Emrah Yildiz

Grant Type

Workshop Grant

Institutional Affiliation

Harvard U.

Grant number

Gr. CONF-859

Approve Date

February 1, 2021

Project Title

Yildiz, Emrah (Northwestern U.) "kaçak: fugitive forms of bureaucracy and economy in modern Turkey"

Electricity and petroleum stolen from grids of distribution. Livestock, tea, sugar and tobacco traded as contraband goods across national borders. An apartment building built without permits. A defendant who refuses to show up to his trial. What unites these seemingly disparate situations in Turkey is that they are all described with the qualifier kaçak. Although conventionally translated into English as the equivalent of “smuggled good,” the semantic domain of kaçak in Turkish (loaned into Kurdish and Persian) is more capacious than ‘smuggled’ signifies: Derived from the Turkish verb kaçmak—to run away, flee, seek refuge or be a fugitive—kaçak helps us recover the act of breaching the obligations of a social or legal contract as a constitutive field of politics, framed by the socio-cultural constructions of modern bureaucracy and economy. Each participant tracks kaçak as a good, as a tapped resource or a person, and shows the many forms kaçak takes in the hands of concrete social actors under historically specific material conditions. The workshop’s focus on the forms bureaucracy and economy take moves us beyond conventional constructions of informality as a relatively recent and primarily urban effect of neoliberal capitalism in the Global South. Further, kaçak provides historically and geographically far more expansive windows into the politically instituted process that is the making of modern Turkey.