Rebecca Bryant and Mete Hatay develop the concept of the aporetic state to describe an entity that acts like a state even as nonrecognition renders it unrealizable. They argue that only by rethinking the de facto state as a realm of practice will we be able to understand the longevity of such states and what it means to live in them.
2020 | 360 pages | Cloth $69.95
Political Science / Anthropology
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Table of Contents
Note on Toponyms and Turkish Pronunciation
Introduction. The Aporetic State
Part I. The Border That Is Not One
Chapter 1. Building a "Border"
Chapter 2. Mastering the Landscape
Chapter 3. Planting People
Part II. Enacting the Aporetic State
Chapter 4. The So-Called State
Chapter 5. The Political Economy of Spoils
Chapter 6. Federalism as Fetish
Part III. The Aporetic Subject
Chapter 7. Victim and Citizen
Chapter 8. The Ambiguities of Domination
Chapter 9. The Politics of Dis/simulation
Conclusion. The Absurdity of the Aporia
Appendix: Turkish Cypriot Institutions
The Aporetic State
In early 2016, the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, welcomed the so-called president of the so-called Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC). A political leader with a left-wing past, Mustafa Akõncõ had been elected several months earlier, triggering the start of a new round of negotiations intended to reunify the divided island. The cameras clicked as he shook hands with world leaders, and media heralded his appearance there with his Greek Cypriot counterpart, Republic of Cyprus president Nicos Anastasiadis, as a step toward an elusive peace. Never mind that they had actually come to Davos to implore heads of state to fund what was starting to look like a very expensive potential solution to what many of those same leaders perceive as a middle-class conflict.
After all, Cyprus is a country that is not at war, and at the time of writing the island that has been partitioned for more than four decades seems to make international news primarily in travel magazines' reports on its beaches and, most recently, because of Greek Cypriot banks' laundering of Russian money. As far as conflicts go, Cypriots on both sides of the divide are relatively well off, and the recognized Republic of Cyprus (RoC), effectively confined in its scope to the island's south, is a full voting member of the European Union (EU). On both sides of the island, Cypriots have nice houses, decent cars, and good educations. Middle-class families take vacations to Italy and Thailand. As a result, while international actors have been active in diplomacy to help solve a conflict that is simply known as "the Cyprus Problem," they have been reluctant to pull out checkbooks.
Of course, the perception of well-being is deceptive, since all Cypriots have lived for more than forty years with the political, economic, and psychological consequences of an unresolved conflict and a divided island. Moreover, as citizens of an unrecognized state, Turkish Cypriots' ability to do well or to continue doing well is always improvisatory, as they constantly adapt to whatever limitations are being imposed on their ability to trade, study, and travel. Despite the conflict, citizens of the recognized RoC are able to plan their lives and the lives of their children with the assumption that they will continue to live in a recognized, EU-member state. Citizens of the so-called TRNC, however, live their daily lives with what they invariably call belirsizlik, uncertainty. That uncertainty arises from not knowing one's place in the world, from not being "seen" or recognized, and from the knowledge that the shape, form, and substance of their so-called state could be significantly altered with a pen stroke.
For these reasons, the significance of the Davos visit as reflected in the local press was somewhat different from the international version. In commenting for Turkish Cypriot journalists, Akõncõ would remark, "This is the first time that a Turkish Cypriot President has come here. Even if the world does not recognize the TRNC, the Cypriot Turkish people is an existence/presence (varlõk). Everyone is aware of this. Everyone knows that there will be no resolution in Cyprus without the contribution of the Turkish Cypriot people and their chosen leader." Akõncõ alludes to the widespread perception that Turkey is an occupying and colonizing power in north Cyprus and that the unrecognized TRNC is its puppet or vassal. This widespread perception also has the consequence of erasing Turkish Cypriots as sovereign agents, so that Greek Cypriot leaders have often complained that their counterpart in negotiations should be Turkey, not the Turkish Cypriot (puppet) leader.
Akõncõ instead asserts that the world has begun to see that Turkish Cypriots are present as a people and have their own will. The word that he uses, varlõk, in this context means an existence, presence, or being. It is also a word that connotes, however remotely and in echo, what many Turkish Cypriots understand to be the source of the conflict itself, namely, the majority Greek Cypriot community's insistence for a large part of the twentieth century that it had the right to decide the future of the island as a whole. Turkish Cypriots called their fight, as a minority, to have a space that they could control themselves a varoluş mücadelesi, literally a struggle for existence, that was also a varolma mücadelesi, a struggle for being or presence. To say that the Turkish Cypriot people have a "presence" in Davos is effectively a reassurance that even if their state is not recognized, they have still made strides in the struggle for being.
The "president" appears to say here that they have lost the battle but won the war. His spokesperson, Barõş Burcu, seemed to repeat this claim some weeks later, when he asseverated that with a solution Turkish Cypriots' status "would undergo a revolutionary change." "With a solution," he remarked, "we will take our place in the world as the equal founding partners of a recognized state. We will come under international law." Right-wing commentators immediately attacked the statement on social media, arguing that they could not have status as individuals or a community but only as a state, and that in a federal solution the TRNC would be dissolved rather than recognized. Instead they would become only a constituent state of a federation—"a local administration, that is all" one commentator remarked. He asseverated that it would be "unacceptable to give up the 33-year-old, independent and sovereign state of the TRNC" for a constituent state that what would actually lower their status.
What this so-called president, his somewhat bumbling spokesman, and their acerbic commentators all share are sovereign anxieties, or an everyday concern to resolve the gap between the real and the realizable that constitutes what we call here the aporetic state. In his brief book Aporias, Jacques Derrida poses the aporia, the space of nonpassage, in tension with the border, which he defines as that which one is able to cross even when one knows one should not. The aporia is in tension with the border, because it represents the point at which crossing is impossible despite there being no border to stop us. The aporia is "the difficult or the impracticable, here the impossible, passage, the refused, denied or prohibited passage" (Derrida 1993: 8). In contrast to the border, what is significant for Derrida about the aporia is that it represents an impossible possibility, a refusal or prohibition, that is both known and inexplicable, seemingly arbitrary.
In this book, the aporia represents the known distinction, present in de facto states from their very inception, between the real and the realizable. De facto states are those entities, such as the TRNC, that look like states and act like states but do not have the international recognition that makes them de jure, or states "in law." These are entities with well-defined and well-guarded borders, ones with developed political and bureaucratic systems that hold elections, give out identity cards, issue checks to civil servants and retirees, build roads, and distribute water. At the same time, their leaders are shunned, and the state is always in various stages of embargo and isolation. In the academic literature, scholars often refer to them as unrecognized or informal states (Isachenko 2012), while some have tried out epithets such as "quasi" to label them (e.g., Jackson 1990). Indeed, there is a lively discussion in the political science literature regarding what these states should be called and how to identify them when we see them. Most of these works begin by setting out criteria that such entities must meet in order to be classified as unrecognized or de facto (e.g., Harvey and Stansfield 2010; Kolstø 2000, 2006; Lynch 2004; Pegg 1998). For instance, one of the pathbreaking books in this field is Nina Caspersen's Unrecognized States (2012), in which she attempts to set out such descriptive criteria, including having control over their territory, remaining in existence for more than three years, and so on.
While these studies have helped to define a new subfield within international relations and have been essential for us in thinking about the case that we examine here, we begin from a different starting point. We begin not by developing criteria that will allow us to know a de facto state when we see one, but with the assumption that we already know a de facto state when we see it and to ask why that is and what it implies.
This book uses extensive archival and ethnographic research in one de facto state for two aims: (1) to ask what the case of de facto state-building can tell us about state-building as such; and (2) to use this case to interrogate the singularity of the "de facto." The first of these aims builds on a body of literature in political theory, international relations, anthropology, and geography that interrogates the social construction of the state and sovereignty through everyday discourse and practice. Indeed, sovereign anomalies have played an important role in developing that literature, which burgeoned when the violent breakup of the USSR and Yugoslavia, and the unexpected claims of many groups to self-determination, led to a proliferation of breakaway states (e.g., Cornell 2002a, 2002b; Kolstø 2000; Kolstø and Blakkisrud 2008; Meadwell 1999; Pegg 1998; Richmond 2002; also cf. Grant 2009). These states' inability to gain recognition for their claims to self-determination has been used as an example by scholars to question Westphalian sovereignty as a normative framework, indeed leading one scholar to refer to it as "organized hypocrisy" (Krasner 1999; see also Paul 1999; Strange 1999).
Most important for this research, critiques of the Westphalian framework have included an important literature questioning the reification of both the state and sovereignty. One critic of the tendency to see sovereignty as a "thing" has instead described it as "a discursive framing of space, time, and identity" (Walker 1996: 16). In this view the sovereign state arises through discursive claims and practices, both domestic and international, that simultaneously "perform" sovereignty and create it (see also Howland and White 2009). These descriptions echo Timothy Mitchell's earlier argument that we may see the state as a structural effect, "the powerful, metaphysical effect of practices that make such structures appear to exist" (1991, 94; see also 1990). Concomitantly, Cynthia Weber called sovereignty a simulation produced by the agreement of other states not to intervene in another state's affairs. She notes, "The identity of the state—the ways we understand this materiality of people, territory, government, etc.—does not pre-exist performative expression of the state, including sovereignty" (1998: 92). Among a certain influential strand of political theory, then, there seems some agreement that acting like a state brings the state into existence, is a kind of metaphysical trick that makes something that is really only an idea seem like a real thing in the world. This view is, moreover, backed up by an anthropological and geographical literature on everyday state practices (e.g., Corbridge et. al. 2009, Ismail 2006, Wilson 2016) and the prosaic state (Painter 2006) that is visible in the mundane (Thrift 2000).
Our own focus on state practices, then, is not in itself original. Moreover, a number of important recent ethnographic works take a performative approach to the state and sovereignty, particularly in sites where the borders and constitution of the state are contested (e.g., Reeves, Jasanayagam, and Beier 2014; McConnell 2016, Reeves 2014; Wilson 2016; see also McConnell and Wilson 2015). However, we note that all of this literature relies on the workings of already existing states, even if they are contested ones. These are administrations where the cogs and engines of administration are already running, even if not always so well, or even if their right to do so is called into question.
Our case, in contrast, is one of a territorial state being built ex nihilo in a space that had not previously existed as such and that had to be ethnically cleansed and resettled. Moreover, it was an administration being built in full knowledge that only a negotiated solution with the Greek Cypriot government of the Republic of Cyprus would bring recognition, or legitimacy for their new entity. Realizing one's state, then, was always a project for the future, deferred until after a settlement (see also McConnell 2016: 20-24). As we show throughout this book, these circumstances meant that Turkish Cypriots' relationships with both the time and space of their new "state" were aporetic from the beginning, always suspended in anticipation of "the solution."
Throughout the book, we ask what de facto state-builders were thinking as they crafted an entity that the rest of the world told them should not exist and would never have statehood. It is a state whose sovereignty is suspended from its inception, a state whose ultimate form, and the sovereignty that will presumably come with it, are indefinitely deferred. In terms of our first aim, then, de facto states shed light on the state as such through the ways that citizens desire, contest, need, and believe in an entity that they may simultaneously joke is only "made up" (uyduruk). They participate in politics, contest in courts of law, educate their children, and generally follow the rules of a state where important parts of their lives—having recognized passports and internationally recognized title deeds, for example—are on hold. In this sense, our first aim of thinking about what de facto states tell us about the state as such is intrinsically connected to our second aim, interrogating the singularity of "the de facto."
Throughout the book, we prefer the term "de facto" over other labels—unrecognized, quasi, and informal, among others—that describe these entities, as we find it to be the most analytically helpful in pointing us to the puzzle that these states present. This became clear when we first began looking at the TRNC and other similar entities ethnographically. We were struck by a tendency—prevalent throughout all aspects of everyday life—for others to label everything about such states "de facto." They have de facto police, de facto judiciaries, de facto civil servants, and de facto politicians. They issue de facto passports that they stamp at de facto borders. People living in such states are de facto citizens and subjects, and in popular descriptions they lead de facto lives.
As should be clear from these examples, the "de facto" is both a practice—something "in fact"—and an illusion—a denial of fact. Moreover, there appears to be a thin line between the term "de facto" as applied to such entities and the idea that they are "fake" or "pseudo." Certainly, what is known in the literature as the "parent state"—the state from which they broke away—invariably denies their legal existence and insists that they are frauds. In both official pronouncements and public discourse in parent states, the breakaway entity is a "pseudo-state," while all the institutions we just named become "pseudo"-entities: pseudo-police, pseudo-courts, pseudo-passports. In Cyprus, the use of the prefix pseudo is so widespread that it often becomes a source of humor even for those who use it, especially when they slip and speak of pseudo-roads and pseudo-populations. For instance, the Greek Cypriot owner of one hip café in southern Nicosia described to us how he set up an outdoor shower on the roof of his house, which was just on the edge of the buffer-zone area that divides the capital. When someone asked him if he wasn't embarrassed to shower naked on his roof so that people on the other side could see, he asked sarcastically, "What people? It's a pseudo-place over there, so they can't be real people!"
The subtle difference between the two descriptions is that the "pseudo" of course emphasizes falseness and pretending to be something one is not. It is a way for parent states not only to deny the legitimacy of breakaway entities but even to pretend that they do not exist in fact. The "de facto," in contrast, simultaneously acknowledges a "fact on the ground" and denies it. In this sense, the de facto may be seen as a form of apophasis, a rhetorical device in which the speaker explicitly denies that she is saying something while implicitly saying it. So when a reporter refers to "Russia's de facto war in the Ukraine," she is saying that this is a war in fact, even if Russia does not want to name it that. Similarly, when we speak of de facto states, we refer simultaneously to their existence and the denial of their existence. They are de facto precisely because they do but should not exist.
Paradoxically, then, the "fact" of the de facto depends on denials of its existence for its facticity. The de facto introduces an element of doubt, as though to say that there is a ruse being attempted, but we are not falling for it. At the same time, it acknowledges that something has happened, a performance convincing enough to merit being called what it claims to be, even though we know this cannot or should not be the case. It is in this sense that the disbelief expressed in the de facto also points to practices or performances that simulate what they claim to be. The de facto, then, simultaneously invokes a "fact"—the practices and orders that make up what we call a state—and a doubt, or a discourse around that fact. One sees this in the label so-called, a term that may be used to express one's doubt about something (a so-called doctor) or simply to express the name by which something is commonly known (the so-called Lover's Lane of this town).
As a result of this pervasive discourse of fakeness or pseudo-ness, citizens of such states from their genesis live their lives in simultaneous knowledge of their state's existence and its nonexistence. In interrogating the de facto, we show throughout this book how Turkish Cypriots go about their daily lives enacting the practices of states and citizens, but always in the simultaneous knowledge that their very real state is not a reality as far as the world is concerned. Moreover, as we will see in this book, the state's impossible possibility is not only visible in labels given to it by others, such as "so-called" or "pseudo," but is also written into its laws and visible in its practices. Statecraft develops through tactics that circumvent their own impossible statehood. Citizens plan their lives in anticipation of their state's potential (though unlikely) dissolution. Developing the concept of the aporetic state, we explore how states and lives are built around the possibility of the impossible.
Arriving at the Aporia
Akõncõ's 2015 election was greeted with considerable excitement not only in north Cyprus but perhaps even more so in the international community and in the island's south. Many Greek Cypriots considered him a leader who had consistently worked for peace, and there were high expectations that the newly restarted negotiations would have a quick resolution. Those expectations in the south were primarily framed in terms of Akõncõ's presumed ability to think independently of Ankara, even his willingness to stand up to Ankara, and the expectation that he would make more concessions than the previous right-wing president had been willing to make.
What soon became apparent, however, were the contradictions of Akõncõ's position as a leftist who had always supported a federal solution to the island's division but who had also grown up with the Cyprus Problem and who, in his youth, had been an actor in the establishment of the so-called state. Akõncõ was born in 1947, during the final years of British rule of the island, when symbols of Greek and Turkish nationalism were the divisive expressions of political aspirations. For the first three-quarters of the twentieth century, "motherland" nationalisms were unquestioned in the island: Christian Greek speakers had a "natural" affiliation with the culture and history of Greece, embodied in the Greek state, and their political leaders worked toward enosis, or union of the island with the "motherland." Before the island passed to British rule in 1878, it had been a provincial part of the Ottoman Empire, and in the early twentieth century, Turkish Cypriots still expressed a historical memory of their fall from a ruling community to a numerical minority when the island changed hands. When the empire's collapse after World War I resulted in a Greek invasion of Anatolia, a rout by Turkish forces, and establishment of a new Turkish state, Muslim Turkish speakers on the island embraced the secularizing Turkish nationalism of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk, who represented victory and modernity.
Akõncõ was only in primary school when a popularly supported Greek Cypriot guerrilla organization, EOKA (Ethniki Organosis Kyprion Agoniston, or National Organization of Cypriot Fighters), took up arms against the British colonizers in 1955, with the aim of uniting the island with Greece. Greek Cypriot political leaders had expressed the desire for union with Greece for decades, and Turkish Cypriot leaders had always rejected that proposal. However, Turkish Cypriots were an 18 percent minority against an 80 percent majority that expected to be able to decide the fate of the island. After the first shots were fired in 1955, small bands of Turkish Cypriot men began secretly to organize the defense of their own villages. The first groups emerged as village gangs who armed themselves with hunting rifles and guns that they and their fathers had brought home from the world war. These gangs engaged in retribution and random acts of violence so that the civil conflict quickly escalated in 1956 and 1957. It was only when Turkish Cypriot leaders managed to draw Turkey into the dispute in the same period that organized resistance became possible. The gangs were brought under the control of the Türk Mukavemet Teşkilatõ (Turkish Defense Organization), popularly known as TMT. TMT was, in turn, under the command of Turkish officers who had secretly entered the island at the request of Turkish Cypriot political leaders and who soon disciplined the gangs and made them fighters for the "cause" (Keser 2007, 2012; Kõzõlyürek 2016).
Those same leaders who drew Turkey into the emerging Cyprus conflict were simultaneously beginning to create a representative institution that looked increasingly like a protostate. For several decades, Turkish Cypriots had tried their hand at creating representative institutions, largely because they saw the wealthy, independent Greek Orthodox Church as the primary motor behind the success of irredentist Greek nationalism on the island. In the late 1950s, other previous structures merged into the Kõbrõs Türk Kurumlar Federasyonu (Cyprus Turkish Federation of Institutions), KTKF. Under the leadership of certain educated nationalists, particularly the KTKF's president, Rauf Raif Denktaş, the body worked to spread and enforce a "motherland" Turkish nationalism in the community through methods such as Turkifying toponyms, coordinating village education, and organizing parades and festivals on national days. The KTKF also worked to build a Turkish economy on the island by enforcing a "Turk-to-Turk" consumer campaign that punished persons buying from Greek Cypriots (Keser 2007), and it promoted nationalist values and physical ideals through plays and beauty contests (Bryant and Hatay, in progress a).
At the same time that this institutionalization was happening, however, the spiraling violence led to Cyprus's first conflict-related displacement. Groups who were minorities in their own villages and neighborhoods fled to areas where their own community was a majority, setting the stage for larger displacements that were to come. Most of those displaced in the period returned to their homes after 1960, when the island was granted independence and a power-sharing constitution as the Republic of Cyprus. According to that constitution, Turkish Cypriots held 30 percent of the positions in the civil service. They also had fifteen of the fifty seats in parliament along with their own Communal Chamber, which handled civil affairs, such as those involving personal status, religion, and education. There was, in addition, a Turkish Cypriot vice president, and the Turkish Cypriot legislators had veto power over proposed legislation.
In 1963, when Akõncõ was a high school student of sixteen, President Makarios, also archbishop of the Orthodox Church of Cyprus, proposed changes to what many Greek Cypriots of the period considered an unworkable arrangement. Turkish Cypriots walked out of the parliament in protest. Violence exploded, and the Turkish Cypriot minority retreated to armed enclaves. Over the course of the winter of 1964, approximately 25,000 Turkish Cypriots fled mixed villages and neighborhoods for the safety of those that were entirely Turkish. However, almost 90 percent of the community, or around 100,000 people, soon found themselves in enclaves. Displaced Turkish Cypriots crowded into relatives' houses and other buildings, such as theaters, storage rooms, and schools, which were requisitioned to house them. The Turkish ghettos were put under a siege that would last for five years, though almost all continued to live in the ghettos even after Makarios unilaterally lifted the siege in 1968. During the 1963-1968 period, only those who had no choice attempted to cross through the layers of U.N. peacekeeping troops and Greek and Greek Cypriot military that surrounded the ghetto. Moreover, all men who could hold a gun became fighters, mücahits, and Akõncõ took up his own weapon to guard his neighborhood in the port city of Limassol, in the island's south.
Absent their Turkish Cypriot partners, the bicommunal RoC was quickly transformed into a Greek Cypriot-controlled state. Immediately after Turkish Cypriots' withdrawal from the government, Greek Cypriot legislators unilaterally abolished the bicommunal nature of the state and so effectively impeded Turkish Cypriot legislators' return to their seats in parliament. And in 1964, the Greek Cypriot leadership refused to allow U.N. peacekeeping troops to enter the island unless the United Nations received the permission of the Cyprus government, which at this point was controlled solely by Greek Cypriots. While questions were raised about what the "Cyprus government" meant at this point or how it was constituted, Turkish Cypriots' protests that they should be consulted as partners in the republic were disregarded. The state of the island was recognized as one of exceptionality, a suspension of the constitutional order, in which a state-within-a-state operated in enclaves while the recognized government of the island proceeded to run the republic without the partner community required by the constitution.
Turkish Cypriots very quickly re-created within the enclaves all the functions of a "real" state, complete with copies of the government offices of the state from which they had withdrawn. As early as 21 December 1963, when the first attacks began, the Cypriot Turkish General Committee (Kõbrõs Türk Genel Komitesi) was formed to constitute the infrastructure of the new administration. In coordination with TMT, the General Committee took over all the legislative and administrative functions of this new entity, employing the large numbers of civil servants who were out of work and whose positions the RoC had recorded as "abandoned." The administrative structure that was already in place put them to work distributing food, tents, blankets, and other supplies within the enclaves. By March 1964, Turkey sent its first package of monetary aid, and soon all heads of families began to receive the equivalent of 20 pounds sterling per month; working women were given half that amount.
In the following years, TMT gradually became a standing army that began increasingly to be concerned foremost with matters of security and that turned over other elements of enclave life to civilian control. By 28 December 1967, the Cyprus Temporary Turkish Administration (Kõbrõs Geçici Türk Yönetimi) was declared "with the aim of gathering legislative, administrative, and judicial functions under one roof" through the aid of "Fundamental Rules" (Temel Kurallar). It should be noted that the first of these "fundamental rules" stated that "until the full implementation of all of the conditions of the 16 August 1960 Constitution of the Republic of Cyprus, all Turkish Cypriots living within the Turkish Areas will be under control of the Turkish Administration" (Plümer 2008: 157). In other words, the "temporary" nature of the Turkish administration was dependent on a return to the 1960 constitution. At the same time, this was a period when military service, until this time voluntary, became compulsory. The Turkish Communal Chamber, historically representative of the Turkish Cypriot community, and former Turkish representatives to the RoC parliament also joined forces under this new administration to form the Administrative Council (Yönetim Meclisi). On 21 April 1971, the Administrative Council then made a decision to lift the word temporary from the name, changing it simply to the Cyprus Turkish Administration (KKTC Cumhuriyet Meclisi, N.D.).
Starting in the late 1960s, young men such as Akõncõ who had spent their youths studying in the day and guarding the trenches at night began receiving fighters' scholarships (mücahit burslarõ) to study at Turkish universities. This was how Akõncõ went to study architecture at Middle East Technical University in Ankara, where, like so many Turkish Cypriots of his generation, he was influenced by the 1968 movements and leftist and antimilitarist ideas. He returned to the island in 1973 and settled in northern Nicosia. The city, the island's capital, had been divided into Greek and Turkish areas since 1956, although by the time of Akõncõ's return, the barricades were open and Turkish Cypriots could pass to the "other side" to shop and work. Like all the other enclaves, however, the city's north remained under the control of the Cyprus Turkish Administration, and Greek Cypriots were unable to enter.
In 1974, at twenty-seven years old, Akõncõ's entire life had been shaped by the island's political conflict. Moreover, for the previous decade, educated, politically engaged youth such as Akõncõ had closely followed the periodic negotiations aimed at resolving the long-standing political impasse. Over time, the Turkish Cypriot position on how to resolve that impasse had shifted significantly, though all proposals contained one common element: the creation of a zone where Turkish Cypriots would have autonomy and authority. In the late 1940s, Turkish Cypriot leaders had proposed taksim, or partition, after their close contact with counterparts in Pakistan led them to model their own future on the division of the subcontinent. In the 1950s, this solution took the form of demands for "double union," or a division that would unite the newly created parts with the "motherlands" of Greece and Turkey. By the 1960s, union with Turkey was off the table, and in 1964, Turkish Cypriot leaders officially adopted the concept of bizonal federation with Greek Cypriot partners, and this position was backed by Turkey. For most of those same leaders, federation was a continuation of their previous position of taksim, or division of the island, but the question was how to create a territorial federation in an island where populations were scattered.
The answer was provided in 1974, when a right-wing Greek Cypriot guerrilla organization backed by the junta government in Greece attempted to overthrow President Makarios and unite the island with the "motherland." In response, Turkey launched a military invasion that divided the island and resulted in the flight of Greek Cypriots from the island's north, creating there a "safe zone" for Turkish Cypriots, who subsequently fled to that area. As we describe in the next chapters, in very quick order Turkish Cypriots set about state-building, and Akõncõ was one of the first leftists to enter the new state's Founding Assembly. That assembly was tasked with writing a constitution that would form the basis for their first stab at statehood, the Turkish Federated State of Cyprus (TFSC). This was the new entity whose name in its genesis already marked it as transitional, the first step toward a federation with a Greek Cypriot state in the island's south.
As those state-builders would soon learn, however, what they perceived as a military victory may have been a pyrrhic one. Even though they had stamped the new territory with "facts on the ground," those "facts" would remain de facto until they could convince their Greek Cypriot partners, possessors of a recognized state, to enter into a federation that would end the temporary nature of their own state's temporality. As Akõncõ would learn during his own failed period of negotiations, this was no easy task. Rather, as one former civil servant put it to us, "As we were rising from people to nation, we got hung somewhere in the middle." They got hung in the gap between the state that they were building on the ground and the federation that they imagined. It was in this gap that the aporetic state emerged.
The State That Is Not One
"We were establishing a state, but as one leg of a federal state," Akõncõ remarked to us in an interview a few months before he announced his candidacy for president. When we asked why he and other leftists did not believe in an independent Turkish Cypriot state, he answered,
Because for so many years, even from our youth, we saw federation as a model for Cyprus. . . . This was the Turkish proposal, the Russian proposal, it was what the Soviets supported, it was what was possible in Cyprus, what would be possible, and what would rescue us from being a minority. What would rescue us from living as a scattered minority in a Cyprus Republic that had become a Greek Cypriot Republic. . . . We believed that this solution would bring peace to Cyprus. We believed that this solution was the possible solution. Apart from that any other idea for a solution was not a solution for us. We believed there could be no other alternative. (authors' italics)
Akõncõ emphasizes that their support for federation was because it was "the possible solution" (mümkün olan çözüm) and there were no other options, referencing the external constraints put on independent statehood. Instead, a bizonal, bicommunal federation with their Greek Cypriot partners was the solution that even from the 1960s began to receive support from various members of the "international community" (a term to which we return in a later chapter), a support that gained ground after the island's division. As a result, the state that they were building after 1974 was supposed to be a temporary or transitional one on the way to a permanent solution.
What Akõncõ's remarks make clear, and what a large body of literature on the state and sovereignty supports, is that having a state is not only up to them and that "sovereignty . . . is an inherently social concept" (Biersteker and Weber 1996: 1). By granting or withholding recognition, "international society participates in the social construction of sovereign states" (6). Political theory and IR literature has long noted a gap between what is known as the declaratory view of sovereignty—"if it acts like a state, it must be a state"—and the constitutory view of sovereignty, which says that a state cannot be one without the recognition of other states. This is another way of expressing the tension that we find between sovereignty's social construction through the recognition of others and the idea that the state is a performance or practice. Indeed, despite a rather large literature on the social practices that constitute state-ness, there remains a tendency for the declaratory view of sovereignty to collapse into the constitutive view. Jens Bartelson remarks that while we may see the successful ability to project one's legitimate sovereignty claims through discourse as constituting a political and legal reality, "the benchmark of that success" is "nothing less than these sovereignty claims being recognized as such by other similar entities" (2013: 116). In other words, no matter how much one may perform state-ness, one does not perform in a void and needs an audience to see and recognize the performance as such.
Throughout this book, we take seriously this social nature of sovereignty and in particular the work done by recognition. We do this not to argue whether an entity such as the TRNC should or should not be recognized. We find that arguments around the necessity (or not) of recognition are too often trapped in ontological loops of trying to define whether an entity is a state or is not a state without recognition. Our concern, in contrast, is with the ways that people—both citizen of unrecognized states and others—treat the so-called state as a real entity with real effects on the world, even as those same citizens and international actors behave as though that entity cannot be realized. We are very much concerned, then, with how the social nature of sovereignty—the geopolitics of recognition and its withholding—shapes everyday lives and their possibilities. As we show throughout the book, everyday geopolitics not only affects the ways that de facto state-builders strategize but also how citizens think about, plan, and manage their lives.
Everyday geopolitics, we show, defines what is realistic and what options are ruled out. As we will discuss, many Turkish Cypriot leftists such as Akõncõ perceived federation as the realistic solution, the possible or realizable solution. As we will show in Part II, Turkish Cypriot politicians of all ideological persuasions took an active, indeed enthusiastic, part in building and shaping the de facto reality that was their new state, founded on an ethnically cleansed territory. All of this state-building took place, however, under the shadow of an overarching hegemonic realism that said that this state would never become one.
We return to this hegemonic realism in Chapter 6, but we will anticipate that discussion here by quoting a remark that James Scott makes in one of his first works on strategies of resistance. There, in a discussion of hegemony, he makes a direct link between the hegemonic and the realistic. "From a much more modest view of what hegemony is all about," he remarks, "it might be said that the main function of a system of domination is to accomplish precisely this: to define what is realistic and what is not realistic and to drive certain goals and aspirations into the realm of the impossible, the realm of idle dreams, of wishful thinking" (Scott 1985: 326). In our terms, it is hegemonic realism that defines the aporetic border, the inability to cross from the real to the realizable. This hegemonic realism told Turkish Cypriot state-builders that however much the entity they would establish might look and act like a state, it would never gain acceptance as such from the "international community."
Under the shadow of this hegemonic realism, then, the real is not realizable. But as we note above, this does not mean that the real is not perceived as real. Indeed, commentators often point out that even leftist leaders who support federation insist on the reality of the north as a space and a state. For instance, after a recent round of talks Akõncõ objected to the insistence of his interlocutor, Anastasiades, that only the Republic of Cyprus would be transformed in the creation of the federal state: "It is known that we have differences on this subject. As far as they are concerned, there is only the Cyprus Republic, and [a new state] will be its transformation; because for them, the TRNC does not exist. As far as we're concerned, on the other hand, even if it's not recognized, of course there is a TRNC, and it will be transformed into a constituent state
with a solution." After this statement appeared in the news, many people commented on social media that there was no difference between this position and that of right-wing nationalists who insisted on the north's independence.
It should not be surprising if average citizens are not always able to comprehend the subtle difference between a so-called nationalist position that says that the real is also realizable, and a so-called peaceful position that posits the real as a temporary step on the way to conforming with a hegemonic realism supposedly in line with international norms. This is particularly the case in that so-called nationalist or conservative leaders have based many of their arguments for potential independence on the dominant international relations theory of Realism, which says that in an anarchic international system, nation-state interests will trump international law. From this perspective, then, the hope of recognition—of finally realizing statehood for one's already existing state—is bolstered by the knowledge that, in international politics, stranger things have happened.
Of course, to call Akõncõ's position nationalist implies that to be peace-loving the so-called president of a so-called state should disavow the entity that he represents. According to this peculiar position, for Akõncõ to describe himself as anti-nationalist and peace-loving, he could and should engage in the battles of multi-party politics—spend months preparing a campaign, engage in rancorous debates with opponents, and win the so-called presidency in a second round—but in doing so should always hold in mind the non-existence of the state that he fought to lead. What the public confusion over Akõncõ's statement should make clear, then, is that the aporia or gap between the real and the realizable—a "self-engendered paradox" (Aalberts 2018: 864)—generates further contradictions that shape the lives of de facto citizens.
Those ever-multiplying paradoxes and contradictions are at the heart of this book. And what we believe this example makes clear it that while our aporetic state certainly can tell us something about the practice or performance of the state as such, it is also a phenomenon that deserves to be explored on its own terms. We emphasize this point because some of the best recent work on sovereign anomalies has explicitly eschewed a study of those entities' exceptionality. Fiona McConnell, in her insightful ethnographic account of the Tibetan exiled administration, says that she follows "the argument that the 'exceptional' has something to tell us about the 'normal'" and that she wishes to expose "the contingent practices that underlie political power in so-called 'conventional' states" (2016: 5). Similarly, Yael Navaro's ethnography of our own case, north Cyprus, points to the so-called state's obviously made-up character even as she insists that an unrecognized state can provide a lens onto the "make-believe" aspects of state-making as such (Navaro-Yashin 2012: loc. 574). To that end, she rejects, indeed discourages, comparison with other de facto entities, viewing any attempt to delineate what such states may have in common as "a narrow reading of what an ethnographic lens onto a de facto administration can offer" (loc. 574). In contrast, we suggest that not making such comparisons leads to a narrow reading, as otherwise it is difficult to delineate what an analysis of a de facto state tells us about the state as such, and what it may tell us about living with non-recognition (see also Pelkmans 2013).
Certainly, Turkish Cypriots perceive their contradictory lives as exceptional or abnormal and long for what they call "normalization," normalleşme. Normalleşme is what is expected to happen after "the solution" rescues them from belirsizlik, a perpetual state of uncertainty. Belirsizlik can cover a wide range of ambiguities, from haziness or fogginess to dubiousness and being in limbo. In general, Turkish Cypriots use it to say that they do not know where they stand in the world or where they are going. Belirsizlik, then, is both temporal and spatial, both leaving them without a clear path to the future and turning the space where they live into a "black hole" in the international order.
Above, we quoted one of our informants as describing this sense of spatiotemporal entrapment (Jansen 2015) through the remark that they had become "hung somewhere in the middle" as they were "rising from people to nation." This description also applies to other unrecognized states, who are often called "states-in-waiting" (Caspersen 2012, Pegg 1998). Of course, citizens of de facto states are not the only ones to experience temporal "stuckness" (Hage 2009). Stef Jansen, for instance, has described Bosnians after the Dayton Accords as living in a Meantime defined by the yearning but not-quite expectation of someday having a "real" state (2015). Fiona McConnell has written of the Tibetan exiled government as being in a state of extended liminality (McConnell 2016: 20-24). Permanent temporariness is also a recurring theme amongst refugee populations, who often flee with the dream of return, only to find their dreams suspended (e.g., Dunn 2018, Weber and Peek 2012). But while exiled governments or refugee populations are in a state of waiting in which temporary structures set up to meet immediate needs become increasingly permanent, the so-called state is one that was constructed and imagined as permanent but where its form and name were suspended until "the solution."
Along with that liminality, citizens of the Turkish Cypriot state also experience a sense of spatial entrapment resulting from their international status as a "pirate," "puppet," or "pariah" state. We discuss throughout the book how this sense of entrapment has changed over time, and the conjunctural factors that led to such changes. What is worth noting now, however, is that all of the descriptors (pirate, puppet, pariah, rogue, outlaw, etc.) that justify isolating these entities describe them in ways that cast them outside the international order. One of the main results of this, as we discuss in Part II, is that the so-called state lacks an International Legal Personality that would endow it (and by extension, its citizens) with rights and responsibilities in that order. Being outside the international order not only traps them in their so-called state as a result of embargoes and isolations but also makes them invisible to the rest of the world: this is the state that should not exist and so cannot be seen.
What distinguishes the spatiotemporal entrapment of de facto states, then, is what we describe throughout the book as invisibilization, and we examine the various acts of both the state and its citizens aimed at making them perceptible in the world. Ralph Ellison, writing of the position of African Americans in the United States, had described such a lack of perception: "I am invisible, understand, simply because people refuse to see me" ( 1995: 3). Similarly, with unrecognized states, international bodies see you quite well but choose to ignore you. Moreover, as will become clear, no matter how much one waves one's fists at the world, international actors who refuse to acknowledge you simply turn their metaphorical backs. "'High visibility'" Ellison remarked, "actually renders one un-visible" (ii). The de facto state, too, is the one that cannot be seen, because seeing it would mean having to do something about it.
One of the most tangible ways in which this invisibilization or refusal to see is manifested in everyday life is in the use of quotation marks to describe everything referring to the so-called state and the people who live within it. The TRNC is the "TRNC," and it is not a state but a "state." Its boundaries are not borders but "borders," and those persons who live there and claim rights in the "state" are not citizens but "citizens." Quotation marks multiply exponentially, with a president who is a "president," members of parliament who are "MPs," mayors who are "mayors," identity cards that are "identity cards," and so on, ad infinitum. The quotation marks stand in for the more cumbersome prefixes "de facto" or "so-called," or the more pejorative "pseudo." The quotation marks allow one to point to a stubborn reality while at the same time behaving as though it does not really exist.
Quotation marks, then, simultaneously acknowledge something as real and say that it cannot or should not be seen as real. We may say, then, that the quotation marks circumscribe the aporia. They call attention not to the de facto itself but rather to those invocations of doubt that accompany descriptions of the de facto. Their use makes these entities appear to be phantasms (Navaro-Yashin 2012) or phantoms (Byman and King 2012), their reality dubious. However, this spectrality is not a quality of the entities themselves but a result of the hegemonic realism that persistently invisibilizes, including through punctuation.
Quotation marks, then, act as an aporetic border, circumscribing lives of persistent uncertainty, where permanence is a project for the future. As a result, as we describe in Part III, citizens of the so-called state learn to "manage" or to "get by" in their daily lives, finding ways around the quotation marks that contain them and the international order that excludes them. If the first two parts of the book, then, return to the beginnings of the so-called state to understand the aporias that were present in state-building from its founding, the final part of the book explores the resilient tactics that Turkish Cypriots have developed to go on with their lives. Excavating the contradictions and paradoxes of the aporetic state allows us to understand the sorts of citizens, subjects, and agents who manage a life in quotation marks.
Observers often describe Cyprus as a frozen conflict, by which they mean one in which a relatively comfortable stalemate prevails, and people do not have sufficient incentives to change the situation (Adamides and Constantinou 2012). Decades may pass without significant progress toward a negotiated settlement, and each side has an interest in remaining entrenched in its position. That entrenchment means that the conflict is not the only thing that is frozen: Frozen conflicts also produce a wealth of solidified concepts, ones that are as ubiquitous as their meanings are obscure. Throughout this book, we interrogate concepts such as status quo and facts on the ground that are pervasive because they "capture something obvious but elusive and hard to put into words" (Stolzenberg 2009: 8-9). Two of the most important of these are de facto and sovereignty, and it is worth saying a few words in this introduction about how we use these concepts throughout the book. We earlier noted that the de facto is a description that, when applied to states, already contains within it a denial of its facticity that makes it aporetic. Sovereignty, on the other hand, is a concept that seems like a driving force in such conflicts, even as its meaning and content remain opaque.
While there is a large body of literature acknowledging that we really do not know what we mean when we talk about sovereignty, it turns out that the concept of the de facto is in quite a similar position. Indeed, despite its claims to common-sense factuality, de facto turns out to be one of the most widely used but least examined terms in the social sciences. Because of this, we initially did not focus on the term itself but rather on the facticity to which it pointed. We tried to find the state's recognizable marks (Lombard 2012) and were particularly concerned with the fait accompli, the "accomplished fact," which creates a "fact on the ground" (Stolzenberg 2009) whose reality cannot be denied. We soon found, however, that at every step those realities were denied, and that this, rather than its facticity, was what made the so-called state de facto. As such, we comprehended that we were dealing with a term that on the one hand helped us attempt to pin down something that was widely perceived to be "real" and on the other hand concealed the paradox that it already denied the real's realizability.
We wandered around in the conceptual maze of the de facto for quite a few years before finding our own concepts to help us understand the paradoxes of living in a state that the world refuses to see. Throughout the book, we use the factum of the de facto to describe what it is that people point to as real when they use the term de facto, while we use the term factitious to explain the element of falseness that invocation of the de facto seems invariably to connote. The factum of the de facto points to those elements—the deeds, acts, or practices—that people see as real. Etymologically, the facto of the de facto is the ablative of the Latin factum, meaning a deed or act. We see the factum of the de facto as constituted by the practices and orders of state-building, pointing to what we acknowledge as state-ness when we see it.
However, invocations of the de facto also contain an excess of meaning that points to falseness, suggesting that people performing the state are just faking it. We call this second-order level of discursive practice the factitious, a performance that emphasizes its own making. As such, it may at times appear factual, at times fabricated. The aporetic state is one where the performance of state-ness that gives other states what Timothy Mitchell (1991) described as a "powerful, metaphysical effect" is always already handcuffed by an acknowledgment of that factitiousness. As we will see throughout this book, it is a "state" where state-builders were quite serious about the tasks of statecraft even as they simultaneously acknowledged that they were just making it up. As we argue later in the book, it is at the level of the factitious that the conflict over the realizability—or not—of the de facto state comes to be played out.
Our approach to the "made-up" or so-called state, then, is one that takes seriously the role of factitiousness in everyday life and that ponders the paradoxes that emerge from it. In this sense, our approach differs significantly from what is otherwise the only other ethnographic work also to address the "made-up" nature of an unrecognized state, also focusing attention on north Cyprus. Yael Navaro's 2012 The Make-Believe State: Affective Geography in a Post-War Polity points to this state as a "phantasm," remarking, "The make-believe can be read as a play on the notion of the de facto: something that exists, but not really; an entity that has been crafted and erected phantasmically, that has been believed through the making or materialized in the imagining" (Navaro-Yashin 2012: loc. 570). Navaro's basic insight in that work is that the social construction of the state is not only imaginative but also material (loc. 257), an observation that is certainly in consonance with our own descriptions of how the material making of the so-called state was entwined from the beginning with its imagining.
Where we immediately part ways, however, is in what we noted above as Navaro's desire to make her case speak to the state as such and insistence throughout that work on the non-exceptional nature of her exceptional case. From the beginning of our work, we have been concerned instead with the particular qualities of de facto states make them seem made up. What makes this particular state, or this sort of state, differ from other states such that it develops qualities of the unreal? Moreover, does it always have those qualities, or only at certain moments? And what sorts of everyday practices and ways of getting by emerge in response to those qualities? Furthermore, how do we understand the relationship between making and believing, and what does that relationship in this instance tell us about the relationship in similar cases, and in the social construction of the state as such?
The standard way of explaining the spectral nature of the so-called state brings us to our second opaque concept: sovereignty. The lack of sovereignty is the standard answer to the question of why this state is de facto. However, as the reader should understand by now, even invoking the problem of sovereignty obscures things more than it clears them up. Indeed, sovereignty is another pervasive but elusive concept, and one with its own venerable tradition of conceptual confusion. (Should sovereignty be applied to persons, to communities, or to states? Where is it located? How does one acquire it? What does or should it do?) When coupled together with the de facto—as in de facto sovereignty—one may struggle for years to emerge from the conceptual maze that is created. As a result, sovereignty is another concept that requires dissection in this book.
The book builds to a discussion, in the conclusion, of a particular understanding of sovereignty that we believe provides a new way to appropriate the term for anthropology. Looking ethnographically at what Turkish Cypriots want when they want the sovereignty they cannot have, we argue that what they express is actually a desire for sovereign agency, a way to be "present" in the world (see also Bryant and Reeves forthcoming). In the vernacular, this is articulated as "bu memleketin efendisi olmak" (to be the master of this country). In its older usages, efendi meant a master, lord, or seigneur, in other words, someone who controls a small fiefdom but also someone whose word is law. In addition, however, it has the connotations of a gentleman, someone worthy of honor and respect. To say, then, "Bu memleketin efendisi olacagùõz" (We will be masters of this country), is to say that one will be able freely to realize one's communal will and have that respected by others.
Indeed, from the beginning of the twentieth century, this minority community had tied the ability to have sovereign agency to being seen, acknowledged, and respected (see also Bryant 2004). The phrase varolma mücadelesi, discussed earlier, meant a struggle to be present or existent. More recently, many Turkish Cypriots have begun to describe this as a right to enact their "political will" (siyasi irade). All of these descriptions have resonances with Jessica Cattelino's ethnographically informed understanding of sovereignty as "lived experiences of political differentiation" (2008: loc. 2202), something that "is both built from and sustains collectivities" (loc. 2214). In other words, not only did a desire for sovereign agency arise from experiences of difference but the struggle to realize it defined them.
Over the course of the twentieth century, many Turkish Cypriots understood that this sovereign agency could only be achieved through representative, communal institutions that began increasingly to look state-like. However, having institutions that looked state-like did not mean that they were particularly intent on having a separate state. Rather, as the list of institutions in the Appendix shows, those institutions were conjunctural and improvisatory. Even the so-called state that they established immediately after 1974 was predicated on its future dissolution into another, federal state—one where, as Akõncõ's speaker commented, Turkish Cypriots' status would be elevated, that is, where they would have a "presence."
We use the idea of sovereign agency to describe what political theorist Patchen Markell (2003) has articulated as an imagined form of effective agency or control in which one will be able to achieve what one wants when one wants it. Markell and others have described this as a desire that is always frustrated, because it relies upon misrecognition of "one's own fundamental situation or circumstances" (19; see also Epstein, Lindemann, and Sending 2018). Or as Charlotte Epstein observes, "At the core of all human agency lies an impossible desire to be recognised as the sovereign actor that one never quite is, even when one is a state" (Epstein 2018: 807). Here, the idea that sovereign agency is always impossible, "even when one is a state," again makes it seem as though the particular impediments to sovereign agency experienced in de facto states simply are one part of the misrecognition that characterizes all states. While accepting the fundamental conditionality of all agency, we contend that there are also specific forms of misrecognition that emerge from the hegemonic realism that says that a state such as that in north Cyprus cannot be one.
We have referred several times to the gap between the real and the realizable that we contend defines the aporetic state. What would it mean to realize the real? The concept of sovereign agency enables us to give the "realizable" substance, because clearly what the citizens of the so-called state find is missing and makes their "state" seem spectral is the ability to use it to act as effective agents in the world. And while full sovereign agency may always be unrealizable, whether as individuals or as communities, the inability to realize the state as a sovereign agent takes a particular form in de facto entities.
Specifically, we show throughout this book how Turkish Cypriots have been made into subjects of the international regime of power only to the extent that they have been denied sovereign agency. Within that regime, they have been cast either as "pirates" and therefore "outlaws" or as "puppets" and therefore without will. This leads initially to what we call, in Part I, the aporia of perceptibility, or the ways in which the practices and orders intended to make Turkish Cypriots perceptible to the world instead invisibilized them. Part II builds on these insights to focus on the aporia of recognizability, or how Turkish Cypriot attempts to make themselves recognizable made them unnameable. As state-building proceeded and the state became more entrenched, the distinction became ever clearer between the reality of a state, something recognizable in its state-ness, and the always present knowledge that it was an entity that could not be named, whose name would always be censored and surrounded by aporetic quotation marks. In Part III, however, the aporias of perceptibility and recognizability that were part of state-building from the beginning ultimately produced ways of "getting by" the international order. We discuss there what we call the aporia of agency, or an agency that is possible only to the extent that it is denied.
These, we argue, are the particular qualities of de facto states that make them seem made up. The circumstances that create these aporias also allow us to understand how such states differ from other states such that they develop qualities of the unreal. Discussion of these aporias allows us to explore those moments where factitiousness, or the constructedness of the state, disappears into the background, and others where it becomes urgently present. It allows us to trace out the sorts of tactics and practices that emerge in response to these paradoxes. Moreover, while our focus is the nitty-gritty of unrecognized state-building in a specific case, our preliminary comparative ethnographic fieldwork in Abkhazia and Transnistria leads us to believe that the story told here has wider relevance for other persons living with the paradoxes of being actors but not agents and performing a state that everyone else says is only faking it.
A Few Words on Writing
Much has been written about the Cyprus conflict, including by the authors themselves. Some readers may be surprised to find that in this book the conflict is background but not the subject; indeed, Greek Cypriots very rarely appear in these pages. We see this as a reflection of our ethnography and of the ways that in a divided island particular life worlds emerge whose practices and orders make very contained references to the "other side" and its inhabitants. This is not to say that Greek Cypriots and the Republic of Cyprus are not present, but they tend to enter the picture at particular levels of discourse, especially in the realm of what we call the factitious. In other words, they enter the picture primarily at the point where the realization of the real is called into doubt because of claims to another real, and the way those claims are realized in the hegemonic realism of the international order.
Moreover, despite the expansive literature on the conflict, very little has been written in English about the island's north, particularly for the period under study here. Indeed, until the opening of the checkpoints in 2003, research in and on the north was highly politically constrained, and researchers consistently self-censored their language in order to avoid "taboo" words such as state, sovereignty, or border (minus the quotation marks) in relation to the entity in the island's north. Persons who attempted research in the north or with Turkish Cypriots risked being censured, particularly in the island's south. Academic conferences and public events were predictably marked by political grandstanding and rote condemnation of any attempts to understand political life in north Cyprus outside the framework of "invasion and occupation." In the early 1990s, when she crossed often from south Nicosia to its northern side, Rebecca experienced surveillance by Greek Cypriot police. Anthropologist Yiannis Papadakis describes similar experiences when he attempted fieldwork in the north during approximately the same period (2005).
In the years since the 2003 opening, the situation has considerably relaxed, and today there is much academic collaboration across the Green Line. Previous scholarly emphasis on the Cyprus conflict and focus on ethnonationalisms—their emergence, their historical narration, their continuation today—has given way to a more diverse set of research topics, including labor migrants (e.g., Trimikliniotis and Demetriou 2011); the island's religious and ethnic diversity (e.g., Varnava, Coureas, and Elia 2009; Constantinou and Skordis 2011); the environment and climate change; and the politics of resource extraction (e.g., Gürel, Mullen and Tzimitras 2013). Along with this post-2003 diversification and increased interactions of Turkish and Greek Cypriot academics in scholarly venues has come an acknowledgment that the "invasion and occupation" description of the island's north does not suffice to explain the complexities of politics there. Nevertheless, the sovereignty conflict that continues to divide the island also continues to constrain scholarship in surprising ways. One example, as we describe in our Note on Toponyms, was the Republic of Cyprus legislature's unamimous decision in 2013 to outlaw the place names that Turkish Cypriots use today and make their use subject to heavy penalty in the island's south. As a result, there remain important impediments to research that also constrain political possibilities. If one cannot have informed discussions, how can one hope to negotiate a "realistic" solution to the island's division?
The reader will notice that throughout the book we refer to "Turkish Cypriots" (Kõbrõslõ Türk) or the "Turkish Cypriot community" (Kõbrõs Türk toplumu) to describe Turkish-speaking, nominally Muslim (though actively secular) persons who consider themselves indigenous to the island. In the past couple of decades, an active discussion has emerged in the island's north, and is reflected in academic literature, that questions the identity of this self-described community using a spectrum of possible identifying descriptors ranging from entirely Turkish (and associated with Turkey) to entirely Cypriot (and downplaying the Turkish side of "identity"). This heterogeneity of views on this community's "essential" or "real" identity means that our use of the term "Turkish Cypriot" cannot and does not refer to some essence that we take as definitional. Rather, we use "Turkish Cypriot" to describe that group of people and their descendants who answered the "call" of the so-called state: those persons who crossed the line, settled there, and refused to return to the south. Moreover, this refusal, which we discuss in Chapter 7, legitimized their so-called state as a space of safety. "Turkish Cypriot," then, refers to those persons who were intepellated by the hailing of the so-called state (Althusser 1971) and whose active participation in its political life served to ground and found it.
Throughout this book, we interrogate the ways that the community and its institutions were co-created in the act of making the so-called state. We find that much of what constitutes both the inside and the outside of community in north Cyprus has emerged as Turkish Cypriots enacted the practices and orders that make up what we call the site of the state. In this sense, community-building is inextricable from the nitty-gritty of (unrecognized) state-making. This will become clear throughout the book as we concern ourselves with the practices of displacement and resettlement that constituted the border; with the distribution of appropriated Greek Cypriot "resources" that constituted the economy; and with the conflicts over those resources that constituted politics and party divisions. We concern ourselves with Turkish Cypriots' complicated relationship with their "patron state," Turkey, and with Turkish citizens, and how that relationship was inserted into a political economy of loot. We call this work an ethnographic genealogy because we take our cues from problems present today in the lives of de facto citizens, but we show that the dilemmas and contradictions of those de facto lives can only be understood genealogically, by returning to the founding of their aporetic state.
Our story begins from this founding moment, when an island that had been whole was suddenly split, and the flight of populations to either side of the cease-fire line, and the ethnic homogenization that resulted, would create what we know today as the island's north and south. Our story begins, then, from the moment when the "north" began to emerge as a tangible, separate, if unrecognized space. It concerns how a "north" might emerge as "real" despite international condemnations, denials of its existence, and the belief of large numbers of its citizens that such a state was not realizable. Our story concerns what it means to have de facto lives, and even de facto dreams, always on the threshold between acknowledgment and recognition, between certainty and uncertainty, and between the state and its "so-called" mirror.