SUMMARY:How can scholars of the Middle East make sense of the intertwined relationship between intimacy and violence as manifested in different technologies of care, policing, surveillance, and communal politics? This panel explores emergent geographies of care in Turkey—a topic rarely explored in the international scholarship on care, and less so in the literature on the Middle East, which highlights charitable, benevolent, and/or religious aspects of care practices without much reference to broader political and economic dynamics in the region.
Like many countries of the Global South, over the past two decades, the Justice and Development Party (Adalet ve Kalk?nma Partisi, AKP) governments in Turkey have increased the share of spending on social services, expanded the coverage of existing ones, and introduced new social programs for especially the poor, women, elderly, and children. While this expansion has improved the living conditions of the most precarious segments of the population to an extent, it has, at the same time, rendered the domain of social care a battleground. Multiple actors, including state institutions and non-governmental organizations that operate in the field of care and pursue contesting political agendas, projects, and interests, have competed on moral, politico-economic, and legal-institutional grounds.
Addressing these contentious aspects of social care in Turkey, the panel brings together five works, each based on ethnographic research in a different setting ranging from public health clinics, police stations, and urban construction sites in Turkey’s metropolises to microcredit offices for coal-mining communities in peripheral towns to state-led family support centers and Kurdish movement’s women’s initiatives in country’s Kurdish southeast. Navigating these diverse settings and perspectives, the panel explores the entanglements of Turkey’s pressing political issues (from ethno-political conflict to contestations over gender norms to rising authoritarianism and securitization to neoliberal urban gentrification and credit schemes) with emergent care practices of governmental and non-governmental actors. Overall, the panel will discuss the potential of social care practices, both for anti-politics and depoliticization, for the benefit of the status quo and for emergent political practices and subjectivities of resistance in the Middle East.