Remembering through suffering: Agency, nostalgia and mourning in the Turkish left


Based on an ethnography conducted in Istanbul, this article analyses nostalgia and the perpetuation of mourning among former leftist militants of revolutionary organizations, who were the main targets of the political repression following the 1980-1983 coup in Turkey. It shows how these feelings do not isolate individuals, but are emotional practices with a degree of agency. These emotional practices are performed not on the basis of their effectiveness in the public arena, but rather because they able to regenerate the values of Marxist martyrdom, strengthen generational ties and make community. The analysis of funeral commemorations, anniversaries and gatherings illustrates how nostalgic attachment and perpetuation of mourning involve both the level of political tactics and the inner self of former militants. In this perspective, the concept of agency questions both the ability to act and the ability to construct subjectivities. It also demonstrates how ethnography in politically repressive contexts entails an analysis of agency that draws on domination and unequal power relations as well as symbolic grammars of everyday experience.

How to Cite
D’Orsi, L. (2021) “Remembering through suffering: Agency, nostalgia and mourning in the Turkish left”, Anuac, 10(1), pp. 67-91. doi: 10.7340/anuac2239-625X-4064.
Thematic section: Rethinking agency: Cultural trauma and political violence