21 Eylül 2011 Çarşamba

“They” Are Watching “Us”: on Verdery's Dead Bodies

Apparently, our worlds are the combination and harmony of the meanings which are taught us by the institutions or systems of “orders”, such as; the state, church, school etc. The two aspects of this “meaning education” are their creation and their way of teaching. Now, this text is telling us about one way of meaning education by the visual symbols, material, with focusing on the dead bodies, which are seen in the public places, in three different categories: statutes, corpses, and nameless dead. It goes without question that, these three are standing where they are, not only for “good view” but for a “good reason”. Firstly, they all are symbolizing one set of value and this symbolization upon one historical person’s body, in many ways, holds legitimizing function of the regime or the system. Secondly, this legitimization, to a great extent, is caused by their significance of being “single” in the vision; means that the oneness of a body attaches it some kind of uniqueness, therefore, sanctity. Besides being single in the vision, they stand there for day and night, for years, maybe for centuries: this also constitutes the infinity of their existence notion –just like a God– Thirdly, dead bodies are one of the great components of nation creation, because of two reasons: providing kinship ties between the dead body and the people and, being a concrete memory for the people.

I just remembered the invasion of Iraq and toppling of Saddam Husain’s statue in Bagdad. Many people did understand that the Iraq was taken down by the U.S forces after this event. It was not only the collapse of a statute but the meaning was clear: the time of Saddam is finished by now. The meaning of the collapse also legitimized the invasion a little, because Saddam meant “the owner” of Iraq, dictatorship, Arabism, and pain. Collapse of the statue therefore, was the first step of re-organization of the new order in Iraq. I support no war, but that’s what really happened in 2003. In addition, after this incident all the support and legitimacy of Saddam Husain was finished, even from the Arab countries that are indirectly supported Iraq. Today if you go where this statue was placed, you will see an abstract modern art instead of Saddam, much more “modernized” and much more “egalitarian” future is promised by that, but in fact, the future of Iraq, as it is seen from the sculpture, is abstract.

Turkey is a great example for the dead bodies, especially the body of Ataturk. The author focused generally on the political aspect of the dead bodies in the public place, and the bodies are generally the statues, reburials and so called memorials. However, in my view, the pictures and photographs, even signatures, today are animating the political action in a different place: in the market. Today we have “Ataturk products” in Turkey, various commodities that have the picture, photography or at least signature of him. This is firstly, stands for the same reason that the author was talking about. Secondly, the ideologies are now seen in the market place, and now we can talk about the commodification of dead bodies. The set of meanings and values that are attached to the mausoleums, statues etc. are now attached to the goods that we are using. For instance on cars, ashtrays, t-shirts and so on. They are now, are not only visual in the public sphere but in the private sphere too. Important thing is that, the commodities on which there is a sign from Ataturk are becoming sacred and anything disturbing them is seen as illegitimate by the society. You can easily burn a t-shirt on the street and someone could hardly respond to it, but if you burn a t-shirt has a picture of Ataturk on the street, police can arrest you because of disturbing the “sacred”

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