Professions of Friendship: Revisiting the Concept of the Political in the Middle East
This essay examines “professions of friendship”: efforts by populations who are targeted as enemies of the state to proclaim their historical fidelity to the state's foundation and preservation. Such declarations often reinscribe a rigid and often violently statist narrative of politics. The essay argues that the retrenchment of this narrative, when reissued in the name of friendship, does not simply close down political options. It seeks to embolden sentiments of moral obligation across instituted lines of enmity. These solicitations of friendship are burdened by a particular historical task: to envision a past and a future of social cohabitation in a present where its possibilities have been violently undermined and morally devalued. The essay centers on two instances that bookend the past century: the first was delivered in Istanbul by an organization speaking on behalf of Armenians living in territories claimed by the Turkish nationalist movement in 1922; the second was issued by a Kurdish Peace Mother in Diyarbakır, as a plea for an end to state violence in late 2015.