Remembering Dicle Koğacioğlu

DIFF_22_1_pr "The Other Effect,” the most recent issue of differences, is a tribute to the late scholar, Dicle Koğacioğlu, and her work.  The issue includes articles by Timothy Bewes, Lila Abu-Lughod, Ayse Parla, Leti Volpp, Z. Umut Turem, Elizabeth Polvinelli, and Koğacioğlu herself, with important new article on honor crimes, focused upon what she called the making of “the custom.”

Leti Volpp, Professor at the University of California-Berkeley School of Law, reflects on Koğacioğlu’s life and work:

The legal sociologist Dicle Koğacioğlu was a brilliant scholar and feminist activist whose work on power, modernity, and bureaucratic forms of authority influenced many during her brief life.   Her work was deeply original, passionate, and critical, and spoke simultaneously to particular questions within Turkey and to broad theoretical debates.  A primary thread of Koğacioğlu’s writing, examined in complex contexts ranging from honor crimes, constitutional courts, to access to justice, was how public discourse on tradition always creates an “other.”  Her much cited article, “The Tradition Effect: Framing Honor Crimes in Turkey,” differences (2004), responded to a perceived increase in documentation of honor killings in Turkey by international organizations and nongovernmental organizations to show how these crimes are produced in relation to institutional practices and discourses of modern government.  Koğacioğlu argued that these institutions — the Turkish state, Islamic parties, European Union, and the international media — imagined as modern and standing outside of or in opposition to tradition, see tradition as an object of technical intervention, delimiting the universe of meaning through which these crimes can be understood, and removing attention from the way in which these very institutions participate in perpetuating these crimes.  Her article “Progress, Unity, and Democracy: Dissolving Political Parties in Turkey” in Law and Society (2004) examined the dissolution of Islamic and pro-Kurdish political parties by the Turkish Constitutional Court, assigned the task of dissolving anti-constitutional political parties.  Here Koğacioğlu showed that an arbitrary boundary between political and cultural domains was drawn by the Court, a boundary then used by the Court in the service of justifying its decision, as what may be harmless when an issue is cultural (use of the headscarf, the Kurdish language) may turn into a political symbol threatening the basis of the united, democratic, and progressive nation-state.   Koğacioğlu also published several works about access to justice in Turkey, looking in particular at interactions between citizens and legal authorities in the courthouse, the axes of power (class, gender) that operate in the legal system, as well as the negotiations by the disempowered who strategize within it.  At the time of her death, she was conducting research on Turkey’s justice system which promised to redefine the parameters of law and society scholarship in Turkey.   Her death is a stunning loss to feminist theory, to sociolegal scholarship, and to her many friends.

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