Turkish Infrastructure and Kurdish Landscapes: Notes on Spatial Stigmatization

Authors: Somdeep Sen*, Roskilde University
Topics: Urban and Regional Planning, Middle East, Ethnicity and Race
Keywords: Violence, Infrastructure, Stigma, Kurdistan, Turkey, Kurdistan
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 4:40 PM / 5:55 PM
Room: Virtual 19
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This article explores spaces of stigma in Turkey. Empirically, it focuses on the way the Turkified material infrastructure of Dağkapı Square, in the Kurdish-majority city Diyarbakir, stigmatizes Kurdish-ness. Be it a statue of Atatürk that symbolizes the benevolent leader bringing the city’s Kurds into the fold of Turkish-ness, a mural of Atatürk accompanied by a nationalist motto that denies the existence of Kurdish-ness or a picture of Atatürk atop a citadel – the nationalist infrastructure located in the square is incapable of erasing the city’s Kurdish inhabitants. So, what this infrastructure does is not visible through its material capabilities. Yet, being imposed on a place that Kurds claim to be their own, it exudes a form of symbolic violence that stigmatizes the identity of the city’s Kurdish residents. Theoretically, this conception of the symbolic effects of the Turkish infrastructure of Dağkapı confirms the need to explore the relationship between a city’s material infrastructure and its symbolic effects. That said, stigma is not the entirety of the experience of those targeted by this infrastructural violence. My Kurdish interlocutors in Diyarbakir recognized that the Kurdish landscape is indeed dominated by the Turkish infrastructure. But while this materiality is meant to stigmatize their Kurdish-ness, it also serves as a reminder of their Kurdish identity. In this sense, by demonstrating the persistence of a narrative that runs contrary to its aspirations, this article demonstrates that the “story” of the violent infrastructure is animated by both the author and the victim of its violence.

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