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Capricious Borders

Capricious Borders: Minority, Population, and Counter-Conduct Between Greece and Turkey

Olga Demetriou
Copyright Date: 2013
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 240
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  • Book Info
    Capricious Borders
    Book Description:

    Borders of states, borders of citizenship, borders of exclusion. As the lines drawn on international treaty maps become ditches in the ground and roaming barriers in the air, a complex state apparatus is set up to regulate the lives of those who cannot be expelled, yet who have never been properly 'rooted'. This study explores the mechanisms employed at the interstices of two opposing views on the presence of minority populations in western Thrace: the legalization of their status as etablis (established) and the failure to incorporate the minority in the Greek national imaginary. Revealing the logic of government bureaucracy shows how they replicate difference from the inter-state level to the communal and the personal.

    eISBN: 978-0-85745-899-5
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xii)
  5. Note on Transliteration
    (pp. xiii-xiv)
  6. Chapter 1 Cotton, Tobacco, Sunflowers
    (pp. 1-23)

    At the point where the Evros river becomes the Meriç, halfway across a bridge that connects Greece to Turkey, a mobile phone will switch networks. In an increasingly digitalized age, where signal roaming is constant, the liminality of the river border contracts to an instant on the screen, often an instant of ‘no reception’. The physical roaming of herders, migrants, fighters, and refugees that rendered the area of Thrace a border is now largely illegal, as migration is heavily controlled. In this digital border of the 0-1 binary, the either/or question is constant: a kind of aporetic roaming that destabilizes...

  7. Chapter 2 Heritage, History, Legacies
    (pp. 24-47)

    One of the main streets of Komotini which runs through minority neigh-bourhoods is Egnatia, built on the ruins of the Roman thoroughfare that connected Byzantium (current-day Istanbul) to the Adriatic coast. Just beyond the points where Egnatia meets the city’s Roman wall ruins, there is a square surrounded by a low concrete wall and fenced off with iron rails. In the square there are cypress trees, tombstones inscribed in Ottoman (an older form of Turkish written in Arabic script), and a dilapidated minaret the top of which has been broken off (Figure 2.1). This space is known to the minority...

  8. Chapter 3 Counter-Bordering
    (pp. 48-68)

    One of the things that I hope to have shown in the previous chapter is the extended duration of the Great War for the region of western Thrace, which experienced the repercussions of violence much before 1914 and long after 1918. The Balkan Wars were succeeded by the First World War, succeeded in turn by the Greco-Turkish war, resulting in an almost uninterrupted decade of fighting. The scars of that fighting have undoubtedly left their mark, prefiguring the ‘crazed network of trenches’ (Macmillan 2001: 1) that scarred Great War battlefields in western Europe. Military history has it that the First...

  9. Chapter 4 Naming and Counter-Names
    (pp. 69-88)

    What does it mean for a town’s name to exist in two registers – Komotini in Greek, Gümülcine in Turkish? In a place where the naming of a group (Turks? Turkish-speakers? people of Turkish origin? ‘A’ group or multiple?) has been a topic of legal, administrative and political debate, what is the import of naming space? These questions are the subject of this chapter. So far, cartography has been explored as a device of subjectification. Where ethnological maps established populations of ethnic, religious and linguistic majorities and minorities, peace treaties offered them choices (or failed to do so) of establishing lives...

  10. Chapter 5 The Politics of Genealogy
    (pp. 89-107)

    I have so far argued that the borders drawn by naming are primarily read as ‘ethnic’. They create a division between the Greekness of over here and the Turkishness of over there. They are drawn on idealist assumptions of absolute binaries that render intelligible concepts such as ‘nation’ or ‘the law’. Yet as soon as they are in place, an exteriority surfaces that questions them, undermines them, makes their counter-conduct possible, multiplies them, or reinforces them. What is at stake in the name of a border is ethnicity, but that ethnicity is in turn an index of sovereignty: who speaks...

  11. Chapter 6 Grounds of State Care
    (pp. 108-133)

    As naming and genealogy were folded into the state’s efforts to ‘own’ the minority (as part of its claims to sovereignty), a third modality of conducting the minority population came to focus on the more material aspects of ownership. This was the ownership of land, administered on the level of private individuals. The biopolitical import of this technology was no longer on the level of subjecting individuals to the categorizations of ‘minority’, e.g. the ‘multitude’ populating dead-end Turkish mahalles and Hellenized streets and villages, or the ‘multitude’ populating the mountains since the time of Alexander. Its main thrust was to...

  12. Chapter 7 The Self-Excluding Community
    (pp. 134-153)

    In January 1955, two weeks after Fessopoulos instructed in his memo that the sign ‘Muslim school’ discovered in the village of Aratos should be ‘replaced immediately’ with one that refers to the school as ‘Turkish’, the president and finance officer of the school signed an affidavit (ipéfthinos dhílosis) describing a meeting they had with the Turkish consul in Komotini. Their statement was presumably made to the police authorities since one year later it found a place in Andreades’ appendix. According to the statement, the meeting concerned a teacher from Turkey who was insisting on moving the school’s rest day from...

  13. Chapter 8 The Political Life of Marriage
    (pp. 154-180)

    Meral’s experience of the müftülük is similar to Selda’s: it is embodied in a single document she keeps locked away in a drawer – her marriage certificate, issued by the müftü when she got married. It is a document that is both fascinating and meaningless, as neither she, nor her husband, can read it; it is written in Arabic script (Figure 8.1). This document symbolizes the chasm between the role of the müftülük as the arbiter of biopolitical relations within the minority (as it is the authority responsible for ordering the sphere of family law [muamelât]), and the legitimacy of this...

  14. Conclusion: Being Political
    (pp. 181-189)

    We were driving back to Komotini from a nearby beach, when nine-year-old Sinan began querying his mother about what the celebration arranged for the circumcision he had just had would involve. Having been told that only women would be present and that there would be a session of Quranic readings before the noon feast, he was slightly alarmed at the absence of any prospect of entertainment. Looking out of the window, he pondered for a few seconds, then sunk back into his seat and voiced his threat: ‘Well, if I get bored I’ll sing the national anthem!’ The reaction was...

  15. Postscript: Border Lives
    (pp. 190-197)

    It was mid-1999 when I visited a minority MP for a chat about the political issues of the day. Across from his desk sat a man, looking old and in despair. He was told that his case was a difficult one. Phone calls were then made to the prefecture office, seeking information about the paperwork that needed to be filled in, and a pile of documents he had brought with him from the mountain village he was from were pored over, and identification numbers noted. Patiently, the MP explained which offices needed to be visited, and what papers would be...

  16. References
    (pp. 198-211)
  17. Index
    (pp. 212-226)