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Confessions without guilt: public confessions of state violence in Turkey

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Yıldız, Yeşim Yaprak 
Baert, Patrick 


Abstract: Drawing on Austin’s speech act theory and on related theories of performativity and positioning, this article analyses the public confessions during the 1990s by three prominent state actors in Turkey about their direct involvement in state crimes against Kurds and left-wing political opponents. All three cases received significant media attention at the time. The aim of the article is not only to shed new light on those specific confessions by the perpetrators within the Turkish context, but also to develop further theoretical insights into the phenomenon of public confessions as such. Whilst confessions of this kind are often welcomed and portrayed as truth-statements that are cathartic and enable society to move forward, this analysis demonstrates that the reality is often more complex as the confessions in question tend to go hand in hand with a disavowal of individual responsibility by the perpetrators involved.


Funder: University of Cambridge


Article, Turkey, Kurds, Public confessions, Performance, Positioning theory, Performativity

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Theory and Society

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Springer Netherlands