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Bureaucratic Intimacies: Translating Human Rights in Turkey with Elif Babül

Thursday, January 18, 2018
3:00pm

Elliott School of International Affairs
Room 505

Human rights are politically fraught in Turkey, provoking suspicion and scrutiny among government workers for their anti-establishment left-wing connotations. Nevertheless, with eyes worldwide trained on Turkish politics, and with accession to the European Union underway, Turkey's human rights record remains a key indicator of its governmental legitimacy. Bureaucratic Intimacies shows how government workers encounter human rights rhetoric through training programs and articulates the perils and promises of these encounters for the subjects and objects of Turkish governance.
Drawing on years of participant observation in programs for police officers, judges and prosecutors, healthcare workers, and prison personnel, Elif M. Babül argues that the accession process does not always advance human rights. In casting rights as requirements for expertise and professionalism, training programs strip human rights of their radical valences, disassociating them from their political meanings within grassroots movements. Translation of human rights into a tool of good governance leads to competing understandings of what human rights should do, not necessarily to liberal, transparent, and accountable governmental practices. And even as translation renders human rights relevant for the everyday practices of government workers, it ultimately comes at a cost to the politics of human rights in Turkey.