Fall 2015 Student Interview: Sumru Atuk

Sumru Atuk is a Level II Ph.D. student majoring in Political Theory with a minor in Comparative Politics.

Beth Newcomer: As an international student, having moved from Istanbul to NYC to study at the GC, what was that experience like and what advice would you give to incoming international students?
Sumru Atuk: I won’t lie, it was difficult as hell. Starting a Ph.D. is hard and doing it miles away from everyone and everything you know is harder. The worst part, I think, is not knowing where home is any more. But the good news is it only gets better especially if you have awesome colleagues and mentors like the ones in our Department. I found nothing but support here!
BN: You’re currently a co-chair of the Social and Political Theory Student Association, tell us about the organization and the workshop planned for the Spring?
SA: SPTSA is an interdisciplinary student association for people who “do” theory. SPTSA organizes or co-sponsors 3-5 events each semester. One of them is the Annual Interdisciplinary Theory workshop, where students present their in-progress works, receive feedback from other students, and expand their networks. This year’s theme is “Failure;” we will discuss potentials and problematic aspects of “failure” as a subversive political strategy. See the CFP here.
BN: At the National Women’s Studies Association Conference in November you’ll be presenting a paper titled “Keeping ‘Women’ Alive by Letting Women be Killed.” Tell us about it.
SA: This paper is my way of starting my dissertation project, which will focus on femicide in Turkey. I am looking at how the category of “women” is created in ways that significantly reduce one’s life chances. The very problematically determined standards of “propriety,” discourses of “creation,” “motherhood,” “chastity,” and their institutional appropriations render the “non-conforming” members of the category justifiably killable. Killing a woman is made a very easy and “rational” decision to make in the presence of such justificatory discourses especially since there are not enough institutional deterrents.
BN: You were at the LGBTQ Pride parade in Istanbul this summer that was violently disrupted when the Governor suddenly banned the event. Tell us about that experience.
SA: Yes they took us by surprise. Not that we aren’t used to tear gas, rubber bullets and water cannons. They always attack the Mayday marches but they have never attacked the Prides, so we weren’t expecting it. For the first time in years we couldn’t march. I don’t think it is a coincidence though. This was the first big gathering after the June elections in which the Kurdish party, HDP, passed the election threshold for the first time and the ruling party AKP couldn’t win the majority of the seats in the parliament. It is no secret that HDP and LGBTQ organizations have a good relationship. One of the best features of the movement is that, unlike many other human rights groups, they actually manage to stand in solidarity with all oppressed groups regardless of their identities.