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Alternative Modes and Frameworks of Justice

Session X-07, 2022 Annual Meeting

On Saturday, December 3 at 5:30 pm

Panel Description
  • Despite being the central demand that ignited the 2011 Arab uprisings, "dignity" continues to be invoked as a dominant buzzword in analysis of the Middle East and North Africa but has yet to be examined as a potential explanatory trope in its own right. Within the context of the transitional justice process launched in Tunisia in the aftermath of the 2011 uprising, this paper analyzes the demand for dignity as articulated by three main victim groups: the families of the martyrs and injured who were wounded by police fire during the 2011 demonstrations, veiled women who were legally and systematically denied the right to wear a headscarf and practice their religious freedom openly (1982-2013), and political prisoners placed under “Administrative Control” upon their release and denied employment, housing, and political participation (1987-2013). Based on interviews, participation in national consultations, public testimonies and archival research, I analyze how their different historical grievances—based on gender, religion, and class, respectively—stake competing appeals to “dignity.” This paper examines dignity as a theory of moral justice that may never be realized, but the claims to which bring into focus the role of moral values in mobilizing claims for justice. In the context of comparative studies of the appeals of different forms of justice (reparative, retributive, redistributive), this paper asks: What is the role of dignity in the context of a political transition toward a more democratic system of governance?
  • In this paper, I explore alternative justice mechanisms proposed by the Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) in Turkey. The HDP’s Public Relations Committees (PRCs) is one of the most prominent forms of justice mechanisms that Kurds have developed. It is now a common practice for Kurds to bring the disputes among communities to the PRC of HDP, which Kurds consider as a de facto political and legal authority. Furthermore, now the HDP’s PRCs have become a source of justice among not only Kurdish subjects but also among different ethno-religious groups in Turkey. While the Kurdish migrants in Istanbul are the primary users of this mechanism, they also recommend it to their friends, neighbors, and co-workers from other ethno-religious groups who then take their disputes to the committee. In the absence of general trust of the legal system and difficulties in accessing justice by various communities in Turkey, different groups seek new spaces to handle their disputes instead of appealing to the state’s legal system. In particular, women have become one of the primary constituencies of the PRC. Based on extensive ethnographic research, my paper discusses the structure and functioning of the mechanism in Istanbul and attempts to answer the question as to why it has such a wide appeal. I also explore the role of women in this mechanism, arguing that it has become a space for women’s empowerment. In addition, my paper explores how this mechanism has worked during the COVID19 pandemic. Considering that under COVID19, access to justice has been much more difficult than usual for everyone, it is crucial to examine the functions of informal justice mechanisms (such as PRCs) during this time. Few scholars have focused on Turkey’s minorities’ distrust of the legal system and the political, legal, and economic strategies they use to deal with Turkish legal system (Tas, 2022; Bozcali, 2014). The importance of informal ways of resolving disputes among Kurds has received very little attention. Similarly, the role of women in informal justice mechanisms is an understudied topic. My research thus offers a vital contribution to the studies of alternative justice mechanisms, indigenous politics, and legal pluralism by examining the ways in which politically marginalized groups deliver justice to different portions of society and challenge state authority by becoming an alternative source of justice.
  • My paper is based on the study of wills from one sijil in the Maronite Archbishopric of Beirut. The wills were drawn between 1880 and 1911. The goals of my paper are two-fold: first, I explore the role of the Maronite Archbishopric of Beirut within the wider web of Ottoman legal institutions in the age of legal reforms. Second, I conduct a close reading of the contents of the wills with a focus on property devolution practices. Because the wills are very rich in detail, they provide unique opportunities for analyzing the testators’ mental universes, and their gendered conception of their obligations toward family members. As will be shown in my paper, although bequeathable amounts were limited by the law to a third of one’s estate, wills were oftentimes used to fulfill a perceived obligation toward female family members who did not fall under the category of legal heirs under fara'id law.
  • Israel exists in tension. It seeks to be both a democracy and a Jewish state. With a growing non-Jewish Arab population, these goals are difficult to maintain simultaneously. Politicians and citizens are faced with choices about Israel’s future identity. This project assesses the relative value Jewish Israelis place on elements of Israel’s future, especially democracy, Jewish identity, and peace through a conjoint study. Within the Jewish population of Israel, there are multiple ethnic groups who co-exist unequally. Ashkenazi Jews – Jews of European extraction – are culturally privileged in Israel and the US, relative to Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews – Jews of Middle East/North African extraction (Shohat 2003). Ethnic groups have a different sense of linked fate with other communities in the state. Non-Ashkenazi Jews place greater value on the Jewish identity than the “secular Zionist project of modern Israel” (Lewin-Epstein and Cohen 2018, 2126). Race and ethnic politics research suggests that groups show skin-color-based internal hierarchies, and intra-group complexion differences drive differences in political and racial attitudes (Ostfeld and Yadon 2021; Yadon and Ostfeld 2020). The study finds that the relatively-lower-status Jewish groups in Israel have different perspectives on Jewish nationalism and the resolution for the Israel-Palestine situation than Ashkenazim.
  • In my doctoral thesis (2020), I investigated the identificational, sociocultural, and material factors in Kurdish women’s politically motivated, yet militant struggle. Based on my ethnographic research undertaken in Iraq, Europe, and Northern Syria (Kurdish: Rojava), I illustrated different collective and individual aspects of Kurdish women’s choices in becoming militant women fighters. The visits also indicated that women fighters are developing and implementing their own ideals, including ideals for gender, in the process of constructing a new system of self-government for Rojava in this region’s transition from war to peace. In this context, the paper seeks to understand how women's resistance and their pursuit of freedom is carried out in general post-conflict contexts. This is the topic of my postdoc project that I will begin from August 1, 2022, at the University of Central Florida, where I also will be performing fieldwork in Rojava. Based on the previous and upcoming data collection, in the form of observations and interviews with Kurdish and non-Kurdish informants, this paper will examine which ideals and thoughts, Kurdish women’s organisations in the post-conflict period develop, in their attempt to become active participants in political and societal activities with the purpose of creating a democratic form of government. In this analysis, it will be interesting to examine how the radical and political changes that women are leading, are implemented in local communities and how the normative changes of gender roles are experienced in everyday life. Answers to these questions will be sought with reference to the new social movement’s perspective (Della Porta, Donatella & Diani, Mario 2006) and and Judith Butler’s theory of performativity (1990) including supplements from Karen Barad (1998) and Sara Ahmed (2004), to examine the complex interaction between individual motivations, collective dynamics, and the greater political and social contexts. On the practical level, the findings of this case study, especially the analysis of hindrances and strategies for implementation of democracy, will have the potential to feed political debates on what to support in future democratic initiatives practiced by non-institutional and non-elite actors.