Drawing on Caroline Humphrey’s analysis of the personal consequences of ‘decision-events’, in this article we interpret the 2013 protests around Gezi Park in Istanbul as an eventful situation that instigated a break with participants’ previous political sentiments, recomposing them as transformed subjects in the process. We argue that an effective political humor prompted the emergence of a new subject, causing certain features of pre-Gezi political subjectivity to recede from active memory. We use a particular case study to illustrate our claim, comparing pre-Gezi Atatürkist anti-government humor with the political humor of Gezi Park. The article concludes by showing that humor, place, and political amnesia changed activists’ interests, moods, and embodied capabilities, reshaping their manner of relating to the city and generating a distinctive subject.
Christopher Houston is an Associate Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney. He is the author of Islam, Kurds and the Turkish Nation State (1999) and Kurdistan: Crafting of National Selves (2007) and the editor of Phenomenology in Anthropology: A Sense of Perspective (2015). He has published his work in a large number of journals and books and is currently researching the political history of Istanbul in the 1970s.
Banu Senay is a Lecturer in the Department of Anthropology at Macquarie University, Sydney. She has extensive research expertise in the areas of migration, transnationalism, and diasporic politics and is the author of Beyond Turkey-s Borders: Long-Distance Kemalism, State Politics and the Turkish Diaspora (2013). Her current research on Islamic art pedagogies in Istanbul engages with debates in anthropology around skilled learning, ethics, and Islamic cultural politics. This work has been published in journals such as the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute, European Journal of Cultural Studies, and Ethnomusicology Forum.
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