Sacrificial limbs of sovereignty : disabled veterans, masculinity, and nationalist politics in Turkey



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This dissertation concerns the disabled veterans of the Turkish army who fought against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) guerillas as conscripted soldiers. While being valorized as sacrificial heroes, “ghazis,” in the realm of nationalist politics, these disabled veterans also face socio-economic marginalization and demasculinization anxieties in Turkey, where discrimination against the disabled is rampant. In such a context, disabled veterans emerged as important ultranationalist actors in the 2000s, championing a conservative agenda around the issues of state sovereignty, democratization, and Turkey’s pending European Union (EU) membership.

In this dissertation, I locate the disabled veteran body at the intersection of medical and welfare institutions, nationalist discourses, and cultural formations of gendered normativity to trace the embodied socio-cultural and political processes that constitute disabled veterans as ultranationalist political subjects. I approach the politicization of disabled veterans through the analytical lens of the body in order to understand how veterans’ gendered and classed experiences of warfare, injury, and disability are hardened into an ultranationalist political identity. Exploring the tensions between the nationalist construction of the disabled veteran body and veterans’ embodied experiences as lower-class disabled men, I show how the dialectic between political rites of consecration and everyday rites of desecration translates disability into a political force. By unraveling the ways in which disability caused by violence generates new forms of masculinity, embodiment, and political identity, I illustrate how the disabled veterans’ suffering is brokered into militarization and ultranationalist protest in contemporary Turkey.