skip to content

Department of Social Anthropology



Born in Istanbul, Yael Navaro completed her undergraduate education at Brandeis University (Sociology 1991) and her masters and PhD at Princeton University (Anthropology 1998). She was Lecturer in Social Anthropology at
the University of Edinburgh (1997-1999) and has been teaching at the University of Cambridge since 1999.

Recent Keynote Lectures

Political Geography Plenary Lecture, Royal Geographical Society Annual Meetings, London, 30 August, 2019, "Walking Territory: Place and Power on the Trail of Catastrophe"

Annual Lecture of Research Association Switzerland-Turkey, University of Basel, 26 September, 2019 - "Reading Turkey from an Arab and Alawi Angle"

Keynote Lecture, "Affective Societies" Conference, Free University, Berlin, 5 December, 2019



Anthropology of politics; ethnography of the state; borders, border practices, and partition regimes; environments of war, violence and their aftermath; ruination; minorities and minoritization practices; communalism and inter-communal relations; spirituality, religious practices, spiritual entities; history and memory; affect, subjectivity and the anthropology of the emotions; materiality and space; urban social forms; political geography; governance and sovereignty; social and political movements and the public sphere; law and legal anthropology; bureaucracy and administration; documentary practices and technologies; knowledge practices; anthropological and social/political theory; secularism and Islamism; the anthropology of the Middle East; the anthropology of Europe; Turkey, Cyprus, post-Ottoman societies.

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 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 2nd book The Make-Believe Space: Affective Geography in a Postwar Polity(Duke University Press, 2012) based on this ethnographic research, I explore affect in zones of ruination and abandonment, 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 Principal Investigator on a European Research Council (ERC) project entitled “Living with Remnants: Politics, Materiality and Subjectivity in the Aftermath of Past Atrocities in Turkey” (REMNANTS). This European Research Council project team included Dr. Zerrin Ozlem Biner, Dr. Alice von Bieberstein, and Dr. Seda Altug 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 we explored as material, spatial, subjective, spiritual, and/or political leftovers from past atrocities. Publications based on this 5-year project that involved field and archival work in four locations in south and south Eastern Turkey are in press and/or forthcoming.

Archives of the Disappeared: Discipline and Method Amidst Ruin (CRASSH Research Group)


Key publications: 


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

The Make-Believe Space: Affective Geography in a Post-War Polity. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012. 

2013 William A. Douglass Prize in Europeanist Anthropology

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

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

Edited Special Issue

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, vol. 7, no. 1, 2007.

Journal Articles and Book Chapters

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

“Reverberations of Violence: Introduction,” (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, fc. 

“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, fc. 

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.

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, pp. 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, pp. 127-43.

Pacifist Devices: the Human/Technology Interface in the Field of Conflict Resolution”, Cambridge Anthropology, Special Issue on ‘Bureaucratic Knowledge Practices,’ vol. 28, no. 3, 2008/2009, pp. 91-112.

Affective Spaces, Melancholic Objects: Ruination and the Production of Anthropological Knowledge”, Malinowski Memorial Lecture, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute (JRAI), vol, 15, no. 1, 2009, pp. 1-18.

Make-Believe Papers, Legal Forms, and the Counterfeit: Affective Interactions Between Documents and People in Britain and Cyprus”, Anthropological Theory, vol. 7, no. 1, 2007, pp. 79-96.

Introduction: Fantasy and the Real in the Work of Begona Aretxaga”, Anthropological Theory, vol. 7, no. 1, 2007, pp. 5-8.

Affect in the Civil Service: A Study of a Modern State -System”, Postcolonial Studies , vol. 9, no. 3, 2006, pp. 281-294.

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, pp. 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, pp. 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, pp. 71-92.

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

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, pp. 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).

“Uses and Abuses of ‘State and Society’ in Contemporary Turkey.” New Perspectives on Turkey , no. 18, 1998, pp. 1-22.

“Entrapped Between Categories: ‘East,’ ‘West,’ and the Practices of Consumption of Turkish-Islamists.’ Sociologus: Journal for Empirical Ethnosociology and Ethnopsychology , vol. 48, no. 1, 1998, pp. 1-16.

“Evde Taylorizm: Cumhuriyet’in ilk Yillarinda Evisinin Rasyonellesmesi.” (“Taylorism in the House: The Rationalization of Housewifery in the Early Republic”). Toplum ve Bilim, no. 84, 2000, pp. 51-74. (in Turkish)

“Bir Iktidar Soylemi Olarak ‘Sivil Toplum’.” (“Civil Society as a Discourse of Power”). Birikim, no. 105-106, 1998, pp. 57-62. (in Turkish)

Teaching and Supervisions


SAN1: Anthropology NowBorders, Refugees, Catastrophe (2020-21 onwards)

SAN3: Anthropological Theory and Methods: Schools of Anthropological Theory 

SAN3: Anthropological Theory and Methods: Anthropology and Critical Race Studies (2020-21 onwards)

SAN4: Crises and Ruptures in the Anthropology of Europe (2016-17)

SAN4c: Anthropology of the Middle East (2017-18 onwards)

SAN5: Thought, Belief and Ethics: Anthropology of Spiritual Beings (2016-17)

SAN5: Ethical life and the anthropology of the subjectAffect, Subjectivity, Emotions (2017-18 onwards)

SAN5: Affect, Subjectivity, Emotions (2017-18 onwards)

SAN6: Political Economy and Social Transformations: Posthumanism and the New Materialisms (2016-17)

SAN6: Emergent Political Forms (2017-18 onwards)

SAN12: Space / Materiality /Affect (2017-18 onwards)



Research supervision: 

Jasmin Tabakovic (conducting fieldwork in Bosnia)

Mazloum Ismail (first year PhD student)

Frederick Schmidt (second year PhD student)

Beja Protner (second year PhD student)


Reader in Social Anthropology
Research Impact Coordinator
Fellow and Director of Studies, Newnham College
Office hours: appointment by email request
Dr Yael  Navaro

Contact Details

Email address: 


Research Projects: