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Sovereignty in Drag: On Fakes, Foreclosure, and Unbecoming States


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Moynihan Institute of Global Affairs 

Sovereignty, Order and Conflict presents

Sovereignty in Drag: On Fakes, Foreclosure, and Unbecoming States

A growing ethnographic literature demonstrates the mundane practices through which both the state and sovereignty are performed. This article asks at what point such performances succeed or where they may fail, even for those enacting them. The article builds on long-term research in an unrecognized state, the “Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus,” which is often called a pirate or pseudo-state and which has undergone several decades of international isolations. Since the early 2000s, however, Turkish Cypriots have experienced the closer integration of their “state” into the global economy and transnational institutions. This has resulted in international engagement with their “state” that has made it appear more “real,” even as, paradoxically, citizens have developed their own pervasive discourse of pseudo-ness. The article uses examples of engagement with the unrecognized entity to show how, in the context of globalization, citizens learn, in their daily lives, to perform their state as a “state,” persistently calling attention to the made-up nature of their sovereignty claims. The article develops the concept of the unbecoming to refer to entities that are foreclosed from their inception, as well as the unsuitable or unfitting form that such entities acquire when certain desires are always already impossible.

Rebecca Bryant

Professor of Cultural Anthropology

Utrecht University

Rebecca Bryant is a Professor of Cultural Anthropology at Utrecht University and an anthropologist of politics and law. She has published numerous books and articles. Her work has focused on ethnic conflict and displacement, border practices, post-conflict reconciliation, and contested sovereignty on both sides of the Cyprus Green Line and in Turkey. 

Co-sponsored by the Department of Anthropology and the Center for European Studies

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