Veysel Firat Bozcali

Grant Type

Hunt Postdoctoral Fellowship

Institutional Affiliation

Toronto, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10173

Approve Date

October 7, 2021

Project Title

Bozcali, Veysel Firat (Toronto, U. of) "Borders Unenforced: Kurdish Smuggling Economies and Techno-legal Politics in Turkey"

The proposed book project, Borders Unenforced, examines how Kurdish smugglers contested and reworked national borders despite heightened state surveillance in Turkey’s Kurdish borderlands. In the wake of the economic devastation wrought by the Turkish state’s counterinsurgency against Kurdish guerillas, smuggling has become a substantial means of livelihood since the 1990s. Through ethnographic fieldwork among smugglers, lawyers and court staff in Kurdish-populated Van province, my book shows that smugglers not only violated borders physically, but also undermined how the state legally authorized specific livelihoods and mobilities through what I call ‘borderwork’ ‘ a set of technoscientific and legal practices that ranged from evidence collection to manipulation of contraband content or official paperwork. Taking the readers from border villages to courtrooms and court expert laboratories, my book argues that smugglers’ borderwork distinctively contested state sovereignty by legally disrupting the state’s capacity to enforce borders and uphold the law. In contrast to the studies that examine law and technoscience as disparate fields, it studies how they operate concomitantly, and conceptualizes a ‘techno-legal politics’ in which disenfranchised groups, such as smugglers, obtain political-legal agency that contests state sovereignty. Rather than an act of resistance that openly violates the law, or a refusal that disengages with state legality, Borders Unenforced shows how smugglers used the state’s own legal system to undermine its legal authority.