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A unanimous committee passed Cansu Bostan into doctorhood

Cansu shaking the hand of the external reviewer
Cansu Bostan (left) shaking the hand of the external reviewer, Dr Katrin Seidel (right). Behind them are examining committee member Mark Goodale (far left), and assistant supervisor Martin Ramstedt.

On Friday, June 17, Cansu Bostan successfully defended her dissertation Games of Justice: Ethnographic Inquiries on Space, Subjectivity and Law in Northern Kurdistan. She is now a Doctor in Sociology of Law for all eternity.

Bostan's PhD project sprung from her master's thesis in sociology of law, a gender perspective analysis of the conflict between the Kurdish PKK (Kurdistan Workers' Party) and the Turkish state. She had found that thousands of Kurds have become casualties of kidnappings and secret assassinations sanctioned (but denied) by the Turkish state. The victims have no marked graves since the families never received their bodies.

For the past five years, Bostan has ethnographically studied the changing formations of law within the Turkish nation-state. Using the theories of Michel Foucault as the main theoretical framework, she specifically explored how Turkishness shapes state law in Turkey, how everyday life is organised socio-politically beyond the Turkish state in northern Kurdistan, and to what extent the Kurds' justice aspirations comply with the state law.

Bostan argues that nation-states are projects of modernity, promoting one kind of knowledge - a singular truth about the nation - and thus national uniformity. Within the territory of Turkey, the population is diverse, so to achieve sameness, the state tried to fit the population into categories through disciplinary measures. One such strategy is to use state law to deny the existence of Kurds, Kurdistan, and the Kurdish language. Bostan found that the Kurds resist the legal practices of the Turkish state by turning state law against the state. They employ human rights lawyers to work as experiential interpreters, translating the Kurds' suffering into the legal language used to play the game of the state law to fight against it on its own terms.

Dr Katrin Seidel and Cansu Bostan during the defense
Dr Katrin Seidel presenting her review of Cansu Bostan's dissertation.

The study is situated within legal sociology, legal geography critical, legal studies, and legal anthropology, suggested the external reviewer Dr Katrin Seidel, senior researcher at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology. She agreed with Bostan's own notion that the thesis contributes to an "understanding of the relationships between law and justice, power and resistance, and naming and recognition by detaching justice and resistance from their ethical and value-loaded meanings".

After a 25-minute discussion, the examining committee - consisting of Professors Ole Hammerslev of Lund University, Fidelma Ashe of Ulster University, and Mark Goodale of the University of Lausanne - announced that they unanimously passed the dissertation.

"We think it is a very good, ambitious and solid thesis you have made under difficult conditions," said Professor Hammerslev on behalf of the committee.