Oppressive Generosity, Compulsory Guesthood and the Politics of Hospitality in Turkey

20/05/2021 17:00

This talk explores hospitality as a key discursive framework for refugee management in Turkey by focusing on how the rhetoric of host-guest relations are operationalized at the official level to represent, interpret, and problematize the current state of affairs regarding the Syrian refugees, as well as to formulate policies for solving those problems. Host-guest metaphors are used to assert power and leverage both domestically and internationally by exerting sovereign control over a post-imperial nation-space, performing neo-imperial guardianship over the downtrodden (especially within the Muslim umma), and claiming an ethno-religious, civilizational morality that exceeds the legalistic logic of human rights and entitlements. In my analysis, I pay special attention to the notion of zorunlu misafirlik (compulsory guesthood) as a category that crosses over the realms of disaster management and refugee management, as well as sosyal uyum (social cohesion) initiatives that affirm the place of immigrants and refugees within Turkish society by portraying the country as the historical meeting point of many cultures and civilizations and as the bedrock of tolerance and compassion. Despite widespread references to hospitality as a collective virtue of the Turkish nation, in the society-wide anti-Syrian sentiments, as well as the rhetoric that is employed in the government circles to offset those, one can trace the reverberation of late Ottoman imperial paternalism coupled with the essentialist vein of rising ethno-nationalism during the single party regime in 1930s.

Elif Babül received her PhD from Stanford University in 2012. A political and legal anthropologist, Babül's primary specialization is in national and transnational bureaucracies and the politics of human rights in Turkey. Her research has been funded by the American Council of Learned Societies, the Social Science Research Council, and the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research. Her work has appeared in the American Ethnologist, PoLAR, Social Anthropology, and New Perspectives on Turkey. Her book Bureaucratic Intimacies: Translating Human Rights in Turkey, published in 2017 by Stanford University Press, won the 2018 William A. Douglass Prize for the best book in Europeanist Anthropology; and received an honorable mention in the 2019 AAA Middle East Section biennial book award competition.

About the Series
Sociological Imaginations at Boğaziçi is dedicated to exploring contemporary issues with scholars and intellectuals whose paths have crossed with the department over the years either as students or lecturers. We believe bolstering a dialogue between the academia and the general public becomes more urgent in times like these when the consequential relationship between personal experiences and the wider society has become more evident rendering sociological imaginations more indispensable. It is in this spirit, the Department of Sociology is hoping to create a medium and space that unites a forum of contemporary public debate with the Department's reflections on the past and present of its intellectual depth and diversity, hence providing a fresh connection to its lineage.



You can click on the following link to register for Prof. Elif Babül's talk: