Humanism in Ruins
Entangled Legacies of the Greek-Turkish Population Exchange
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The Entangled Legacies of a Population Exchange

“WHEN WE ARRIVED, FOÇA WAS IN RUINS” said Raşit Kemali Bonneval. Bonneval, a Muslim from Lemnos, Greece, and his family were relocated to Foça, Turkey, as part of the 1923 Greco-Turkish compulsory population exchange.1 According to Bonneval, he and his family were descendants of a famous French nobleman who converted to Islam in the eighteenth century. The nobleman in question, Claude Alexandre, Comte de Bonneval, had been quite well known in Western Europe, including to such figures as Voltaire, Montesquieu, and Casanova.2 Contributing to Bonneval’s fame was the political turmoil that surrounded him and his subsequent conversion to Islam: that Bonneval had become a Muslim, an Ottoman Pasha with the name Humbaracı Ahmet Paşa, and later reformed the Ottoman artillery has preoccupied the European imaginary for centuries. During his life, fake memoirs addressing Bonneval’s conversion were widely circulated in Europe.3 Later, in the nineteenth century, novels and biographies were written about him—including the influential French critic Sainte Beuve’s biographical essay entitled “Le Comte-Pacha Bonneval” (The Count-Pasha Bonneval).4 With varying degrees of accuracy, these texts sought to piece together Bonneval’s life.

Only fragments remain of this rich, adventurous life today: Comte de Bonneval/Humbaracı Ahmet Paşa’s museumized room (the “Chamber of the Pasha” in the family chateau in France);5 his tomb in the Galata Mevlevi Lodge in Istanbul; his letters scattered to different corners, included in different volumes and novels; and his family trajectories, each branch claiming relation to him. These family trajectories are also spread across different geographies and include the Bonneval family in France in addition to others sent to Turkey from Greece as part of the population exchange, such as Raşit Kemali.

Multi-sited research is needed to make sense of Count Bonneval’s multiple lives as well as his Ottoman family. According to some French sources, Bonneval had adopted his aide in the Ottoman Empire, Süleyman Agha—another European convert to Islam.6 According to others, he never had children or descendants.7 Given the controversy surrounding Bonneval’s life and the extent to which Western European authors went to address his conversion to Islam with exaggerated, fake, or romanticized accounts, there is reasonable doubt about the veracity of these claims.

How does one, then, approach, trace, and consider family histories, and where and when does one anchor family heritage exactly? How many languages are necessary to unlock family histories buried in the past? These questions are further complicated by forced migration. In the context of Turkey, the official adoption of the Latin alphabet in 1928 adds to this complication, as speakers of modern Turkish today need special training to read Ottoman texts, written in the Arabic script, and have limited access to family-related documents. The case of Bonneval and related family narratives exemplify the dynamics of Turkey’s public domain in the 1990s and early 2000s. Tracing family histories and cultural heritage to lost maps of designated origin has marked the exchangees of that time. And as was the case with Raşit Kemali, the exchangees made decisions on where to anchor their origins—for how far one is willing to go in designating origins is a personal choice. It is also as part of this general trend that Raşit Kemali Bonneval’s family history has surfaced in the public domain.

According to Raşit Kemali, his father had extensive landholdings and other property in the Greek island of Lemnos; that’s how they made a living before they were forced to leave Greece. Relocated to Foça, on the Aegean coast of Turkey, the family was given property left behind by the deported Greek Orthodox—as stipulated in the 1923 exchange agreement ratified at the Lausanne conference. Upon their arrival in Foça, however, the family reportedly found most buildings in ruins and the roads full of overgrown thorny brush. Abandoned houses bore the scars of a war that led to the 1923 exchange agreement.

Today, we know the transition was not always easy for the incoming communities. Some spoke the language of the new country very well, others with an accent or not at all. While many exchanged Greek Orthodox were bourgeois merchants and tradespeople, most Muslims were farmers.8 The property distributed to them was not always commensurate with what they left behind, nor did it necessarily match their agricultural expertise (if they had any). By way of example, a person experienced in growing olive trees could be given a property containing vineyards instead. Some so-called locals or natives in Greece addressed the incoming Greek Orthodox as “the Turkish seed” or offspring, Turkos sporoi.9 Likewise some locals in Turkey called the incoming Muslims “the Greek seed,” Yunan dölü. In all cases, such naming was meant to be an insult based on designated geographic origins, attributing a genealogical connection with the soil via the body, hence endowing the term “seed” or “offspring” with gendered implications.

The imprint of the 1923 exchange is therefore traceable beyond the buildings in ruins: it severed the physical ties of about one and a half million Muslims and Greek Orthodox to their family homes, homesteads, and pasts, and forced them to rebuild their lives elsewhere.10 What remains today are mostly stories about different families extended to different geographies. And it is mostly through these stories, family photographs, recipes, collected family objects as pertaining to the lost geographies of “origin” that many exchangees, like Raşit Kemali Bonneval’s family, seek to piece together the remains of the experiences of the exchange. Such human remains and buildings in ruins attest to the legacies of the 1923 Greek-Turkish population exchange, today addressed mostly in terms of family histories and cultural heritage. Piecing together these remains is no doubt a worthwhile endeavor in the recognition of family histories and backgrounds.

Cultural heritage and legacy, however, do not necessarily mean the same thing, nor can they be easily used interchangeably. The question of the “legacies” of the exchange, the human ruins where these legacies lie, and how they were addressed in the post-1945 world context and its aftermath, constitute the main framework of this book. Legacies of the 1923 exchange are notable in the systematization of the demographic management of alterity (cultural, religious, racial, ethnic, linguistic differences), including refugee crisis management—particularly salient in the post-1945 era. Today, the exchange may very well be engaged through cultural heritage on a personal and institutional level, but its legacies have broader political implications in the regulation of alterity. In this book, taking this regulation as a point of departure in the aftermath of the Second World War, I address the broader implications of such policies, their legacies, as well as the cultural policies developed to address the outcomes of the demographic regulation of alterity in particular, and more generally, cultural policies developed for the management of alterity. The book examines cultural frames of engaging the demographic management of alterity, including the implications of the frame of heritage. The 1923 exchange constitutes a productive case for studying these dynamics.

The 1923 Greek-Turkish Population Exchange and Its Implications for Peace

More than ninety years ago, the same route that the Syrian refugees are taking today from Turkey’s Aegean seashores to Greece was the site of yet another human displacement en masse: the religious minority exchange between Greece and Turkey. Following the 1919–1922 Greco-Turkish War, which started with Greek ambitions to resuscitate a Hellenic empire on Ottoman territories,11 the Ottoman Empire crumbled and upon its remains arose the Republic of Turkey. The new Turkish government and Greece signed the Lausanne Treaty in 1923 under the arbitration of the League of Nations. Affecting the lives of about one and a half million people, the two governments agreed to exchange Muslims in Greece and the Greek Orthodox Christians in Turkey. Those who fled during the war were also incorporated in the agreement. Excluded from the exchange were about two hundred thousand people—namely, the Muslims in Thrace, and the Greek Orthodox in the islands of Imbros/Gökçeada and Tenedos/Bozcaada, as well as in Istanbul.12

The Greco-Turkish population exchange was the first internationally ratified and executed compulsory population transfer between two countries. Population transfers and resettlement policies had occurred before, but the 1923 exchange was the first of its kind in that it has set an international legal precedent whereby forced migration was legitimized as a solution for a “greater good”: peace.13 Such legitimization implies that the segregation of different groups will restore a peaceful order. Lord Curzon, the British foreign minister who led the Military and Territorial Commission at the Lausanne conference, considered the 1923 Greek-Turkish population exchange to be a case that necessitated such measures. He thought the exchange was an instance of “unmixing peoples” and “a thoroughly bad and vicious solution for which the world will pay a heavy penalty for a hundred years to come.”14 This statement, however, did not stop Curzon from seeking to justify making the population exchange compulsory.15

Political figures like Lord Curzon were well aware of the hardships that a segregation implemented in the form of mass displacement would cause. Still, they justified forced migration, presumably to prevent greater harm.16 Slogans like “never again” or “no more suffering” often accompany segregative policies such as forced migration.17 These slogans presumably acknowledge the hardships of mass displacement through pain. Regardless, state officials have widely embraced segregation as a practical policy in the peacemaking processes. (Some exceptions do exist, such as the case of Lebanon, which did not officially undergo partition after the civil war of 1975–1990.)18 Segregation is often justified through racialized discourses of incommensurable differences and promises of stability and peace. In general, such solutions favor segregation as if conflicts were biologically dispositioned, and obfuscate the concrete economic, political, and historical reasons behind hostilities including dispossession and appropriation. It is questionable whether officially embraced segregation as the “less bad” scenario is indeed the only viable answer.

Scholar Eyal Weizman addresses such endorsements of a scenario deemed to be “less bad” in the humanitarian context as an economy of the “lesser evil,”19 whereby risks, bad-case and worse-case scenarios, as well as so-called proportionate measures are constantly calculated. According to Weizman, over the last few decades, the humanitarian field has operated in a manner that reinforces the status quo, justifies the exercise of power, and legitimizes decisions in the name of preventing a worse-case scenario. These decisions, he shows, do not adequately address the core problems at hand and do not lead to justice. Weizman claims that since the 1970s, an economy of lesser evil has shaped the human rights regime as we know it today.20 As the case of the 1923 exchange reminds us, however, decisions made in the name of a greater good have long been part of finding so-called humane solutions to conflicts.

The Greek-Turkish population exchange legally presaged future population management policies based on alterity often justified in the name of humanely restoring peace and presented as a “lesser evil.”21 The very notion of the population exchange between Greece and Turkey is thus organically related to other cases informed by the same logic: the construction of walls, apartheids, partitions, and forced migrations across the world, which have marked the twentieth century and spilled into the twenty-first, leaving behind ruins, human remains, ghost towns, erased maps and memories. How does one begin to address such policies? Is it through the remains?

Legacies of the Exchange: Racialized Thinking and the Management of Alterity

The principal legacy of the 1923 exchange is its contribution to the institutionalization of the management of alterity via forced migration—a form of spatial redistribution. This management is configured in terms of numbers and space and justified as a means promoting security and stability, and with the 1923 exchange, it gained a legal framework in the international arena. For those seeking segregative solutions, the 1923 Greek-Turkish exchange not only constituted a legal precedent but also a successful case of so-called repatriation.22 The exchange has therefore become a reference point for other cases, such as the Potsdam agreement of 1945, the partition of India in 1947, of Palestine in 1948, and of Cyprus in 1974.23 These cases might differ in details, but they share the same segregative logic that sought either in theory or in practice to spatially redistribute different groups according to their backgrounds and “origins.” Consequently, German nationals were expelled from Central Europe, India and Pakistan unofficially exchanged their Muslims and Hindus and Sikhs respectively, Arab Jews were transferred to Israel and plans to send Palestinians to Arab countries in their stead were considered, and Greek and Turkish Cypriots were redistributed in the partitioned island as the Greek south and the Turkish north. The examples can be multiplied.

If one considers Nazi eugenics and the scale of the horror of mass extermination during the Second World War, one might logically assume that in the aftermath of war, lessons would be drawn to reconsider the implications of alterity and that a natural outcome of this reconsideration would be to call such population management into question. Yet, if anything, the segregative logic was prominent in the post-1945 era marked by the establishment of the United Nations and the so-called refugee crisis. “In 1945, nations were in ruins. World War II was over, and the world wanted peace” the UN intoned.24 And as recent scholarship on the United Nations demonstrates, minorities were widely considered to be sources of instability and potential obstacles to peace.25 It is therefore not surprising that demographic and cultural policies were concurrently promoted to manage alterity during this time. And even in cases where race did not appear to be the primary concern, racialized thinking was very salient.

For example, in the context of the 1923 exchange, the Dönme—followers of the seventeenth-century rabbi Shabbatai Zvi who converted to Islam—in Greece wanted to be excluded from the exchange on the grounds that they always maintained their Jewish faith despite their appearance as Muslims.26 Indeed, when the Dönme approached Dr. Rıza Nur, one of the key delegates of Turkey at the Lausanne conference, and articulated this request, he codified this community in terms of alterity.27 Nur wrote in his memoirs that “the disaster for us [Turks] is that they [the Dönme] appear as Turks. Greeks and Armenians are better than they if for no other reason than we know they are Greeks and Armenians. This foreign element, this parasite, hides in our blood.”28 Rıza Nur’s approach embodies a racialized identification embedded in the body via the bloodline.

A closer look at Rıza Nur’s memoirs, however, reveals the pervasiveness of racial thinking and the importance attributed to the bloodline; racialization was certainly not limited to the case of the Dönme. The salience of racialized thinking is important because it demonstrates an embodied codification of alterity. For instance, Rıza Nur mentions how Zekâi (Aziz Zekâi Apaydın), one of the delegates from Turkey at Lausanne, sexually assaulted a chamber maid in his hotel.29 Nur was upset that the news of the assault would get out, as was the case with a similar incident involving the Italian delegates.30 He was concerned that other delegates would consider the assault as evidence that Turks are “savages” (vahşi). He quickly adds that Zekâi is not Turkish but Bosnian, but that “others would not know the difference.”31 Nur’s concern resonates with eugenicist approaches to criminology—the assumption that one’s bloodline determines one’s criminal tendencies, which in turn implicates national character. Given that Nur was a physician by training and worked on treating syphilis,32 his biologically informed approach to alterity and the national body in the aftermath of the Greco-Turkish War might not come as a surprise.

Overall, Nur had a clear position with regard to alterity: he was also upset that İsmet İnönü, the chief negotiator for Turkey at Lausanne, might be Kurdish,33 and informed his readers that a potential delegate was removed from Turkey’s Lausanne delegation because he was not Turkish. There seems to be no ambiguity in Nur’s mind in terms of the undesirable implications of alterity, but it is also clear that he did not want to recognize these differences officially. According to him, once a group is acknowledged as different, it is likely for it to be coded as a minority. He feared that the European powers would then continue to maintain a sphere of interference in Turkey, similar to what they did in the late Ottoman era.34

In his memoirs, Rıza Nur explains how the Europeans identify three types of minorities (ekalliyet) in Turkey: racial, linguistic, and religious. He cautions his readers that, on the basis of race, there may be attempts to place Circassians, Bosnians, Kurds, and the Abhaz next to the Greek Orthodox and Armenians; with language, Muslims who speak other languages will be considered a minority; and with religion, the “two million Kızılbash,” who belong to a branch of Islam other than the Sunni, will be configured as minorities. To him, the Greek Orthodox and Armenians are racially different, but he does not want to allow Kurds, Circassians, Bosnians, and others to be categorized as such.35 As a self-declared ardent Turkish nationalist, Nur complains that these definitions are meant to divide people in Turkey and to intervene in Turkey’s internal affairs. He was convinced that anyone from a different race, language, or religion needs to be surgically removed to preserve the health of the national body, because, according to him, those “foreign elements” (ecnebî unsur) are “germs” (mikrop) that lead to trouble (belâ).36 Here, Nur puts race in a different category from language and religion, but this doesn’t mean these modes of alterity were divorced from racialized thinking—bloodlines, origins, and lineage and the belief in an embodied, biologized essence that is transmitted from one generation to the next. Racialized thinking is therefore embedded in different categorizations of alterity, and is not limited to the hard category of race.

Nur’s memoirs promote various population management policies. For those who remain in Turkey, such as the Kurds, he suggests an assimilation plan. He also proposes to redistribute villages of Circassians and Albanians and to resettle them elsewhere in Turkey, mixed (karışık) with Turks.37 In short, he suggests not only assimilation and deportation, but also diluting the spatial distribution of perceived alterity in terms of numbers. Rıza Nur’s approach exemplifies how the management of alterity in terms of bodies and numbers is configured simultaneously as a spatial regulation. Indeed, the core ideas of the 1934 Settlement Law (İskân Kanunu), implemented to presumably unify the populace of Turkey in language, culture, and blood through forced (re)settlement and depopulation in Turkey—targeting Kurds among others—are visible in Nur’s statements.38

On the whole, Nur’s memoirs hint at the pervasiveness of racialized thinking in population management. Depending on the background of a particular group, the suggested regulation of alterity ranges from deportation to assimilation, from segregation to resettlement. His thoughts are representative of the dominant views of his era and demonstrate how population management was not limited to the 1923 exchange. Further, the widespread conceptualization of the Greco-Turkish exchange as unmixing demonstrates the significance of bloodline and designated origins in the configuration of segregative policies.39

Lord Curzon is often quoted as referring to the 1923 Greek-Turkish population exchange in terms of unmixing.40 Unmixing was already a notable discourse, and scholars have borrowed from Curzon, among others, to address population transfers in general, and the 1923 exchange as a particular instance.41 Yet, unmixing is a historically charged concept also used in terms of eugenicist reproduction as mixing/degeneration and unmixing/purity.42 This approach also surfaces in Nur’s memoirs when he explains why he decided against marrying a beautiful young woman who was Albanian: he did not want to mix other blood into his unmixed lineage (nesil); he was determined to marry a Turk.43 The implications of mixing here are highly racialized.

Unmixing, therefore, is a notion that necessitates unpacking: at the time when Curzon used “unmixing” to refer to the 1923 exchange, the term itself encapsulated a worldview informed by eugenics—a biologized approach to social issues in a manner that considers the populace as a site of improvement.44 Biologized “solutions” to social matters include, for instance, approaching unemployment as a question of overpopulation that necessitates the regulation of birthrates, rather than as a consequence of economic and social policies. Often, these so-called solutions are racialized as well; it appears to matter which group’s numbers should increase or be controlled.

Furthermore, Curzon’s reference to unmixing implies that the groups that are supposedly not to be mixed are not diverse within themselves. Yet, the exchanged groups were in fact remarkably diverse. Consider Raşit Kemali Bonneval or the Dönme, among others. No group is monolithic, nor without hierarchies of its own. Examining a population-management technique in terms of unmixing therefore risks reinforcing emphases on bloodline and origins and falsely ascribing homogeneity; it also fails to capture the broader biologized implications of unmixing and its history.

Since at least the nineteenth century, a linear and racialized approach to human identification has marked Western European intellectual circles on multiple grounds. Unproblematized configurations of most Western Europeans as direct descendants of the ancient Greeks and Romans exemplify this approach. Linearly tracing peoples to designated origins, this system of categorization simultaneously stratifies and hierarchizes different groups, and assigns them different racialized genealogies. And race—an embodied category of classification and hierarchization through bloodline, essence, and origins—is an integral part of this intellectual history that, in this book, I identify as historicist humanism.45

Scientific racialism and eugenics on the one hand, and archaeology and literary histories on the other, have reinforced racialized configurations of genealogies and origins. Particularly in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, racial hierarchization was widely represented through the imagery of a family tree of humankind, with each branch representing racial genealogies.46 These notions were disseminated within Western Europe and beyond: intellectuals, scientists, and politicians turned to the natural and human sciences as well as historicist humanism to trace their genealogical origins or to find proof that they belonged to favored racial branches.47 In sum, the term “unmixing” is implicated in these histories of categorization and hierarchization—the parameters of which were then translated into population management techniques at the hands of political figures like Lord Curzon.

The 1923 exchange encapsulates the racialized alignment of different groups with designated geographies of belonging, such as the assumption that incoming Muslims from Greece belonged to Turkey and likewise that the Greek Orthodox from Turkey belonged to Greece. Such a redistribution enabled an increase in the numbers of those deemed to be desirable and a decrease in the numbers of unwanted groups without necessarily having to boost birthrates or to kill people en masse. While the regulation of birthrates or massacres did not disappear from the picture, they often coexisted with forced migration and other demographic measures, depending on the context.

All in all, the 1923 exchange signaled a modern fusion of the eugenicist logic with demography, mobilized through racialized thinking and statistics, and implemented as spatial segregation—all of which gained a legal framework in the international arena with the ratification and execution of the 1923 exchange. The Greco-Turkish population exchange, then, arguably epitomizes the international legitimization of population management in terms of numbers, bodies, and space. How, then, to approach these dynamics?

Biopolitics and the Legacies of a Population Exchange

Historian Frederick Cooper and sociologist Rogers Brubaker call attention to the important distinction between categories of analysis and practice.48 According to them, categories of practice refer to everyday life activities of ordinary actors, whereas categories of analysis denote the analytical lens scholars use to examine those practices. The scope of practices to be examined, however, can be expanded beyond those of ordinary actors in everyday life to include statements, writings, and policies of officials like Lord Curzon or Rıza Nur, or works of other scholars and intellectuals such as eugenicists and humanists. In other words, both the policies and the intellectual histories that inform them can be considered under this rubric. As Cooper and Brubaker also point out, maintaining a critical distance between the examined sets of practices and the analytical lens used to study these practices is important for the production of knowledge on a topic in order to avoid conflating multiple practices, motivations, and meanings into one.

To examine the dynamics laid out, then, I propose biopolitics as a category of analysis. A term that became prominent mostly after French philosopher Michel Foucault engaged it in his lectures,49 “biopolitics” denotes power exercised in terms of statistics, regulation of birth and death, and thus, power to manage the population as species and living beings. In terms of death, Foucault points at the fascistic extermination policies in Nazi Germany and genocide and highlights racism in that context. Foucault’s work is significant in calling attention to power used to manage the population in terms of bodies and numbers. Yet, as the 1923 exchange also demonstrates, there are other ways of using this logic to manage the population without necessarily resorting to killing or boosting birthrates. Embodied categorization of humankind is central to racialized thinking, which in turn informs the segregative logic. Foucault’s references to race are important even though his primary concerns were not pressing issues like colonialism.50 And as anthropologist Ann Stoler reminds us, when it comes to biopolitics, the racialism embedded in French colonial histories was largely ignored in the French academe at the time.51 In Foucault’s lectures, the components are there to make these connections such as the reference to regulating the population as “species,” but they are not explicitly fleshed out to address the broader implications of these terms for other sites and their interconnections.

For the purposes of this book, I interpret biopolitics as the regulation of categorized human bodies in terms of numbers and space. By categorized, I mean a systematic and embodied indexing of different groups in a manner that informs demographic policies, as was the case with the 1923 exchange of populations. Configuring genealogies of bloodline and origins is instrumental in this process. Coupled with scientific racialism, cultural histories reinforce such taxonomies. This, in turn, informs the production of language and policy regarding the management of alterity—as evinced in Rıza Nur’s memoirs and Lord Curzon’s comments on the 1923 population exchange. It is important to note, however, that such embodied categorization does not begin and end with racialized thinking; health, hygiene, a crime-free lineage, and labor capacity are also important. As a more recent example, the International Monetary Fund’s praise of the recent German policy to initially open its doors to a limited number of Syrian refugees on the grounds that Germany needs new labor to compensate for its aging population52—an economic move justified in terms of humanitarianism—attests to this. It clearly matters which groups are to be granted social and physical mobility and in what numbers.

In the post-1945 era, yet another large-scale refugee crisis erupted. This coincided with a wave of partitions, so-called population transfers, and the rise of the United Nations as an international body. In that context, the exchangees were still referred to as national emigrants or refugees. Presumably, the population exchange corrected a wrong as Muslims and Greek Orthodox were sent to where they supposedly actually belonged. Deeply anchored in the body, such a designation of origins configures racialized alignments with nation-states, regardless of where one might be born and raised. It is also important to remember that so-called national refugees or emigrants were not homogeneous.

A written question posed in the Turkish parliament at around the time of the population exchange further complicates this picture. On November 6, 1924, Mehmet Recep Peker, the minister of Internal Affairs as well as of Population Exchange, Property and Settlement (Dahiliye Vekili, Mübadele ve İmar İskan Vekaleti Vekili) read Zonguldak deputy Halil Bey’s written question in parliament: “I would like to ask the representative of the ministry why the Kıptî [gypsies], who have neither a racial nor religious connection to Turkishness, and in particular, those who speak only Greek, have been included into the population exchange and brought to our country, and why they have been mostly settled around Zonguldak.”53 In response, Minister Peker stated that the categories set in the exchange agreement of the Lausanne Treaty were quite clear, and that if the Kıptî were to be sent to Turkey, this must have been because the committee in Greece decided that they belong among the exchangeable groups, implying that they might be Muslims. But Mehmet Recep Peker did agree that they were a different group, and added that for a population exchange of this scale, it is inevitable to include some “odd groups.” Minister Peker tried to reassure deputy Halil Bey that his city, Zonguldak, was not specifically targeted to be populated with incoming gypsies. He explained that the Kıptî were offered settlement in many different places, Zonguldak being only one of them.

In addition to Rıza Nur’s memoirs, this written questioning and answering in the Turkish parliament in the 1920s shows that spatial redistribution is not just a national, countrywide concern but also a micro-level question that preoccupies inhabitants and representatives of towns and cities where resettlement takes place. It is clear that religious categories are not sufficient to address racialized concerns about the origins of the exchangees and how they are hierarchized.

Segregative biopolitics, often justified as necessary for establishing order, security, and stability, crystallize the actual terms of peacemaking, also salient in the post-1945 era, when the Greco-Turkish exchange became a common reference point for population management. Such policies thus demonstrate the limits of the configuration of peace. As anthropologist Elizabeth Povinelli reminds us, limits are not the end point but instead are tools to demonstrate the anxieties and contradictions embedded in a discourse.54 Considering limits, then, unveils the actual terms of a given discourse. And in this case, addressing the limits of the endorsement of peace—that is, presumably of harmonious coexistence to be achieved through biopolitics—clarifies the actual terms of what peace entails. For like anything else, peace is a category of practice that needs to be unpacked and carefully examined in order to address the stakes involved, especially when it comes to alterity, appropriation, and dispossession.

In sum, segregative biopolitics relies on a racialized human taxonomy, and translates this taxonomy into policies of spatial (re)distribution and (im)mobility. When implemented at an international level, waves of refugees and emigrants follow and constitute yet another terrain of population management, as was the case with the 1923 exchange or the post-1945 mass displacements. It is therefore both the process of deportation and the integration and assimilation of the incoming groups into the local social fabric that fall within the scope of population management.55 Varying degrees of restrictions on physical and social mobility, discourses of order and security, and calibrated integration policies depending on the background characterize these cases. Every story of mobility in relation to segregative biopolitics is thus simultaneously a story of immobility.

In this book, I take the transnational implications of the 1923 exchange in the post-1945 era as a point of departure, and explore the interconnected biopolitical and cultural paradigms developed in the management of alterity. Different transnational organizations and social and political actors mobilized various discourses to address alterity under different circumstances. Attending to their relationality is key for this study. Such relationality includes cultural policies developed to address the legacies of segregative biopolitics as a modern population management tool, in addition to the implications of the racialized taxonomy of humankind in terms of biopolitical approaches.

Biopolitics and Historicist Humanism

Since at least the nineteenth century, historicist humanism has reinforced the human taxonomies generated in different fields such as scientific racialism, physical anthropology, and eugenics. Here, historicist humanism refers to a prominent historicist approach to human categorization—unambiguously connecting ancient peoples, their literary traditions, cultures, and arts to today. Informed by archaeology, literary history, philology, art and architectural history, among others, historicist humanism has long offered a cultural framework for biological arguments on racialized origins and genealogies. Critics Ella Shohat and Robert Stam call such categorizations that privilege a linear approach Eurocentric, as they undermine other histories and forms of identification. Shohat and Stam expose Eurocentrism as an epistemic infrastructure that reproduces such paradigms.56

Historicist humanism has indeed a long history embedded in especially Western European intellectual traditions that identify, categorize, and hierarchize cultures, civilizations, and race simultaneously.57 While there is a rich archive to be exploited with regard to historicist humanism, for the purposes of this book, I am mostly interested in how, since the nineteenth century, this form of humanism has been intertwined with scientific racialism and how patterns of identification have emerged as a result. Here, I identify tracing genealogies and origins with implications of bloodlines as part of these patterns.

This mode of humanism, then, demarcates a predominantly linear identification that configures national cultures as a hierarchized constellation clustered around civilizations, presumably traceable to their civilizational “origins,” with racialized implications. I return to this subject later in the book, but suffice it to say here that the major tropes of historicist humanism have been quite discernable in the methodology of some philological, literary, and intellectual works up until recently. These tropes of humanism include, but are not confined to, tracing what is believed to be a “national essence” to its civilizational origins, anchoring a civilizational identification to a historical point of origin—preferably an ancient cultural heritage—and simultaneously situating national cultures in a racially hierarchized family tree of humanity.

Likewise, since at least the late nineteenth century, Ottoman and Turkish writers, political figures, and intellectuals have engaged in a similar venture to discover their “original essence,” imbued with debates on where to situate the Ottoman and Turkish core in terms of civilization: Sunni Islam, Western Europe, Central Asia, and/or Anatolia—Turkey’s heartland today.58 These debates are far from over. In contemporary Turkey, some intellectuals and political figures reject what they deem to be European manners and cultures on the grounds that they are not authentically part of the Turkish essence and call for a return to the original essence with the emblematic phrase özümüze dönmeliyiz—we shall return to our essence.

Ironically, this rejection does not extend to questioning how Eurocentric these very tools, concepts, and approaches to identification are to begin with, and how much searching for an original essence understood as the authentic self is a problematic venture. In addition, the very same debates about tracing authentic culture and essence occurred within European countries as well, which among themselves are far from monolithic. As with anything, cultures are the natural outcome of multiple crossings, exchanges, and borrowings, and not a matter of linearly traceable and unproblematically, historically discoverable static essence. Such an approach presumes an almost biological, embodied essence that remains unchanged throughout time and that can be transmitted from one generation to the next—implicating bloodline—that simply needs to be reactivated. When incorporated into social and cultural policy, the notion of original essence thus becomes a tool to justify social engineering with anachronistic and essentialist understandings of history, including in terms of nationalism and fascism.

For example, today, it is not a secret that tenets of historicist humanism were translated into racially informed policies in Italian and German fascism, which idealized Greek and Roman antiquity. In addition to extermination en masse, forced labor camps, and medical experiments on categorized bodies, the core of fascist biopolitics, arts, and eugenics were mobilized to reincarnate the so-called peak of Humanity, the long-gone glorious days lost to degeneration. The glorious epoch of Humanity was widely associated with ancient Greece and Rome—perceived as a static essence to be recovered. This approach selectively set a Eurocentric configuration of humanity as a universal ideal, cast as Humanity. Exclusion and hierarchization were embedded in this configuration of humanity. In Nazi Germany for instance, both culture and biology were mobilized in an attempt to revive the essence of a superior race. Important to this ideology was the notion of unmixing.

Racialized hierarchies of civilization have configured discourses of superiority beyond fascism. Such representations of different groups have also informed imperialist and colonialist expeditions and policies. As scholar Laleh Khalili shows, examples include French colonial subjugation and domination articulated in terms of a “civilizing mission,” as well as the development of asymmetric warfare against the colonized. Khalili addresses how in colonial expeditions, Europeans did not consider their opponents to be civilized equals and duly developed irregular, asymmetric warfare to break them. This type of warfare, Khalili argues, was crucial in the conquest and colonization of Africa, Asia, and the Americas.59 Anti-colonialist thinker Frantz Fanon calls this a racism that minimizes the colonized, reducing the colonial subject to the level of subhuman.60

In short, categorization and hierarchization of human bodies do not emerge overnight nor in a vacuum, and neither does biopolitics. Patterns of cultural representation have informed different policies, domination, and warfare. Discourses and language produced via scientific racialism, eugenics, and archives of historicist humanism have therefore broader implications for the configurations of alterity, biopolitics, and beyond. Interpreting biopolitics as a regulation of categorized bodies in terms of numbers and space also allows us to address what that systematic categorization entails in terms of biological and cultural discourses—and how archives of knowledge have generated biological and cultural frameworks conducive to such human categorization and hierarchization. Historicist humanism is an important part of this process, and offers a critical framework for analyzing the relationality between biopolitics and culture.

Segregative Biopolitics and Culture

Segregative biopolitics and fields of culture are interconnected beyond historicist humanism. Discourses of culture mobilized since the end of the Second World War with regard to alterity management constitute an additional site for examining the relationality between biopolitics and culture. These discourses include but are not confined to liberal humanism and, later, multiculturalism. In that respect, addressing such relationality helps unravel transnationally disseminated cultural policies and discourses of alterity. Moreover, other than cultural policy, there is also the very important dimension of self-identification, and thus the need to address the legacies of segregative biopolitics on a personal and institutional level via cultural heritage. With this book, therefore, I consider segregative biopolitics and culture as interrelated at multiple levels.

The use of culture here is twofold: first, to denote the fields of art and literature, including but not confined to visual arts, music, architecture, cinema, and theater. Second, to refer to the everyday practices of ordinary actors reproduced and negotiated through social exchanges and relationships, such as culinary preferences and cooking. Targeting both terrains of culture, UNESCO was arguably the most powerful international organization when it came to cultural policy in the post-1945 era. Since then, UNESCO has contributed to developing different cultural discourses and policies to address historicist humanism, question the tenets of scientific racialism, and reconfigure the implications of being human. These policies, in turn, have had their own limitations.

Further, as historian Mark Mazower shows, at its onset, the United Nations itself was instrumental in maintaining the status quo. In the name of building peace after the Second World War, the UN operated in different arenas such as population management and demographics, while UNESCO—the United Nations organization in education, science, and culture—generated policies in these fields. These dynamics are reminiscent of anthropologist Brian Silverstein’s consideration of culture as a “major site of administration, governance and management,” which “invites us to rethink our approaches to culture in its relation to power.”61

What, then, were the limits of endorsing cultural policy as a message of peace, harmony, and coexistence in the post-1945 era? How did such cultural policy engage the legacies of modern segregative biopolitics—as legally sanctioned by the 1923 exchange in the international arena? More specifically, how did alterity get negotiated in such cultural policy, while biopolitics continued to inform demographic policy after 1945, generating countless instances of population displacement?

Another mode of humanism surfaced after World War II: liberal humanism, a popular cultural discourse endorsed by UNESCO.62 Often associated with the Cold War era, liberal humanism emphasizes that, through a shared human essence, humanity is unified. Indeed, in the first decade after the end of the Second World War, which simultaneously underpinned the beginnings of the Cold War, UNESCO adopted liberal humanism as a message of peace and coexistence. Later, in the 1980s, the last decade of the Cold War, discourses of liberal humanism became instrumental for UNESCO’s cultural policy of diversity. Sloganized with the phrase “we are all humans,” liberal humanism calls attention to shared aspects of humanity that unify people, instead of dividing them.63 Accordingly, despite our different genealogies and origins, we are all humans; humanity is the thread that unifies us. Hence, the emphasis on unity in diversity.

Liberal humanism has additional implications for discourses of brotherhood configured as an act of solidarity or recognition which often come with their own problematically charged meanings. In sum, versions of liberal humanism have informed UNESCO’s cultural policy vis-à-vis alterity for decades. Today, the imprint of liberal humanism is visible in contemporary discourses of liberal multiculturalism—or at least, given the current global rise of neofascism and racism, what remains of it.

In Turkey, liberal humanism has been evident in narratives of Greek-Turkish brotherhood. It is important to note here that the tensions between the two countries continued after the 1923 exchange and particularly escalated with the conflicts that led to the partition of Cyprus in 1974. Brotherhood stressed the shared cultural practices such as food and music that connected Greeks and Turks beyond the political turmoil that separated them. These discourses, however, cannot be taken for granted. For example, a month before he sent Turkish troops to Cyprus during the conflict that led to the partition of the island, a poem Prime Minister Bülent Ecevit had written in the 1940s on Greek-Turkish brotherhood was brought up in the Turkish parliament. The opposition party used the poem against Ecevit to accuse him of Greek partisanship (see Part Three).

In that vein, after the 1980 military coup in Turkey, discourses of liberal humanism were mobilized to puncture the climate of oppression and hostility against alterity in Turkey. In 1983, a national culture report was commissioned under the tutelage of the junta. In it, patterns of historicist humanism reemerged as cultural policy, and the racialized origins of Turks were firmly configured as a Turkish-Islamic synthesis. The scholars who authored the report tapped into the earlier historicist humanist arguments of Ottoman and Turkish intellectuals. The report calls for the assimilation of different groups, proposes to solve class struggle by an emphasis on Islam, and is clearly hostile to minorities. Against this backdrop, some independent publishers sought to open spaces to articulate alterity via liberal humanist discourses during that time, when armed conflict with the PKK—the Partiya Karkerên Kurdistan, or the Kurdistan Workers Party—also escalated.64 Stressing the importance of social harmony among peoples, the publishers often referred to the 1923 Greco-Turkish population exchange as a regrettable failure of coexistence. They highlighted suffering and hardships caused by the exchange as a way to reconnect with alterity in Anatolia at a human level. Overall, they calibrated liberal humanism to highlight the shared aspects of humanity in terms of the peoples of Anatolia. The political implications of such endeavors are thus different depending on the historical context. Still, even in instances where liberal humanist discourses are valuable in that they are adopted to dispel a climate of discrimination and hostility against alterity, whether they are adequate tools to raise explicit questions about social justice and dispossession remains open to question.

In sum, biopolitics and humanism have been historically intertwined in the regulation of alterity in Turkey and beyond.65 While historicist humanism has culturally contributed to the reinforcement of ideas proposed in scientific racialism, liberal humanism has long been proposed as a remedy to both.66 Yet, liberal humanism tends to generate an illusion of peace and coexistence, and has serious shortcomings and limitations in terms of social justice. At the heart of all peace processes lies biopolitics. How does one, then, examine the entangled biopolitical legacies of the 1923 exchange as a segregative regulation of alterity, and the palimpsests of language and policies—cultural and refugee and immigrant integration policies informed by the notions of humanism—that engaged these legacies in the post-1945 era?67

Palimpsests and the Entangled Legacies of the Exchange in the Post-1945 Era

My work draws from critic Gérard Genette’s interpretation of the term “palimpsests”—originally developed as a critical tool to analyze relations between literary texts. According to Genette, a literary work is not a single entity or a closed text that exists in isolation, but always in relation to other texts.68 This is important because any writing is in a way a rewriting, and each text draws on earlier texts that it reproduces, transforms, and reconfigures.69 As the term “palimpsest” suggests, any new text carries the traces of older ones. It is this “transtextuality,” Genette argues, “that sets the text in a relationship, whether obvious or concealed, with other texts.”70 Approaching a narrative as isolated, then, leads solely to a unitary close reading, a thick description of a specific text, whereas a transtextual approach to texts as palimpsests generates multiple readings and offers opportunities to conduct relational readings of texts.71

My interpretation of palimpsests here aims to consider the relationality between different discourses, practices, and policies. By way of example, rather than addressing unmixing as an isolated discourse pertaining to population transfers, engaging it as relational to racialized thinking helps to unravel this discourse’s eugenicist implications and to historically and politically situate unmixing within its broader context. Likewise, considering liberal humanism as a discourse that seeks to reconfigure humanism in terms of a shared human essence—or as it is reconfigured in contemporary Turkey, via a shared human culture that speaks to human essence through sensory experience such as food and music—enables us to trace its connections to historicist humanism as well as to contemporary cultural policies of liberal multiculturalism.

Situating historicist humanism as historically relational to eugenics and scientific racialism, moreover, helps contextualizing racialized thinking as connected to segregative biopolitics through a rich archive of cultural history. Addressing the 1923 exchange as segregative biopolitics, then, offers the opportunity to consider this population exchange in relation to other forms of segregation and modern forms of population management. This relation can be explicit, with overt mention of the 1923 exchange as a legal reference point of segregative biopolitics in the international arena, or it can be more implicit, as examined in terms of logics of racialized thinking and biopolitics that have informed different practices of segregation.

A palimpsest de facto implies crossings between narratives, discourses, and conceptual frameworks such as the dissemination and pervasiveness of racialized thinking and its implications for unmixing or segregative biopolitics. Language and policies on alterity management are thus considered in relation to one another and carry the imprint of earlier discourses and practices. Considering them as relational—in palimpsests—helps put their broader political and historical implications into perspective. Hence, the significance of the 1923 Greco-Turkish population exchange in the configuration of modern-era population management techniques via spatial redistribution of different groups, and the reference to its entangled legacies.

In Humanism in Ruins, I consider the implications of the exchange in the post-1945 era in terms of biopolitics on the one hand, and the concurrent policies developed to engage refugees, immigrants, and alterity on the other. This relationality across time and space marks this project as transnational,72 and its methodology, multidisciplinary. Combining archival research, interviews, visual and textual analysis, I analyze tangled modes of engagement with alterity, and address this entanglement through the palimpsests of cultural and intellectual histories as related to contemporary dynamics of biopolitics and humanism transnationally, with Turkey as a particular case. Given the terrains of culture and biopolitics that I engage as interconnected in this book, multidisciplinary analysis of palimpsests of discourses, policies, and practices in relation to alterity is key for this work. Multidisciplinarity also helps considering different archives of knowledge and demographic policies produced and mobilized at different moments of time as relational.

For a project that focuses on segregative biopolitics epitomized by the 1923 Greco-Turkish exchange of populations in the international legal arena, Turkey offers an important primary site for such analysis. Legal inheritor of the Ottoman Empire, which was deemed to be too racially mixed by some nineteenth-century race theorists, Turkey offers an excellent case to illustrate how even when race does not appear to be a primary category in population management, its paradigms are in fact salient. The entangled legacies of the 1923 exchange in alterity management attest to this phenomenon. And liberal humanism—a concept I use to refer to UNESCO-led cultural discourses and policy developed in the post-1945 era and which have continued to inform contemporary cultural discourses such as liberal multiculturalism—is significant because it helps us see how cultural policies developed in the aftermath of the Second World War were never truly intended to address the underlying logics of segregative biopolitics, and that they were rather proposed as a modality to manage alterity. Because of the importance of the 1923 exchange and its principal legacy—the institutionalization and legalization of segregative biopolitics as a population management technique—the case of Turkey is important in tracing how these policies and practices worked in a country that was never officially colonized, and which interpreted modern approaches to demography in particular terms to address alterity at different levels. While the focus is on Turkey, I bring in transnational contexts within the scope of my analysis and also address broader dynamics without generating exceptionalism for Turkey.

Turkey and the Post-1945 Transnational Context

The decades that mark the beginning and the end of the Cold War, as well its aftermath—namely, the end of the 1940s and the 1950s, and post-1980—have critical implications for contemporary Turkish politics. In Turkey, the beginning of the Cold War era coincided with the transition to multiparty democracy: in 1950, Adnan Menderes was elected as the prime minister in Turkey’s first multiparty national elections. An anti-communist with authoritarian tendencies, Menderes was in power when Turkish troops were sent to the Korean War in support of the Americans and later, Turkey joined the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO).73 Following Turkey’s membership in the IMF and the World Bank in 1947, the Menderes era was also marked by a transition to liberal economic policies, including privatization. Also, Menderes’s policies on Sunni Islam were more open than those of earlier decades in the Turkish republic, which were characterized by imposed secularization.

During the Menderes years, Algerian decolonization begun, but Turkey appears to have largely aligned with France rather than the Algerians, despite the former’s counterinsurgency brutality. Turkey, indeed, was clearly allied with the so-called free world of the Cold War era: distanced from communism and aligned with global capitalist powers, regardless of their varying degrees of illiberal policies and biopolitics at the time—such as McCarthyism and segregationism in the United States. The implications for the so-called free world are thus open to question here, as well as who qualified for liberty in that context. This is also the era when UNESCO issued its Statement on Race (1950) and promoted liberal humanism as a cultural policy.

In 1960, following a decade of being a democratically elected prime minister, Menderes was brought down by a military coup, after which he was put on trial. One of the accusations against him was his role in the orchestration of the 1955 anti-Greek pogroms that targeted the remaining Greek Orthodox community in Istanbul after the population exchange. The pogroms led to a wave of emigration of the Greek Orthodox from Istanbul to Greece. The mass migration after the pogroms may not have been the result of an international agreement on biopolitics like the 1923 exchange, but certainly achieved a similar result through state-sponsored violence: riddance of bodies codified as undesirable. At the time, Menderes’s government played the Cold War card, and blamed the pogroms on the communists and arrested a large number of writers and others associated with communism. When put on trial later, Menderes was found guilty and eventually executed by the military in 1961.

As for the last decade of the Cold War, it opened with the third and arguably the bloodiest successful coup d’état in Turkish history. On September 12, 1980, following a civil war between factions of the so-called left and the right—which was never openly acknowledged to be a civil war and was referred to instead as the “years of anarchy”—the Turkish military led by General Kenan Evren overthrew the democratically elected government in the name of bringing order, social peace, and political stability to the country. The 1980 military coup is comparable to the coup that took place in Chile on September 11, 1973, which consolidated General Augusto Pinochet’s power. As in Chile, factions of the left were the main target of the 1980 coup in Turkey; the junta altered the entire political, social, cultural, and legal infrastructure of the country and adopted a Turkish-Islamic interpretation of Turkishness to pacify labor unions, counter political ideals associated with the left, and oppress alterity.

During that time, Turgut Özal, the deputy prime minister of the military junta government, launched a series of neoliberal measures. This was the beginning of the rise of Özal, who had also worked in the World Bank for three years, to power. After the junta years, in 1983 Özal was the first civilian to be elected as prime minister. Later, he became the president of the republic and died while in the office in 1993. Privatization, urbanization, crippled labor unions, diminished state subsidization of agriculture, a prolonged state of emergency against the Kurds (renewed forty-six times), corruption scandals, and anti-leftist policies marked the years during which he was politically active as deputy prime minister, prime minister, and president, and the aftermath.

The political legacy of Menderes and Özal—two center-right politicians who governed the country for about a decade, one in the 1950s and the other in the 1980s and early 1990s—has important implications for the civilian political leadership in Turkey today. The current president of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, formerly prime minister (2003–2014), is often politically situated with Menderes and Özal. These decades have therefore broader connotations for the context of Turkey and the rise of Erdoğan’s AK Party (AKP) to power. These connotations become more poignant especially considering how—so far—an unsuccessful military coup attempt was conducted against Erdoğan on July 15, 2016, by what appears to be a coalition that included the followers of Fethullah Gülen, a cleric who lives in self-imposed exile in the United States.

Since it came to power, the AKP has pursued an aggressive neoliberal agenda. In the AKP’s first term (2003–2007), it encouraged liberal approaches to alterity. Gradually, it adopted neo-Ottomanism as a discourse of liberal multiculturalism, taking an imperial model to generate a limited version of cultural recognition. This model has constituted the forging of a Turkish-Sunni Islamic synthesis imbued with liberal humanist discourses of brotherhood, without necessarily translating such discourses into social, economic, and political rights. As the party gradually established its hegemony in the country, liberal discourses were eventually dropped. In the wake of the April 16, 2017, referendum, which brought an authoritarian presidential system to Turkey, effectively canceling what remained of the separation of powers, it is uncertain what direction the country will take.

In the broader context, the 1980s witnessed increasing public attention to the question of minorities and their cultural recognition in different nation-states, and the rise of the human rights regime. It is during that time that individual stories were widely publicized to make rights claims for an entire community.74 Indeed, there was an increasing popularization of individual rights as cultural rights in the so-called memoir boom of the 1980s and 1990s.75 The boom was arguably symptomatic of the rise of “identity” as a dominant category for discussing histories of oppression, exploitation, disparities, and displacement hardships from an individual perspective. Individual stories were, to a large extent, personified and presented as representative of a larger community and its cultural heritage.76 In part, the public recollection of family histories like that of Raşit Kemali Bonneval or the Dönme are symptomatic of this transnational trend rearticulated in Turkey: while under the post-1980 military regime, the stories of the Dönme or Kemali Bonneval would most likely be oppressed, in the contemporary context they are naturalized without necessarily considering them a sign of diversity.

Cultural memory, in addition, has been promoted as a popular and powerful tool to discuss and challenge national historiographies.77 In a way, this has been configured as the democratization of history: bringing individual histories to the forefront and building history from the bottom up. These shifts in engaging the past are very important, but unfortunately, they are rarely pursued to also address the social and economic aspects of disparities at a transnational level. Whether this might be, in part, an outcome of the eroding advocacy of the social and economic rights that followed the fall of the Iron Curtain is an important question worthy of exploration in a book dedicated to it on its own.

By the 2000s, state officials co-opted these laudable initiatives to develop modes of governmentality. To some, this at first might come across as a positive development. Yet, as scholars Laleh Khalili and Eyal Weizman have shown, liberal distaste for violence has made state officials more creative when it comes to governmentality. Over the last few decades, state officials have co-opted independent efforts calling for recognition in varying degrees, incorporated them into their official discourses, and instrumentalized culture to confine the recognition of rights to that field. “Culture” appears to be configured as the site for recognition, with relatively little attention to legal, economic, or social rights. State officials have developed policies to domesticate the demands and discourses of rights and recognition.78

Povinelli demonstrates that it is imperative to historicize state policies such as discrimination, colonialism, and violence. How does one, then, address history? As mentioned, one popular means is engaging the cultural memory of a community, recording its history against state-sponsored national histories. In Turkey, many works that juxtapose contemporary politics of memory with the Turkification of the Turkish republic in the 1930s have helped unravel problems with state-sponsored nationalist historiography, and how it eclipsed differences and overwrote state violence and discrimination. Whether addressing history as such helps calling power effectively into question is debatable. The reincarnation of liberal discourses, patterns of racialized thinking, changing emphases on origins and genealogies from the outset of the Cold War to today in Turkey and beyond, and how these discourses inform various modes of governmentality and cultural policies shaped under different political leadership attest to this phenomenon.

Biopolitics and liberal approaches to culture are structurally related. Depending on the time period and changing political circumstances, where the discursive emphasis on liberal values with regard to culture will be placed might be subject to change—nonetheless, their structural relation remains intact. (Liberal values addressed here are historically traceable to the white bourgeois Enlightenment configurations of the notions of liberty, fraternity, equality, and have modern-era implications such as democracy, individual rights, tolerance, and peace.79) Biopolitical dispossession constitutes the infrastructure of liberal discourses, which, regardless of the shape they have taken in the postwar era, including when they appeared to be critical of racialized hierarchization, have reproduced exclusion in different sites.

My goal here, then, is to offer a multidisciplinary analysis of alterity management in order to historically contextualize this relationality and to address its political implications through the entangled legacies of the 1923 exchange. With this work, I also intend to raise questions about the persistence of this relationality, and how segregative biopolitics still continues to inform minority, refugee, and immigrant management, generating ongoing ruination.80

Multidisciplinary Analysis and the Historicization of Ruins

Ruins are not just the leftovers or relics of war, as reportedly was the case when Raşit Kemali Bonneval’s family arrived to Foça to find it in ruins or as the United Nations identifies its mission as building peace upon the ruins of war. Granted, these material remains of war and their lingering affect are very important sites for the analysis of ruination, as anthropologist Yael Navaro has shown in the context of partitioned Cyprus.81 Ruins, however, also constitute a refiguration of what remains, as anthropologist Ann Stoler reminds us.82 Such a refiguration might successfully obfuscate related policies, and therefore enable a favorable climate for reproducing similar policies—a process she calls ruination.

For the purposes of this book, this implies that post-1945 cultural policies and humanism created the illusion that the legacies of biopolitics were being engaged. It also means that being able to articulate cultural heritage and background can also be problematically construed as an effective way to address the legacies of segregative biopolitics like the 1923 exchange. These forms of cultural articulation are very important, but in the absence of a broader historicization of biopolitics, they remain incomplete.

The lack of historicization, then, contributes to reproducing human taxonomies and, most importantly, other policies informed by segregative biopolitics including but not confined to gentrification or the use of infrastructure to generate racialized segregation of different groups such as by building highways to separate a minority neighborhood from others or building dams to limit the mobility of a particular group—examples are multiple, both in Turkey and elsewhere.83 The possibility of reproducing similar policies—despite the hardships they generate—might arise in part because examples of segregative biopolitics are often considered in isolation, or at best, in comparison with another case, rather than through the biopolitical logics and the palimpsests of language and policy that inform them.

As for humanism and refugees, anthropologist Liisa Malkki calls for a radical historicization that acknowledges human suffering, but also political memory, historical agency, and narrative authority, without romanticizing “giving people a voice”—which, she argues, can only lead one to find “underneath the silence not a voice waiting to be liberated but ever deeper historical layers of silencing and bitter, complicated regional struggles, over history and truth.”84 Referring to French poststructuralists Michel Foucault’s and Roland Barthes’s critiques of liberal humanism that seek to connect peoples via a universally shared human essence, Malkki underlines the importance of connecting people through history and historicity: “if humanism can only constitute itself on the bodies of dehistoricized, archetypal refugees and other similarly styled victims—if clinical and philanthropist modes of humanitarianism are the only options,” she cautions us, then being part of the “human community itself remains curiously, indecently, outside of history.”85

Historicization is of course important, but on its own it does not necessarily call power into question. This has important implications, as not putting the emphasis on accountability of power enables the reincarnation of similar dynamics, political formations, and discourses, conducive to the continuation of what Stoler calls ruination. How does one, then, radically historicize and politically contextualize violence, discrimination, biopolitics, and humanism, and remain critical of a local context without favoring exceptionalism?

As a scholar of Middle East studies, I am wary of the Orientalist dynamics in which Euro–North American “norms” of humanism and human rights are taken for granted, and used as a metric against which Middle Eastern countries are measured and hierarchized, as if these norms are historically and politically unproblematic. For the Middle East, exceptionalism often feeds Orientalism and problematically culturalizes and racializes violence and problems with power, as if authoritarian states are the result of a genetic disposition or a cultural trait embedded in Middle Eastern racialized genealogies, rather than a bureaucratic and legal problem. These problems do not happen overnight nor in a vacuum. There are local factors, yes, but also histories of foreign intervention, exploitation, imperialism, and colonialism fueled by economic interests.

Further, given the salience of strange bedfellows that marked Cold War–era US policies such as the support for the bloody military coups in Turkey and Chile, it is especially important to address the transnational dimensions together with the local context, so as to be able to look at the larger picture and to consider power within that context. Focusing on a local case is invaluable in uncovering the local dynamics. Equally important, however, is to attend to related histories and politics of transnational alignments and collaborations so as to raise historically informed questions about the present.

By way of example, late British prime minister Margaret Thatcher infamously supported Pinochet, and later praised him for bringing a new constitution and “democracy” to Chile, and undermined his responsibility for the loss of lives, brutality, and the forcibly disappeared.86 More recently, after the 2013 military coup in Egypt, an editorial in the Wall Street Journal stated that “Egyptians would be lucky if their new ruling generals turn out to be in the mold of Chile’s Augusto Pinochet” because Pinochet “took power amid chaos” and supposedly transitioned Chile to a free market economy and democracy.87 In that respect, while critically addressing a local context, I find it crucial to keep transnational dynamics in mind—particularly with regard to issues that involve rights and liberal values. No institution or organization can be taken for granted; doing so often reproduces Euro-North American-centric critiques and Orientalism. It also risks generating blind spots favoring global economic powers and obscures the long trail of strange-bedfellow collaboration to protect capitalist interests.

In that light, my work owes much to the principles of cultural studies configured by Stuart Hall and others: addressing power, domination, and hegemony via a self-reflexive and cross-disciplinary analysis of culture. Juxtaposing palimpsests of biopolitics with approaches to culture—including racialized thinking—and humanism, opens the possibility of a multidisciplinary analysis of alterity management via the entangled legacies of the 1923 exchange. Here, self-reflexive scholarship denotes wariness of reproducing Orientalist paradigms and Euro–North American norms. As for cross-disciplinary analysis, Stuart Hall advocated interdisciplinarity in cultural studies.88 Accordingly, interdisciplinary work makes it possible to examine and analyze complex dynamics. Hall also remarked how, from the outset, scholars of cultural studies sought to intervene in the established frameworks of sociology and literary studies—rendering their work necessarily cross-disciplinary.

Borrowing from Hall’s proposed principles of analysis, I situate Humanism in Ruins at the intersections of anthropology, history, political critique, and cultural and literary studies. There are various reasons why I use the term “multidisciplinary.” First, in my analysis, I methodologically draw from multiple disciplines: in addition to my work in a wide range of archives, I also conducted interviews, engaged in participant observation, and used tools of textual and visual culture analysis. Secondly, my sources necessitate multiple disciplinary frameworks, as some primary sources include proceedings and minutes of conferences, institutional records, memoirs, films, scholarly books, pamphlets, essays, travel accounts, personal letters, cultural policy documents, minutes of parliamentary sessions, legal regulations, official correspondence, employment records, textbooks, exhibitions, catalogs, websites, museums, fiction, poetry, newspaper columns, and photographs. Finally, multidisciplinarity becomes a necessity because the scholars and intellectuals whose works I engage in this book themselves operate in a variety of fields, including but not confined to eugenics, sociology, law, anthropology, literary and cultural history, and archaeology. In sum, the work itself is multidisciplinary at different levels.

When thinking about my research, I have found historian Michael Werner and social scientist Bénédicte Zimmermann’s histoire croisée very productive.89 Werner and Zimmermann propose a method of historical analysis that takes crossings into consideration, and how objects and categories of analysis can change both across time and space. Their proposed method echoes my concerns with palimpsests in this book. Werner and Zimmermann promote a self-reflexive approach, in which the scholar positions herself vis-à-vis the object of analysis (not unlike anthropologists), and considers all categories and objects in question as relational—meaning, part of a dynamic exchange, and a process of crossing and interaction. This emphasis on crossing is helpful in rethinking palimpsests of humanism, both in its historicist and liberal forms, as well as biopolitics: versions of these approaches are reproduced across time and space, they are transformed in the process, and inform different policies. Histoire croisée, then, is a method that helps to historically contextualize the development and transformation of various processes and discourses in time (diachrony), as well as the dynamics that occur simultaneously in different locales at a given moment in time (synchrony). It allows both historically and politically contextualizing crossings between different policies and practices across time and space. Since the palimpsests addressed in this book reveal how different discourses are produced and disseminated, and inform different practices and cultural and demographic policies in different times, crossing offers a productive framework to address the relationality between these discourses, practices, and policies across time and space.

Werner and Zimmermann’s work has also helped me rethink the massive crossing that happened with the Greek-Turkish population exchange and the modalities of engagement with its legacies in the late 1940s and 1950s, and in the post-1980s, as well as their convergences and divergences. Revolving around these engagements are liberal and historicist humanism and biopolitics, as well as the politics of culture. With these dynamics in mind, I reinterpret Werner and Zimmermann’s proposed method in a multidisciplinary manner to consider the entangled dynamics laid out above and to develop an analytical framework for the study of the historical as well as the social and the cultural. The diachronic and synchronic approach to palimpsests of discourses, practices, as well as the policies they inform, facilitates historicization and political contextualization without making claims of linear continuities or chronologically presented histories. Synchronic and diachronic analysis enables weaving the past into the present of alterity management from multiple perspectives.90 I hope the palimpsests examined in this book will offer new frames for future studies, such as tracing genealogies of liberal thought in Turkey, which deserves a volume of its own.

With the book’s multidisciplinary outlook, I hope to contribute to intellectual debates in different disciplines. For instance, at the time of revising this book, historians Jo Guldi and David Armitage published The History Manifesto advocating long-term—longue durée—historical research highlighting the importance of attending to, say, several centuries rather than focusing on several decades to draw conclusions from the past and consider alternatives for the future.91 Their goal is very important: they invite historians to help make better connections with today and avoid what they call short-termism. They do not completely dismiss a smaller scale of analysis—as they reckon, both are necessary—but their call for long-term historical research is clear. I hope this book will offer yet another mode for asking historically informed questions on contemporary dynamics and weave the past into the present through a multidisciplinary synchronic and diachronic analysis, without necessarily conducting a long-term historical analysis that spans several hundred years—even though some of my own sources are from the nineteenth century.

In anthropology, at least when this book was completed, human-animal relations and environmental anthropology have become important frameworks. There are excellent studies that consider these relations in order to raise important political and ethical questions.92 As such works demonstrate, the post-human can be interpreted as moving beyond human-centered analysis to address critical issues.93 In yet other projects, I have witnessed how these extremely important frames of analysis are presented in depoliticized terms that seem to consider “post-human” anthropology as divorced from political context, in which post-humanism is interpreted temporally as after humanism—as if the subject were exploited enough—or as a substitute for human-centered research, rather than as transcendent and complementary to existing paradigms. The former appears apolitical and the latter could offer important insights to complicate existing notions and categories. I do not consider post-humanism as a substitute, for many categories that are beyond human have human consequences. My work seeks to reconsider humanism—both in its historicist and liberal forms—in a global context of rising neofascism and securitarian state apparatuses and raises questions about its political implications. As philosopher Michel Foucault reminds us, when a crime is committed, the offense falls within the scope of the law, but with securitarianism, it is the probability of a perceived threat that is anticipated and this anticipation informs the security apparatus.94 Today, we witness yet another heightened racialization of this apparatus, which informs new policies of segregative biopolitics that range from erecting walls, visa and travel bans, to incarceration and dirty bids over refugees. I hope that this book’s concern with different forms of humanism both transnationally and in Turkey will contribute to our understanding of the multiple implications of being human historically, culturally, and politically. Examining the past as tangled with the present in a multidisciplinary diachronic and synchronic analysis, I explore these dynamics through the lens of alterity.

In terms of cultural studies and political critique, my work seeks to develop a multidisciplinary framework for cultural analysis at a time of the return to big data in the human sciences. In many ways, big data in the social sciences mirror the longue durée in history. Just like micro- and macro-history complement each other, big data, along with qualitative cultural analysis, are essential for the human sciences. Over the last few years, multiple epistemological turns have marked the humanities and the social sciences, including those signaling shifts to biological or securitarian paradigms, especially after 9/11 and more recent developments in natural sciences and biometrics. These dynamics have generated a very productive debate on the implications of studying culture in general and cultural studies in particular. Before his death in 2014, Stuart Hall himself had started raising questions in that regard. In that light, my goal is to offer a radical cultural and historical analysis conducive to political critique. Disciplinary divides may at times lead to treating culture, politics, social and economic dimensions, and eugenics as divorced from one another and may not always allow us to see their implicit and explicit interconnections. Hence, my analysis of palimpsests in this book.

Elements of culture, biology, and the securitarian capitalist order are, furthermore, interconnected. With a radical cultural analysis that politically contextualizes alterity in the present and engages its multiple histoires croisées, I ask how, if at all, the world has dealt with segregative biopolitics and fascism. Indeed, the reincarnation of fascism in different parts of the world, rising walls—as a supposedly securitarian measure—and the use of culture and alterity to invite potential voters to racialize the redistribution of socioeconomic resources to win elections are a case in point. The motivations might be economically informed, but to a large extent, the consent of the public appears to be successfully mobilized through hostile discourses against alterity.

An Outline of the Book

Weaving past and present dynamics together, I thus seek to address the historical and political implications of humanist discourses and cultural policies especially in juxtaposition with biopolitics. Due to its scope, the book—aside from this introduction and the conclusion—is divided into three long parts, each consisting of two essays, instead of shorter chapters. With this organization, my goal is to read these essays together as a palimpsest in order to expand the scope of analysis of each part and to complicate the historical and political contexts analyzed in those essays.

Part One interconnects postwar scholarship on refugee integration and alterity, and initiatives to promote peace, with a photography exhibition as an embodiment of liberal humanism. The first essay of this part traces the activities, presentations, and publications of various scholars—eugenicists, sociologists, anthropologists, and legal scholars among others—and their intellectual networks to unravel a complex, transnational intellectual and cultural history to address the entangled dynamics revolving around the segregative legacy of the 1923 Greek-Turkish population exchange. Focusing on the first decade after World War II, the first essay traces how segregative biopolitics was addressed transnationally through a refugee association led by a Turkish eugenicist, Fahreddin Kerim Gökay, and founded with the contributions of an Italian eugenicist and statistician, Corrado Gini, who also was a supporter of Mussolini’s fascism. The 1923 exchange was a reference point for the association, and research was conducted on the subject.

As for the story of the founding this refugee association, it crystallizes the politics of scholarly knowledge production, the institutional competition to dominate knowledge production, the fusion of fascist eugenics with demographics in refugee integration processes, and the modes of engaging alterity in the post-1945 era. Juxtaposing these dynamics with what else was concurrently happening during that decade, in the second essay I turn to the rise of UNESCO-oriented cultural policies developed to address alterity and race during that period, and analyze a photo exhibition, The Family of Man. The exhibition epitomizes liberal humanism par excellence and was officially endorsed by UNESCO both in the 1950s and in more recent years. This juxtaposition enables a historical and political contextualization of liberal humanist discourses and cultural policy entangled with segregative biopolitics that developed concurrently. It also helps raise questions about postwar cultural policies and from which angles they engaged alterity and the legacies of segregative biopolitics, as well as their limits and pitfalls. Through a synchronic analysis, these two essays seek to address the shortcomings of liberal discourses in terms of fraternity and equality, and raise questions about the racialized core of liberties.

Part Two turns to the notions of genealogy and origins and attends to their different uses across time and space in relation to the 1923 exchange, racialized thinking, and historicist humanism. The first essay in this part begins with post-1990s Turkey and traces how legacies of segregative biopolitics have been primarily engaged on a personal level through family histories configured as cultural heritage. Making Raşit Kemali Bonneval’s family history public has also been part of this process. Engaging individual and institutional practices that configured family histories as sites of articulating different backgrounds—alterity—after the 1980 military coup, I consider the implications of engaging biopolitical ruins through individual genealogies and origins configured through the family. I also address UNESCO’s cultural policy interventions with regard to alterity and interlace the broader transnational context to the local in Turkey.

Next, in the second essay of this part, I historically contextualize other forms of engaging genealogies and origins—historicist humanism and racialized thinking—which have been instrumental in categorizing peoples on the paths that have led to segregative policies in general, of which the 1923 Greco-Turkish exchange was a particular instance. Examining different examples from the nineteenth and the twentieth centuries, I also discuss a UNESCO conference on historicist humanism organized in India in 1951. The Turkish representative was philosopher and sociologist Hilmi Ziya Ülken, who was also the chair of the Turkish branch of the refugee association analyzed in Part One. From cultural history to cultural policies to individual practices of tracing genealogies and origins, the diachronic analysis of the notions of genealogies and origins across the essays in this part questions the implications of addressing biopolitics via cultural heritage, and asks whether articulating family history in terms of individual liberties is conducive to effectively addressing the ruination of segregative biopolitics and the dispossession that follows.

Part Three turns to the contemporary period, and in its two essays traces the palimpsests of cultural policy pertaining to liberal multiculturalism in Turkey and the European Union, in addition to an earlier configuration of the Turkish-Islamic synthesis. Addressing liberal and historicist humanism embedded in liberal multiculturalism narratives in Turkey and beyond, the first essay engages the discourses and cultural policies that enabled the building of the first 1923 Greco-Turkish population exchange museum in Turkey as part of the Istanbul 2010 European Capital of Culture project. Considering how UNESCO’s cultural policy had an impact on the EU’s policies, which then traveled to Turkey, this essay addresses the limits of liberal multiculturalism and the form it has taken in Turkey: neo-Ottomanism.

After tracing the transnational crossing of liberal multiculturalism to Turkey, in the second essay I turn to the local historical context that this discourse simultaneously draws from: post-1980 coup era cultural policy and the Turkish-Islamic synthesis. The Turkish-Islamic synthesis has broader implications for the fascistic historicist humanism mobilized during the 1980 coup era. This part also questions the efficacy of liberal values embedded in liberal cultural politics in considering the legacies of segregative biopolitics.

Overall, all parts consider the entanglement of humanism and biopolitics and the impact of this tangle on the development of a vision of “culture” significant for both today and the past. One final word with regard to liberal humanism here is necessary, especially given the securitarian turn Turkish politicians have taken against the Kurds today. At the time of writing this book, full-blown urban warfare and a campaign of violence that demolished Kurdish cities, heritage sites, and reportedly caused numerous civilian casualties were taking place. In such circumstances, one might consider liberal cultural discourses as more appealing than violence itself. In fact, I have been asked different versions of this question when I presented my research at different forums. I would like, therefore, to address it briefly, as it is important.

With its multidisciplinary cultural and historical analysis, I hope this book will contribute to our understanding of the implications of selecting the “least of all possible evils” in cultural policies supposedly developed to deal with the ruins of segregative biopolitics and configurations of alterity. That is to say, crafting cultural policies by choosing the “least of all possible evils” means choosing not to change the system nor search out a permanent solution to a cycle of problems, because it is often thought a solution simply can’t be found. Having to choose between liberal cultural discourses (in the liberal humanism of the 1950s or in the liberal multiculturalism of today) and the current violence reproduces a similar dynamic. Biopolitics and liberal humanism are structurally related, even though this relation takes different forms depending on historical and geographic contexts. This is why it is important to demystify liberal humanism in all its guises and to raise questions about justice.

One of the two essays in each part excavates a liberal intervention to remedy a particular issue in relation to segregative biopolitics. Whether the purported aim of liberal cultural politics to establish liberal values truly brings equal social and political rights and mobility, a sense of solidarity informed by social justice and restitution, or liberties beyond individual claims to heritage remains questionable. The biopolitical infrastructure of liberal approaches to culture remains intact and continues to structure their limits.

If anything, the contemporary spectacles of violence crystallize the questions raised in this book: What are the broader implications of liberal humanism towering upon ruins, without having necessarily addressed the biopolitics—the tenets of which are reinforced by the paradigms of historicist humanism—in the making of those very ruins? Indeed, the fact that state policy can go (at least on the publicly visible surface, because whether state violence ever disappears is questionable) so swiftly from liberal humanism and narratives of “brotherhood” to a destructive securitarianism involving many civilian casualties and dispossession by the utter destruction of cities—now themselves in ruins—and oppression, indicates the scale of the problem. If dispossession, citizenship, and bureaucratic problems were really fixed and biopolitical implications of these dynamics were addressed at all levels of state institutions, and impunity were not a norm, would such a seemingly abrupt change in policy be possible in the first place? The problem here is not liberal humanism or multiculturalism—two forms of liberal cultural politics examined here—on their own, per se, but that they are built upon the policies of biopolitics, which are largely left unaddressed.

It is because such a matrix of power tends to obscure the fact that liberal cultural politics and segregative biopolitics are two sides of the same coin in the regulation of alterity, and because unraveling this entanglement might help us reconsider the historical and political implications of a lesser-evil scenario, that I sought to write this book.

Humanism in Ruins tells this story.


1. İskender Özsoy, İki Vatan Yorgunları: Mübadele Acısını Yaşayanlar Anlatıyor [The exhausted of two motherlands: Those who suffered the pain of the population exchange tell their story] (Ankara: Bağlam, 2005), 38–42.

2. Marquis de Condorcet, Éloges, et autres pièces [Praise, and other pieces] (Paris: Chez Le E.A. Lequien, 1820), 297, 401, 468, 490–91. See a personal letter from Bonneval to Montesquieu dated October 2, 1728 (in the Municipal Library of Bordeaux); and Giovanni Giacomo Casanova, Mémoires de J. Casanova de Seingalt écrits par lui-même [Memoirs of J. Casanova de Seingalt written by himself] (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1880), 387–429. While the authenticity of the memoirs has been questioned, the Bibilothèque Nationale de France has recently purchased the manuscript of Casanova’s memoirs and Pléiade has published an unabridged version. Casanova’s account of his encounter with Bonneval in Istanbul, however, necessitated separate research on its own as Bonneval’s conversion to Islam was very controversial and the Western European accounts of this conversion were contentious.

3. Claude-Alexandre de Bonneval, Anecdotes vénitiennes et turques, ou Nouveaux mémoires du comte de Bonneval [Venetian and Turkish anecdotes, or new memoirs of Count Bonneval] (London: Aux Dépens de la Compagnie, 1740).

4. Charles-Augustin Sainte Beuve, “Le Comte-Pacha Bonneval” [The Count-Pasha Bonneval], in Causeries du Lundi [Monday chats], 2nd ed. (Paris: Garnier Frères, 1853), 5:499–523. For instance, Lady Georgiana Fullerton published a novel entitled The Countess of Bonneval—a romance imagining how Bonneval’s wife of ten days must have felt when he left her behind in France. Georgiana Fullerton, La Comtesse de Bonneval: histoire du temps de Louis XIV [The Countess of Bonneval: The history of the time of Louis XIV] (Paris: Librairie d’Auguste Vaton et Charles Douniol, 1857). There were other novels that took Bonneval’s life as a basis, such as Octave Féré and D.-A.-D Saint-Yves, Les Amours du comte de Bonneval [The loves of Count Bonneval] (Paris: Dentu, 1866). For a biography of Bonneval, see Albert Vandal, Le Pacha Bonneval [Bonneval Pasha] (Paris: Au Cercle Saint Simon, 1885).

5. Bonneval’s family residence in France, Château de Bonneval, is open to tourists for visits and to others for special events such as weddings. Parts of the residence are museumized and one of the highlights is Comte de Bonneval’s room on display: La Chambre du Pacha (the chamber of the Pasha).

6. Harold Bowen, “Aḥmad Pasha Bonneval,” Encyclopaedia of Islam, 2nd ed., P. Bearman, Th. Bianquis, C. E. Bosworth, E. van Donzel, and W. P. Heinrichs, eds.

7. These claims can be found in the sources cited above, for example.

8. Ayhan Aktar, “Homogenizing the Nation, Turkifying the Economy,” in Crossing the Aegean: An Appraisal of the 1923 Compulsory Population Exchange Between Greece and Turkey, Renée Hirschon, ed. (New York: Berghahn Books, 2004), 89. Aktar quotes Mahmut Celal (Bayar), Turkey’s minister of exchange, addressing this issue as a problem.

9. See Penelope Papailias, Genres of Recollection: Archival Poetics in Modern Greece (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005); Kemal Arı, Büyük Mübadele: Türkiye’ye Zorunlu Göç, 1923–1925 [The Great exchange: Forced migration to Turkey, 1923–1925] (Istanbul: Tarih Vakfı Yurt Yayınları, 1995). Elsewhere, I have engaged such locutions in terms of geographic identification. See “Documenting the Past and Publicizing Personal Stories: Sensescapes and the 1923 Greco-Turkish Population Exchange in Contemporary Turkey,” Journal of Modern Greek Studies 26 (2008): 451–87.

10. For more on the connected histories of Greece and Turkey, see Umut Özkırımlı and Spyros Sofos, Tormented by History: Nationalism in Greece and Turkey (London: Hurst, 2008).

11. See Artemis Leontis, Topographies of Hellenism: Mapping the Homeland (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995).

12. This was applicable for Greek Orthodox settled in Istanbul before 1918. For more, see Alexis Alexandris, “Religion or Ethnicity: The Identity Issue of the Minorities in Greece and Turkey,” in Crossing the Aegean, 117–32. The Muslims in the Greek Dodecanese Islands (Rhodes, Kos, and others) were not included in the Lausanne Treaty because the islands were an Italian colony at the time.

13. Michael Barutciski, “Lausanne Revisited: Population Exchanges in International Law and Policy,” in Crossing the Aegean, 23–37. For a detailed analysis of the preceding population transfers in relation to the Ottoman context and international law, see Umut Özsu, Formalizing Displacements: International Law and Population Transfers (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013).

14. Renée Hirschon, “‘Unmixing Peoples’ in the Aegean Region,” in Crossing the Aegean, 3–12, 25.

15. Ibid., 25.

16. Ibid., 26–27.

17. Approaching this question from the point of view of humanitarianism, historian Keith Watenpaugh demonstrates how “ending suffering” and colonialism, paternalism, and notions of superiority have concurrently informed the humanitarianism of the first decades of the twentieth century in particular. He also shows how acknowledging suffering was also hierarchized depending on whose suffering it was. In addition, he traces the changes from ending suffering to welfare during that time. See Keith Watenpaugh, Bread from Stones: The Middle East and the Making of Modern Humanitarianism (Oakland: University of California Press, 2015), 4, 12, 180, 189. That being said, as I seek to show in the following parts, suffering has remained a dominant discourse in the aftermath of 1945 and has continued to this day.

18. For an astute analysis of war ruins and elegiac humanism in the case of Lebanon, see Ken Seigneurie, Standing by the Ruins: Elegiac Humanism in Wartime and Postwar Lebanon (New York: Fordham University Press, 2011).

19. Weizman traces the notion of “lesser evil” to the philosophical works of Leibniz, who wrote about the “best of all possible worlds.” It was Voltaire who picked up on Leibniz’s notion and wrote the satire Candide to mock such approaches. See Eyal Weizman, The Least of All Possible Evils: Humanitarian Violence from Arendt to Gaza (London: Verso, 2011).

20. Weizman argues this in The Least of All Possible Evils. For an elaborate discussion of the history of the international human rights regime and how the 1970s were decisive in the shaping of this field, see Sam Moyn, The Last Utopia: Human Rights in History (Cambridge, MA: Belknap Press, 2010).

21. Matthew Frank, “Fantasies of Ethnic Unmixing: ‘Population Transfer’ and the End of Empire in Europe,” in Refugees and the End of Empire: Imperial Collapse and Forced Migration in the Twentieth Century, Panikos Panayi and Pippa Virdee, eds. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), 89–96.

22. Mark Mazower, No Enchanted Palace: The End of Empire and the Ideological Origins of the United Nations (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2009), 134, 140–41.

23. On population exchanges in the partition of India, Palestine, and Cyprus, see Mazower, No Enchanted Palace, 134, 140–41; Hirschon, “‘Unmixing Peoples’ in the Aegean Region,” xiv–xvii, 11, 23, 28.

On the Potsdam agreement, see Martin Kornrumpf, “Enforced Mass Migration in Europe 1912–1954,” Integration 1:1 (July 1954): 5. Kornrumpf argues that the 1923 exchange agreement had elements that were integrated into the Potsdam agreement. Potsdam generated another population transfer, in this case sixteen million Germans during 1945–1949. Kornrumpf himself was one of the key figures “responsible for the administration of the expellee affairs in Bavaria” Germany. He was working for the Bavarian Ministry for Labor and Social Welfare as the deputy to the first commissioner, Dr. Wolfgang Jaenicke. See Stephen Kenneth Lane, “The Integration of the German Expellees: A Case Study of Bavaria, 1945–1969,” PhD diss. (Columbia University, 1972), 31, 44, 151. For more on Potsdam in relation to the Greco-Turkish exchange, see Barutciski, “Lausanne Revisited,” 26.

24. “About the UN,”

25. Mazower, No Enchanted Palace.

26. Marc Baer, “The Double Bind of Race and Religion: The Conversion of the Dönme to Turkish Secular Nationalism,” Comparative Study of Society and History 46:4 (2004): 682–708. Baer was the first scholar to bring up the importance of race as a critical category in considering the Dönme during the 1923 population exchange.

27. Ibid., 694.

28. As quoted in ibid. Also, as cited in Baer, see Rıza Nur, Hayat ve Hatıratım [My life and memories] (Istanbul: Altındağ Yayınevi, 1967–1968), 3:1081.

29. Nur, Hayat ve Hatıratım, 3:1051.

30. Ibid.

31. Ibid.

32. I am grateful to Sam Dolbee for reminding me of this point. For more on Nur, see Seçil Yılmaz’s doctoral dissertation, “Love in the Time of Syphilis: Medicine and Sex in the Ottoman Empire, 1860–1922” (2016), CUNY Academic Works, I also thank Seçil Yılmaz for her generous feedback on the subject.

33. Nur, Hayat ve Hatıratım, 3:1018.

34. For an analysis of this dynamic through the population exchange, see Aktar, “Homogenizing the Nation, Turkifying the Economy.”

35. Nur, Hayat ve Hatıratım, 3:1044–45.

36. Ibid., 1045.

37. Ibid.

38. “İskân Kanunu” [Settlement law], Resmi Gazete [Official Gazette], June 21, 1934, no. 2733. The minister of defense who signed this law was Aziz Zekâi Apaydın, the same person whom Rıza Nur reports to have raped a chambermaid during the Lausanne conference.

39. Rogers Brubaker, “Aftermaths of Empire and the Unmixing of Peoples: Historical and Comparative Perspectives,” Ethnic and Racial Studies 18:2 (April 1995): 189–218. Also see Hirschon, “‘Unmixing Peoples’ in the Aegean Region,” 3–12. Greece, Bulgaria, and the Ottoman state (before it crumbled) had already made agreements to exchange their minorities, but the Ottoman part of the agreement could not be implemented when war broke out. It was not until 1923, when the Lausanne Treaty was signed, that Greece and Turkey officially agreed to exchange their populations, under the sponsorship of the League of Nations.

40. Hirschon, “‘Unmixing Peoples’ in the Aegean Region,” 4.

41. See Hirschon’s edited volume Crossing the Aegean. For a historicizing account, see Frank, “Fantasies of Ethnic Unmixing.”

42. Robert J. C. Young, Colonial Desire: Hybridity in Theory, Culture and Race (London: Routledge 1995).

43. Nur, Hayat ve Hatıratım, 2:320.

44. Young, Colonial Desire; Warwick Anderson, “Racial Hybridity, Physical Anthropology, and Human Biology in the Colonial Laboratories of the United States,” Current Anthropology 53: Supplement 5 (April 2012): 95–107. For an early theorization of the subject, see Arthur de Gobineau, “The Meaning of the Word ‘Degeneration’; The Mixture of Racial Elements; How Societies Are Formed and Broken Up,” in The Inequality of Human Races (New York: Howard Fertig, 1967 [1915]), 23–36. For eugenics in Europe in general, see Richard Soloway, Demography and Degeneration: Eugenics and the Declining Birthrate in Twentieth Century Britain (Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1995). Also see Frank Dikötter, “Race Culture: Recent Perspectives on the History of Eugenics,” American Historical Review 103:2 (April 1998): 467–78; John P. Jackson Jr., Science for Segregation: Race, Law, and the Case Against Brown v. Board of Education (New York: New York University Press, 2005), 20–21; Ayça Alemdaroğlu, “Politics of the Body and Eugenic Discourse in Early Republican Turkey,” Body & Society 11:3 (2005): 62.

45. I am grateful to Sara Pursley for her feedback, which helped me articulate this category.

46. Anne McClintock, Imperial Leather: Race, Gender and Sexuality in the Colonial Context (New York: Routledge, 1995), 37–39, 50–51. As quoted in McClintock, also see Johannes Fabian, Time and the Other: How Anthropology Makes Its Object (New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), 13–15.

47. This, in part, is also how anthropology developed in Turkey in the 1930s. See Büşra Ersanlı, İktidar ve Tarih: Türkiye’de Resmi Tarih Tezinin Oluşumu [Power and history: The development of the official history thesis in Turkey] (Istanbul: İletişim: 2003).

48. Rogers Brubaker and Frederick Cooper, “Beyond ‘Identity,’Theory and Society 29 (2000): 1–47.

49. Michel Foucault, “Lecture 17 March 1976,” in “Society Must Be Defended”: Lectures at the Collège de France, 1975–1976 (New York: Picador, 2003), 239–64.

50. For an early and important discussion of race and Foucault’s thought, see Ann Laura Stoler, Race and the Education of Desire: Foucault’s History of Sexuality and the Colonial Order of Things (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1995).

51. Ann Laura Stoler, “Colonial Aphasia: Race and Disabled Histories in France,” Public Culture 23:1 (2011): 121–56.

52. “Germany: Staff Concluding Statement of the 2016 Article IV Mission,” International Monetary Fund, May 9, 2016,

53. Zabıt Ceridesi [Turkish parliamentary records], 3rd Assembly (November 6, 1924): 72–88. Regarding the term Kıptî, I thank historian Zeynep Türkyılmaz for her feedback on its translation and confirming that this term denotes “gypsy” in Ottoman Turkish contexts during that time.

54. Elizabeth Povinelli, “The Cunning of Recognition: A Reply to John Frow and Meaghan Morris,” Critical Inquiry 25:3 (Spring 1999): 634. See also her book-length study, The Cunning of Recognition: Indigenous Alterities and the Making of Australian Multiculturalism (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002).

55. And when implemented internally, spatial redistribution and mobility restrictions consolidate and seal the alterity of the targeted group. Segregation in the United States, apartheid in South Africa, and the internally forced migration of Kurds in Turkey exemplify this. On internal displacement in the case of Turkey, see Bilgin Ayata and Deniz Yükseker, “A Belated Awakening: National and International Responses to the Internal Displacement of Kurds in Turkey,” New Perspectives on Turkey 32 (2005): 5–42.

56. Ella Shohat and Robert Stam, Unthinking Eurocentrism: Multiculturalism and the Media (London: Routledge, 1994). Shohat and Stam situate these debates in a broader context and rethink Eurocentrism through a critical analysis informed by postcolonial critiques. They also address ancient Greece as a trope of origins in this Eurocentric framework of linear identification.

57. Nancy Bisaha, Creating East and West: Renaissance Humanists and the Ottoman Turks (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004). Here, Bisaha traces the complex historical threads of intellectual responses to the Ottoman threat concretized with the “fall” or the “conquest” of Constantinople/Istanbul when the Ottomans seized the city in the fifteenth century. Following this, the Eastern Roman Empire/Byzantium crumbled, and Bisaha shows how in order to make sense of this perceived threat, Renaissance intellectual figures resorted to two main historical endeavors: to return to ancient Greece and Rome to adopt their ways of engaging alterity (i.e., barbarism, especially of the ancient Greeks), and to revisit the Crusades because they believed they offered an insight into previous wars between Muslims and Christians. Overall, what she shows is how a discursive East and West emerges from these historical endeavors in the search for “origins.”

58. For an excellent analysis of Turkish humanism, see Aslı Gür, “Political Excavations of the Anatolian Past: Nationalism and Archaeology in Turkey,” in Controlling the Past, Owning the Future: The Political Uses of Archaeology in the Middle East (Tucson: University of Arizona Press, 2010), 68–89.

59. Laleh Khalili, Time in the Shadows: Confinement in Counterinsurgencies (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2013), 11–43.

60. Frantz Fanon, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove, 1963).

61. See Brian Silverstein, “Reform in Turkey: Liberalization as Government and Critique,” Anthropology Today 26:4 (2010): 22–25.

62. As will be elaborated in the essays that follow, I borrow this definition from Roland Barthes, and the term “liberal humanism” from anthropologist Faye Ginsburg, to refer to the kinds of discourses identified by Barthes and addressed by anthropologist Liisa Malkki. Faye Ginsburg, “Producing Culture: Shifting Representations of Social Theory in the Films of Tim Asch,” in Timothy Asch and Ethnographic Film, E. D. Lewis, ed. (New York: Routledge, 2003), 149–62. I thank Jennifer Varela for bringing this work to my attention. Also see Roland Barthes, “The Great Family of Man,” in Mythologies (New York: Hill and Wang, 1972), 100–102; Liisa Malkki, “Speechless Emissaries: Refugees, Humanitarianism, and Dehistoricization,” Cultural Anthropology 11:3 (August 1996): 377–404.

63. The signs that read “We are all refugees” after the death of little Aylan Kurdi, a Kurdish Syrian boy, are a symbolic variation of such “We are all humans” discourse. Variations of this phrase have marked at least the last decade. Some had problematic implications with a limited act of solidarity that did not necessarily extend beyond a humanist discourse.

64. Aslı Iğsız, “Polyphony and Geographic Kinship in Anatolia: Framing the Turkish-Greek Population Exchange,” in The Politics of Public Memory in Turkey, Esra Özyürek, ed. (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2007), 162–90.

65. In developing this framework, I have found anthropologist Miriam Ticktin’s work on humanitarianism and biopolitics most inspiring. See Ticktin, “Policing and Humanitarianism in France,” American Ethnologist 33:1 (February 2006): 33–49. Within the context of humanitarianism and the regulation of the immigrant and refugees via the body, see by Ticktin, “How Biology Travels: A Humanitarian Trip,” Body & Society 17:2&3 (2011): 139–58. Additionally, see Ilana Feldman and Miriam Ticktin, In the Name of Humanity: The Government of Threat and Care (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010). See also Didier Fassin, Humanitarian Reason: A Moral History of the Present (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2012). For a different take on biopolitics and immigration, see Fassin, “Biopolitics of Otherness: Undocumented Foreigners and Racial Discrimination in French Public Debate,” Anthropology Today 17:1 (February 2001): 3–7. For a powerful reconsideration of biopolitics via hunger strikes in prisons in Turkey, see Banu Bargu, Starve and Immolate: The Politics of Human Weapons (New York: Columbia University Press, 2016).

66. For a critique and different take on such approaches to humanism, see Paul Gilroy, Between Camps: Nations, Culture, and the Allure of Race (London: Penguin, 2000).

67. I am grateful to Ismail Aji Alatas for his extensive feedback on the palimpsests analyzed in this book.

68. For a different take on relationality as poetics, see Papailias, Genres of Recollection. Here, Papailias considers such relationality between genres of historical representation such as documentation, archiving, and historical writing in Greece addressed through archival poetics—a poetics that relates these practices.

69. Gérard Genette, Palimpsests: Literature in the Second Degree (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1997).

70. Ibid., 1.

71. Gérard Genette, Paratexts: Thresholds of Interpretation (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997).

72. I thank Mikiya Koyagi for his comments on the discussion of transnationalism in an earlier version of this work.

73. For an excellent analysis of the era, see Begüm Adalet, Hotels and Highways: The Construction of Modernization Theory in Cold War Turkey (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 2018). For another insightful analysis, see Burçak Keskin Kozat, “Negotiating an Institutional Framework for Turkey’s Marshall Plan: The Conditions and Limits of Power Inequalities,” in Turkey in the Cold War: Ideology and Culture, Cangül Örnek and Çağdaş Üngör, eds. (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), 198–218.

74. Kay Schaffer and Sidonie Smith, Human Rights and Narrated Lives: The Ethics of Recognition (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2004).

75. Ibid., 13, 15, 31.

76. David Lowenthal, The Heritage Crusade and the Spoils of History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998).

77. Astrid Erll, “Cultural Memory Studies: An Introduction,” in Cultural Memory Studies: An International and Interdisciplinary Handbook, Astrid Erll and Ansgar Nünning, eds. (Berlin: Walter de Gruyter, 2008), 1–18. For Turkey, see Esra Özyürek, ed., The Politics of Public Memory in Turkey (New York: Syracuse University Press, 2007). Also see Leyla Neyzi, “Oral History and Memory Studies in Turkey,” in Turkey’s Engagement with Modernity: Conflict and Change in the Twentieth Century, Celia Kerslake, Kerem Öktem, and Philip Robins, eds. (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), 443–59.

78. Anthropologists Elizabeth Povinelli, Banu Karaca, and Ceren Özgül have raised important questions in that regard.

79. Charles W. Mills, Black Rights/White Wrongs: The Critique of Racial Liberalism (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017). I thank Begüm Adalet for bringing this work to my attention.

80. Ann Stoler, “Imperial Debris: Reflections on Ruins and Ruination” Cultural Anthropology 23:2 (2008): 191–219. Stoler considers ruination in terms of colonial and imperial contexts to address how the effects of empire are reactivated and remain, as well as an ongoing political project to reconsider how imperial structures are reappropriated within the politics of the present. Anthropologist Yael Navaro, on the other hand, engages the notion of ruination as a metaphor to address the aftermath of violence and war and considers material remains as well as subjectivities and residual affect as ruination. Yael Navaro-Yashin, “Affective Spaces, Melancholic Objects: Ruination and the Production of Anthropological Knowledge,” Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute 15 (2009): 1–18.

81. Yael Navaro-Yashin, The Make-Believe Space: Affective Geography in a Postwar Polity (Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2012).

82. Stoler, “Imperial Debris.”

83. Léopold Lambert, Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence (Barcelona: DPR 2012).

84. Liisa Malkki, “Speechless Emissaries.”

85. Ibid., 398.

86. Margaret Thatcher, “Speech on Pinochet at the Conservative Party Conference,” October 6, 1999, Margaret Thatcher Foundation,

87. “After the Coup in Cairo,” Wall Street Journal, July 7, 2013.

88. Stuart Hall, “The Emergence of Cultural Studies and the Crisis of the Humanities,” October 53 (Summer 1990): 11–23.

89. Michael Werner and Bénédicte Zimmermann, “Beyond Comparison: Histoire Croisée and the Challenge of Reflexivity,” History and Theory 45:1 (February 2006): 30–50.

90. I thank Miray Çakıroğlu for her feedback, which helped me articulate this point.

91. Jo Guldi and David Armitage, The History Manifesto (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

92. Anthropologists Ceren Özgül, Çağrı Yoltar, Miriam Ticktin, Özlem Zerrin Biner, and Yael Navaro, among others, have developed important frameworks of analysis on such subjects as humanitarianism, domination and boundaries, and religion.

93. For an important philosophical treatise on the subject, see Rosi Braidotti, The Posthuman (Cambridge: Polity, 2013).

94. Michel Foucault, Security, Territory, Population: Lectures at the Collège de France 1977–1978 (New York: Picador, 2007).