2007 volume 25(1) pages 33 – 52

Cite as:
Secor A J, 2007, "Between longing and despair: state, space, and subjectivity in Turkey" Environment and Planning D: Society and Space 25(1) 33 – 52

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Guest Editorial
Between longing and despair: state, space, and subjectivity in Turkey

Anna J Secor

Abstract. This paper begins as an investigation of the spatiality of the state in Turkey. In everyday life the state is experienced and recognized through a multiplicity of sites, agents, institutions, techniques, and regulatory capacities. Given this fragmentation, I ask how it is that the state is conceptualized as having a reality beyond its incoherence. Through a discursive analysis of focus-group discussions with lower-class and lower-middle-class men and women in Istanbul, I trace the spatial – temporal techniques through which state power is enacted. I argue that this power operates through referral and deferral, circulation and arrest; it is the power both to set in motion and to suspend the circulation of people, documents, money, and influence that marks out the space – time of the state. Further, my reading of focus-group texts suggests that it is through the operation of the space – time of the state that individuals both submit to state power and become subjects of rights—that is, citizens. At once establishing the authority of the state and the self-recognition of the subject, the Althusserian turn towards the law is a gesture of conscience or guilt. However, I argue that not all subjects are equally guilty in their imagined relationship to the state, some are more guilty than others, and, in this inequality, difference enters into the process of subjection. Focus-group participants discuss how acts such as showing identity cards or performing labor function both to assert their innocence and to mark them as guilty. By tracing out how spatial techniques of power and processes of subjection are discussed among particular groups of people in Istanbul, I hope to speak in an alternative voice to the usual top-down narration of the Turkish ‘strong state’. Finally, this paper is an attempt to wrap an argument around the secret of the state, around the desire, despair, and guilt that infuse the relational production of citizen and state.

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