The war-damaged bodies of disabled veterans are a ubiquitous but ambivalent presence in modern warring states. Ambivalent because the disabled veteran body embodies the horrors of war yet is often mobilized militaristically as an icon of sacrifice, thereby serving as an affective and ideological impetus for further bloodshed. Ambivalent also because it occupies both the center and the margins of normative masculinity, lionized through the masculine ethos of nationalism, while also being violently expelled from ableist forms of masculine privilege and public citizenship. Ambivalent, finally, because it inhabits an indeterminate space, a sort of “gray zone,” where the distinctions and boundaries between perpetrator and victim, sacred and profane, hero and abject get puzzlingly blurred
In this talk, I draw from my recent book, Sacrificial Limbs: Masculinity, Disability, and Political Violence in Turkey, to show how such ambivalences suffuse and structure the bodies and lives of the disabled veterans of Turkey’s seemingly endless Kurdish war. Chronicling veterans’ postinjury lives and political activism, I demonstrate how veterans’ experiences of war and disability are closely linked to class, gender, and ultimately the embrace of ultranationalist right-wing politics. I also reflect on the work of ambivalence during and after my fieldwork and argue that ambivalence is a key affective and political state to be reckoned with in ethnographies of the far-right.
Guest lecturer: Can Aciksoz, UCLA
Assistant Professor of Anthropology