Becoming Abject: Rape as a Weapon of War

B Diken & CB Laustsen

Diken, B., & Laustsen, C. B. (2005). Becoming abject: Rape as a weapon of war. Body & Society, 11(1), 111-128.

Testicles are a national symbol, a trademark of the race; other peoples have luck, tradition, erudition, history, reason – but we alone have balls. (Danilo Kis quoted in Bracewell, 2000: 57)

  1. Introduction: rape and warfare

For centuries organized rape has been an integral aspect of warfare. Yet, remarkably, it has been absent from the classics on warfare, which have predominantly focused on ‘regular’ warfare in which one army confronts another in a battle for the conquest or defence of a territory. Within the last two decades, however, there has been increasing interest in ‘asymmetric’ warfare and accordingly in phenomena such as guerrilla tactics, terrorism, hostage taking together with aspects of war related to identity, be it religious fundamentalism and holy war, ethnic cleansing, or war rape (Kaldor, 1998). War rape is perhaps the clearest example of an asymmetric strategy. In war rape, the enemy soldier attacks a civilian (not a combatant), a woman (not another male soldier), and only indirectly with the aim of holding or taking a territory. The prime aim of war rape is to inflict traumas and thus to destroy family ties and group solidarity within the enemy camp. Apart from de-moralization of the enemy, war rape can also become an integral aspect of ethnic cleansing.

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From War to War – Lord of the Flies as the sociology of spite

Bülent Diken & Carsten Bagge Laustsen

 Diken, B., & Laustsen, C. B. (2006). From war to war: Lord of the Flies as the sociology of spite. Alternatives: Global, Local, Political, 31(4), 431-452.

The Lord of the Flies is expanding his Reich

All treasures, all blessings are swelling his might …

Down, down with the handful who doubt him!

(Stefan George, 1907)[1]

The film Lord of the Flies, based on William Golding’s novel with the same title,[2] is a dystopic comment on war. For Golding, as for his contemporaries such as Adorno and Horkheimer, war was more than just a dark spot, an exception, in the history of civilization. The life of a group of boys on a desert island, which the film depicts with ruthless precision, does not illustrate a case of regress to pre-social forms but rather an ever-present possibility of our system, a state of exception. Indeed, in stark contrast to the standard interpretations, the two ‘clans’ the boys establish on the island, those led by Ralph and Jack respectively, explicate the two sides of the same social bond. The ‘upper’ side consists in the image of society as rule-governed and institutionalised, and citizens as law-abiding; on the ‘downside’, however, we encounter fantasies of transgression, potlach and perversion: democratic utopianism versus fascist violence, society versus the mob. The two topologies co-exist and thus it would be a mistake to see one of them as being closer to nature, more true or more revealing than the other, which is also why there is always a fragile balance between the two topologies. It is this fragility, the split character of authority, that Lord of the Flies dramatises. Ralph continuously appeals to reason and order while Jack empowers his discursive position through references to an enemy, the ‘monster’ on the hill. Ralph’s mistake, and the shortcoming of democracy in general, is his denial of what Bataille called ‘heterogeneity’: the importance of expenditure, play, war and disorganisation in social life. What Jack can neither predict nor perceive, on the other hand, is that his disorganising lines of flight potentially can turn into an orgy of violence and, ultimately, a spiteful death.

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The Camp

Bülent Diken & Carsten Bagge Laustsen

Diken, B., & Laustsen, C. B. (2006). The camp. Geografiska Annaler: Series B, Human Geography, 88(4), 443-452.

Today it is not the city but rather the camp that is the fundamental biopolitical paradigm of the West.

(Agamben 1998: 181)

The camp, Agamben’s central concept of spatiality, can only be defined in relation or, perhaps rather as “nonrelation”, to what is historically termed a “city”, that is, a geographical and social space opened up by a clear demarcation, a differentiation between what is inside and outside, between civilization and barbarism. Hence the best known “city myth” in our civilization, the story of Remus and Romulus, runs like this: the king of pre-Roman Alba Longa places his rival’s daughter, Rea Silvia, in a sanctuary. However, she is raped by the god Ares and gives birth to Romulus and Remus. The king orders the boys to be drowned. But they were found and suckled by a she-wolf. As adults the twins lead a revolt in Alba, and restore the government to their grandfather Numitor, who is still alive. At the same time, they decide to found a new city: Rome. But they disagree as to its location: while Romulus chooses a certain site for the new city, his brother Remus choose another one. They consent in settling their quarrel through the flight of vultures, that is, the birds of omen. Romulus sees twelve vultures and Remus only six. Romulus establishes the distinction between the city and the outside by plotting a line. However, Remus knows that Romulus lied about the number of vultures, that is, he transgressed the divine rule, and being aware of the deceit ridicules and tries to get in the way of the construction of the city. At some point, he mocks the new lowly walls of Rome and leaps across them, and for his transgression Romulus’ men, instructed to let no man cross the walls, kill him.

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Vakit tamamdır! – Takva, zaman ve komünizm

Bülent Diken


De ki: Değişmeyen gerçek geldi, sahte ve tutarsız olan yıkılıp gitti. Zaten sahte ve tutarsız olan er ya da geç yıkılıp gitmek zorundadır.

(Kur’an, Isra Suresi)

Çok alametler belirdi, vakit tamamdır.

Haram sevab oldu, sevap haramdır.

(Nazım Hikmet)

Takva’nın odak noktası iki dünya – dünyevi ve uhrevi – arasında askıda kalan Muharrem’in trajedisi. Muharrem hayatını Allah yoluna adamış samimi bir tarikat müridi. Dünyevi tatlardan sakınmayı ilahi kurtuluşun reçetesi olarak görüyor. Süleymaniye’nin bir mahallesinde ailesinden ona miras kalan ahşap evde tek başına yaşayıp, babasının onu küçük bir çocukken işe yerleştirdiği çuvalcı dükkanında çalışıyor. Yaşadığı semtin dergahındaki zikir meclislerine düzenli olarak katılıyor.

Film ezan sesleriyle, Muharrem’in abdest alıp sabah namazı kıldığı görüntülerle başlıyor. Rüyasında bir kadınla sevişmiş, boşalmış ve uyandığında abdestini tazelemiştir. Bu girişin ardından, Muharrem, tarikat şeyhi Cemal’in ricasıyla dergahın hesap kitap işlerini üstlenir. Dergahın İstanbul’un çeşitli semtlerindeki mülklerinin kirasını toplayacak, gerektiğinde tamir, bakım ve onarım işlerini yaptıracaktır. Muharrem’e lüks bir araba tahsis edilir, emrine de bir şoför verilir. Şeyhin sağ kolu Rauf’un deyimiyle, ²Şeyhin zenginlik göstergeleriyle Muharrem’inki bir değildir, tarikatın bereketi Muharrem’de görünmelidir.²

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Zones of indistinction – security, terror, and bare life

Bülent Diken & Carsten Bagge Laustsen

Diken, B., & Laustsen, C. B. (2002). Zones of indistinction security, terror, and bare life. Space and culture, 5(3), 290-307.

Today it is not the city but rather the camp that is the fundamental biopolitical paradigm of the West.

 (Agamben 1998: 181)

The image of the city that proliferates in recent blockbuster movies is that of a jungle. 12 Monkeys, for instance, depicts a city under invasion from vegetation and animals, the former residents of the Zoo. In the aftermath of a biochemical attack there emerges an “urban jungle” in which law is privatized and chaos becomes the rule, while city dwellers are forced into underground caves in search of safety. The archetypal link between civilization and barbarism is thus reversed: city life turns into a state of nature characterized by the rule of terror, accompanied by an omnipresent fear. This fear is not the fear of punishment that follows the transgression of the law but stems from knowing that there is no law to transgress. Here we have the underlying fantasy behind contemporary urban life: the city is an unpredictable and dangerous site of survival, an “urban jungle”. And then of course the hero, the benevolent guerrilla of 12 Monkeys, reenacts the founding myth of civilization/society, creating zones of safety just as the sovereign did in Hobbes’ Leviathan. Through a decisionist act, a distinction between law and chaos, between humanity and bare life, is established.

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The emancipated city: Notes on Gezi Revolts

Bülent Diken


 Diken, B. (2014). The emancipated city: notes on Gezi Revolts. Journal for Cultural Research, 18(4), 315-328.


The article deals with 2013 revolts in Turkey as an attempt at inventing a link between the particular and the universal. To start with, I brie fl y discuss the history of Turkish republicanism and the transformation of its relation to secularism, economy and the state. Then I turn to the political dimension of the revolts, focusing on the iconic figures of subjectivity that emerged during the events. In this respect, the practical and theoretical tension between mobility and immobility is emphasized, arguing that it is what constitutes the destabilizing aspect of the revolts in relation to both Islamic neo-liberalism and neo-liberal Islam. This is followed by a discussion of the reactionary views on the revolts combined with a critique of their political-theological leitmotivs. The pivot around which these moves are undertaken and the terms of the discussion are determined is the concept of event.

Keywords: Gezi; revolt; event; politics; Turkey; religion

Contemporary politics is haunted by a paradox: most political problems are thematized as particular issues, while their causes, the social processes behind them, are often universalistic in nature. Capital, for instance, is a universal measure of value while it mediates, at the same time, the particular, time-space bound relations. It is also this dialectical power of money that enables the Right to insist on the role of the market in social regulation, on its ability to link the particular and the universal. Any progressive politics, therefore, must invent a link between the particular and the universal which can challenge the market’s universalism-particularism. The political question, in other words, is grounded in the movement from the particular to the universal (Albertsen 2002: 49; Harvey 1996: 332, 360-2).

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Religious Antinomies of Post-Politics

Bülent Diken

Diken, B. (2014). 6 Religious Antinomies of Post-Politics. The Post-Political and Its Discontents: Spaces of Depoliticization, Spectres of Radical Politics, 126.

… if it is true that God is the place where humans think through their decisive problems… (Agamben 2011a: 4)

… the criticism of religion is the first premise of all criticism. (Marx 1957: 41)

When much is written about a phenomenon, when it appears to occupy a central position in thought, it is often a sure sign that the phenomenon is about to vanish, illuminating, like a dead star, in the very process of disappearing. One could say that, along the same lines, the concept of ‘post-politics’ gestures towards articulating a vision of a disappearance of ‘politics’ in its radical sense, as the attempt to change society. Indeed interest in ‘politics’ in this sense has been absent in the philosophical and social scientific discourses, except, that is, in the works of a few Leftist philosophers such as Badiou, Negri, Rancière and Žižek. Did their efforts not signify the last, cramp-like movements of a dying concept?

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