Basak Can

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Koc U.

Grant number

Gr. 10043

Approve Date

October 2, 2020

Project Title

Can, Basak (Koc U.) "Forensic Fantasies: Doctors, Documents and the Limits of Truth in Turkey"

Forensic Fantasies: Doctors, Documents and the Limits of Truth in Turkey is an ethnography of doctors whose job is to document state violence in Turkey. Since the 1980 coup d’état, human rights activists and state institutions have used forensic expertise to address the problem of state violence in Turkey. Focusing on encounters between doctors and state violence victims at Turkey’s Forensic Medicine Institution, public hospitals and a human rights organization, my book maps out the relationship between forensic documentation, state violence and political imagination. My ethnography shows that forensic documentation works through fantasy—namely that medical witnessing to violence produces scientific and objective truth, puts an end to undue state violence, and performs justice. This fantasy animates doctors’ affective relationship with their expert identities, patients and human rights politics. As forensic documents travel between institutions, families and human rights organizations, they shape the political imagination of oppositional groups and orient them towards a politics of truth as the strategy for challenging state authority. My work contributes to anthropological research on expertise, state violence and human rights on two accounts: First, it illustrates how expert identity and expert communities are founded through fantasy. Second, it grounds the study of state violence in expert fantasies whose desire for evidence of violence have captivated even the radical political imaginaries against state violence.