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Photo of Cansu Bostan by Emma Lord.

Cansu Bostan

Postdoctoral fellow

Photo of Cansu Bostan by Emma Lord.

Games of Justice: Ethnographic Inquiries on Space, Subjectivity and Law in Northern Kurdistan


  • Cansu Bostan

Summary, in English

This study presents an ethnographic exploration of subjective experiences relying on different historicizations and the ways they inform the connections between law and justice in Northern Kurdistan. By analyzing law and justice as ethnographic objects whose forms and functions are contingent upon being named and attributed meanings, inquiries focus on various historicizations/spatializations in Northern Kurdistan to understand: i) the modern spatiotemporal boundaries of the Turkish nation-state, its law and justice narratives, ii) experiences informing justice aspirations and their translations into the experience-distant language of state law, and iii) appearing/disappearing mechanisms attributed justness and functions of legality beyond the state law. During ethnographic fieldwork conducted in Amed between April-September 2019, three data collection methods were employed: participant observations, semi-structured interviews with human rights lawyers, institutional representatives from NGOs and inhabitants (life history narratives) and document collection. The study draws on a spatial analysis informed by Michel Foucault’s insights on the truth-subjectivity regime, ‘games of truth’ and the triad of ‘power-knowledge-space,’ and adopts his analytical strategy of nominalist intervention facilitating an understanding of the web of relationalities within which law and justice gain particular meanings. In this way, one may understand how these relationalities trigger attachments of ‘just’ and ‘unjust’ to various practices, which, by drawing on the ‘game of truth,’ is referred to as the ‘game of justice’ by this study. This analysis reveals three spatializations triggering becomings, meanings and connections of law and justice:
I) The relationalities spatializing Turkishness are revealed as marked by exclusions. The state law is made sense of by being positioned outside of its realm and is attributed a meaning through its exclusivist operation in Northern Kurdistan, and justice gains its meaning as a tool for the state to derive legitimacy in different forms of procedural justice and substantive justice to regulate the shifting boundaries of the state law drawn between certainty and uncertainty. II) When the inquiries focus on the resistances marked by incorporation and contestation, state law is attributed a tactical meaning as a tool used against the state to communicate excluded experiences and as an archive to document past and present injustices for a peaceful future. Justice takes the form of aspirations within this web of relationalities. III) The law’s form changes when the inquiries focus on emerging large-scale mobilizations taking Kurdistan as their reference point beyond a mere countering to Turkishness. An ethical-aesthetical regulation is named law, forming its ensemble ranging from people equipped with a role in dispute-resolution to the political-ideological mechanisms and their commissions and courts. Justice is reformulated to legitimize these mechanisms in the socially-embedded, experiential form of popular justice.
This study shows that the connection of justice to law is triggered by spatializations shaping their relationship in particular encounters. By presenting the accounts, namings and meanings in their multiplicity, this study hopes to contribute to an imaginary of honorable and sustainable peace in Northern Kurdistan.


  • Department of Sociology of Law

Publishing year





Lund Studies in Sociology of Law

Document type



Lund University (Media-Tryck)


  • Sociology


  • Law and justice
  • Spatialization
  • Truth-subjectivity regime
  • Game of truth
  • Becomings
  • Ethnography
  • Amed
  • Northern Kurdistan




  • Games of Justice: Ethnographic Inquiries on Space, Subjectivity and Law in Northern Kurdistan


  • Ida Nafstad
  • Martin Ramstedt


  • ISSN: 1403-7246
  • ISBN: 978-91-8039-290-7
  • ISBN: 978-91-8039-289-1

Defence date

17 June 2022

Defence time


Defence place

Pufendorfinstitutet, Biskopsgatan 3, Lund


  • Katrin Seidel (Senior Research Fellow)