Universiteit Leiden

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Lecture | Research Seminar

Infrastructural Imperialism: Global “Big Brothers” and Geopolitical Futures

Monday 13 February 2023
CADS Research Seminars
Pieter de la Court

Unbecoming States: Or, Some Aporias of Sovereignty

This presentation takes the ambivalent materialities of de facto states as a starting point for thinking about how to theorize life within them. Begin with the flag of one de facto state, the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus, the chapter unravels some of the paradoxes that shape the lives of such states’ citizens. In particular, it takes seriously the ways in which citizens of such de facto entities may have affective relationships with a “state” whose reality they nevertheless call into question. The paper develops the concept of the aporetic state to refer to such paradoxical entities, building on the particular meaning of aporia as an irresolvable logical contradiction. The paper first discusses what the concept of the aporetic state contributes to understanding the everyday paradoxes or aporias of non-recognition. It then explains three types of aporetic paradoxes and discusses how attention to paradox can lead us to further conceptual clarity. Finally, it concludes with a discussion of sovereign agency, a concept which may help to conceptualize the sovereignty that many citizens of de facto states do not have but claim that they want.

Rebecca Bryant is professor and holder of the Chair in Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University. She is also a visiting professor at the European Institute of the London School of Economics (LSE). Bryant is an anthropologist of politics and law focusing on the ethnography of the state, particularly ethnic conflict and displacement, border practices, post-conflict reconciliation, and contested sovereignty on both sides of the Cyprus Green Line and in Turkey. She has long-term research interests in temporality, memory, and historical reconciliation and has investigated these topics through research in Cyprus and Turkey. For the past decade, she has researched everyday life in unrecognized states, adding to her Cyprus research preliminary investigations in Abkhazia. Her most recent works include The Anthropology of the Future (Cambridge, 2019) with Daniel M. Knight; Sovereignty Suspended: Building the So-Called State (Pennsylvania, 2020) with Mete Hatay, and The Everyday Lives of Sovereignty: Political Imagination Beyond the State (Cornell, 2021), co-edited with Madeleine Reeves. Her latest work, Lives in Limbo: Syrian Youth in Turkey (with Amal Abdalla, Maissam Nimer, and Ayşen Üstübici), will be published by in 2023 with Berghahn Books.

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