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Department of Social Anthropology



I am a social anthropologist who studies politics, the state, and violence and its aftermaths. I have contributed to crafting an affective, spatial and material approach for the study of postwar environments, embedding social, political, and psychological anthropology through new methodologies. Regionally, my work has focused on social and political life in Turkey and Cyprus, and I have a continuing interest in ethnographically studying politics and the aftermath of violence in the everyday of the region. My publications, research collaborations, and teaching also explore the politics of ethnographic and archival research, dealing with issues of representation and erasure. Originally from Istanbul, Turkey, I studied at Brandeis University (BA in Sociology, 1991) and Princeton University (MA in Anthropology, 1993 and PhD in Anthropology, 1998). I was a Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Edinburgh (1997-1999) and have been teaching at the University of Cambridge since 1999.


My research to date has explored affect, subjectivity and the emotions in the domains of politics, the public sphere, law, and bureaucracy. In Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in Turkey (Princeton University Press, 2002), I studied the production of a state-revering public culture in Turkey through ethnographic work on the interface between secularism and Islamism. This interest led me, in further research, to study the unrecognized state in Northern Cyprus and its administration. I conceptualised this space through a query about affect and materiality in a postwar environment. In my second book The Make-Believe Space: Affective Geography in a Postwar Polity (Duke University Press, 2012) based on this ethnographic research, I explored affect in zones of ruination, in materialities left behind and expropriated in the aftermath of war, as well as in the documents, bureaucracy, and legal practices of an unrecognized state.

Between January 2012 and December 2016, I was the Principal Investigator of the European Research Council (ERC) project entitled “Living with Remnants: Politics, Materiality and Subjectivity in the Aftermath of Past Atrocities in Turkey” (REMNANTS). The REMNANTS project team included Dr. Zerrin Özlem Biner, Dr. Alice von Bieberstein, and Dr. Seda Altuğ as post-doctoral Research Associates. The project addressed the aftermath of mass violence in the contemporary everyday of Turkey through the core concept of ‘remnants,’ which was explored as the material, spatial and political legacy of past atrocities. A core co-edited volume based on this project has now been published under the title Reverberations: Violence Across Time and Space (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021). A single-authored monograph based on my own ERC-based ethnographic research in Antakya, Turkey is in progress. 

I am a co-convener of the “Archives of the Disappeared: Discipline and Method Amidst Ruin” Research Network, along with Dr. Mezna Qato, Dr. Chana Morgenstern, and Dr. Mahvish Ahmad. The network has been hosted by CRASSH, Cambridge since October 2019, and is also associated with the Margaret Anstee Centre, Newnham College.  It has held a series of reading group sessions, seminars and webinars discussing new conceptual frameworks and interdisciplinary methodologies for the study of spaces associated with annihilation, erasure, disappearance, and their denial. An international conference will be held in 2023 with the support of a Cambridge Humanities Research Grant (CHRG), which will lead to further activities of the Research Network.

Research interests

Anthropology of politics; ethnography of the state; political violence; political geography; borders and border practices; legal and documentary practices; bureaucracy and administration; postwar environments and ruination; affect, subjectivity, and the emotions; space and materiality; history and memory; minorities and minoritization practices; inter-communal relations; spiritual practices and relations with spiritual entities; secularism and Islamism; anthropological and social/political theory; the anthropology of the Middle East; the anthropology of Europe; Turkey, Cyprus, post-Ottoman societies.



Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in TurkeyPrinceton: Princeton University Press, 2002.

The Make-Believe Space: Affective Geography in a Post-War Polity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. (awarded the 2013 William A. Douglass Prize in Europeanist Anthropology)

Kurmaca Mekan: Kuzey Kıbrıs’ın Duygu Coğrafyası. Istanbul: Koç Üniversitesi Yayınları, 2016 (Translation: Cem Soydemir).

Devlet’in Suretleri: Türkiye’de Sekülarizm ve Kamusal Yasam. Istanbul: Heretik Yayınları, 2020. (Translation: Mukadder Okuyan & Isık Önal).

Reverberations: Violence Across Time and Space. (co-edited with Zerrin Özlem Biner, Alice von Bieberstein and Seda Altuğ). Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021.


Edited Special Issues

An Impromptu Uprising: Ethnographic Reflections on the Gezi Park Protests in Turkey.” Yildirim, Umut and Navaro-Yashin, Yael, ed. Fieldsights – Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology Online, October 31, 2013.

Special Issue on “Phantasmatic Realities, Passionate States” (co-edited with Jane Cowan), Anthropological Theory 7: 1 (2007).


Journal Articles

"The Aftermath of Mass Violence: A Negative Methodology." Annual Review of Anthropology 49 (2020), 161-73.

Pacifist Devices: the Human/Technology Interface in the Field of Conflict Resolution.” Cambridge Anthropology, Special Issue on ‘Bureaucratic Knowledge Practices,’ 28: 3 (2008/2009), 91-112.

Affective Spaces, Melancholic Objects: Ruination and the Production of Anthropological Knowledge.” (Malinowski Memorial Lecture). Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI) 15: 1 (2009), 1-18.

Make-Believe Papers, Legal Forms, and the Counterfeit: Affective Interactions Between Documents and People in Britain and Cyprus.” Anthropological Theory 7:1 (2007), 79-96.

Introduction: Fantasy and the Real in the Work of Begona Aretxaga.” Anthropological Theory 7:1 (2007), 5-8.

Affect in the Civil Service: A Study of a Modern State -System.” Postcolonial Studies 9:3 (2006), 281-294.

“‘Life is Dead Here': Sensing the Political in ‘No Man’s Land’.” Anthropological Theory 3: 1 (2003), 107-125. (re-published in Neni Panourgia and George E. Marcus, eds. Ethnographica Moralia: Experiments in Interpretive Anthropology. New York: Fordham University Press, 2008, 168-187.)

“Uses and Abuses of ‘State and Society’ in Contemporary Turkey.” New Perspectives on Turkey 18 (1998), 1-22.

“Entrapped Between Categories: ‘East,’ ‘West,’ and the Practices of Consumption of Turkish-Islamists.’ Sociologus: Journal for Empirical Ethnosociology and Ethnopsychology  48:1 (1998), 1-16.

“Evde Taylorizm: Cumhuriyet’in ilk Yıllarında Evisinin Rasyonellesmesi.” (“Taylorism in the House: The Rationalization of Housewifery in the Early Republic”). Toplum ve Bilim 84 (2000), 51-74. (in Turkish)

“Bir İktidar Söylemi Olarak ‘Sivil Toplum’.” (“Civil Society as a Discourse of Power”). Birikim 105-106 (1998), 57-62. (in Turkish)


Book Chapters

“Introduction: Reverberations of Violence,” (co- authored) in Yael Navaro, Zerrin Özlem Biner, Alice von Bieberstein and Seda Altuğ, ed., Reverberations: Violence Across Time and Space. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021. 

“Violence and Spirituality: Khidr Cosmography at the Turkish/Syrian Interface,” in Yael Navaro, Zerrin Özlem Biner, Alice von Bieberstein and Seda Altuğ, ed., Reverberations: Violence Across Time and Space. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021. 

“Benjamin on the Trail of the Armenian Genocide,” in Nils Bubandt and Thomas Schwartz Wenzer, ed., Philosophy on Fieldwork: Case Studies in Anthropological Analysis. London: Routledge. 2022.

Knowing the City: Migrants Negotiating the Built Environment in Istanbul”, in Helmut Anheier, Yudishtir Raj Isar, and Dacia Viejo-Rose, ed. Heritage, Memory and Identity (The Cultures and Globalization Series, Volume 4). London: Sage, 2011, 231-38.

The Materiality of Sovereignty: Geographical Expertise and Changing Place Names in Northern Cyprus”, in P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, Thalia Dragonas, and Caglar Keyder ed. Spatial Conceptions of the Nation: Modernizing Geographies in Greece and Turkey. London: I.B.Tauris, 2010, 127-43.

De-Ethnicizing the Ethnography of Cyprus: Political and Social Conflict Between Turkish-Cypriots and Settlers from Turkey”, in Yiannis Papadakis, Nicos Peristianis, and Gisela Welz, eds, Divided Cyprus: Modernity and an Island in Conflict. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 2006, 84-99.

Confinement and the Imagination: Sovereignty and Subjectivity in a Quasi-State”, in Thomas Blom Hansen and Finn Steputtat, eds, Sovereign Bodies: Citizens, Migrants and States in the Postcolonial World. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2005, 103-119.

Legal/Illegal Counterpoints: Subjecthood and Subjectivity in an Unrecognized State”, in Richard Ashby Wilson and Jon P. Mitchell, eds. Human Rights in Global Perspective: Anthropological Studies of Rights, Claims and Entitlements. London: Routledge, 2003, 71-92.

The Market for Identities: Secularism, Islamism, Commodities”, in Deniz Kandiyoti and Ayse Saktanber, eds. Fragments of Culture: The Everyday of Modern Turkey. London: I. B. Tauris, 2002, 221-253. (re-published in Turkish, 2003).

The Historical Construction of Local Culture: Gender and Identity in the Politics of Secularism Versus Islam”, in Caglar Keyder, ed. Istanbul: Between the Global and the Local. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, 1999. (re-published in Turkish, 2000).


Online Articles

Shadows of the 1980 Coup and the Syrian War: Resisting in Antakya.” Fieldsights – Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology Online, October 31, 2013.

Editorial-Breaking Memory, Spoiling Memorization: The Taksim Protests in Istanbul.” Fieldsights – Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology Online, October 31, 2013.

Teaching and Supervisions



SAN1: Anthropology nowBorders, Refugees, Catastrophe 

SAN3: Anthropological theory and methods - Schools of Anthropological Theory: Psychological Anthropology

SAN3: Anthropological theory and methods: Anthropology and Critical Race Studies 

SAN4: Ethnographic areas: Anthropology of the Middle East

SAN4: Ethnographic areas: Europe

SAN5: Ethical life and the anthropology of the subject: Anthropology of spiritual beings 

SAN5: Ethical life and the anthropology of the subject: Affect, subjectivity, emotions 

SAN6: Power, economy and social transformation: Posthumanism and the new materialisms 

SAN6: Power, economy and social transformation: Emergent political forms 

SAN12: Anthropology of cities and space: Space / Materiality /Affect 



Professor of Social, Political and Psychological Anthropology
Fellow and Director of Studies, Newnham College
MPhil Social Anthropology Coordinator
Office hours: appointment by email
Dr Yael  Navaro

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