underpins deep-seated approaches to nationhood, publicness and truth, and which itself is a source of victimhood. Victims of Commemoration complicates our tendency to presume that violence ends where commemoration begins and that architecture’s role in both is reducible to a question of symbolism.
Eray Çaylı is the Leverhulme Trust Early Career Fellow at the European Institute at the London School of Economics.
6 x 9, 264 pages, 39 black and white illustrations, 4 maps