The Make-Believe Space

Affective Geography in a Postwar Polity

The Make-Believe Space

Book Pages: 296 Illustrations: 12 photographs Published: March 2012

Author: Yael Navaro

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Geography, Sociology > Social Theory

The Make-Believe Space is a book of ethnographic and theoretical meditation on the phantasmatic entanglement of materialities in the aftermath of war, displacement, and expropriation. "Northern Cyprus," carved out as a separate space and defined as a distinct (de facto) polity since its invasion by Turkey in 1974, is the subject of this ethnography about postwar politics and social relations. Turkish-Cypriots' sociality in a reforged geography, rid of its former Greek-Cypriot inhabitants after the partition of Cyprus, forms the centerpiece of Yael Navaro-Yashin's conceptual exploration of subjectivity in the context of "ruination" and "abjection." The unrecognized state in Northern Cyprus unfolds through the analytical devices that she develops as she explores this polity's administration and raison d'être via affect theory. Challenging the boundaries between competing theoretical orientations, Navaro-Yashin crafts a methodology for the study of subjectivity and affect, and materiality and the phantasmatic, in tandem. In the process, she creates a subtle and nuanced ethnography of life in the long-term aftermath of war.


“Navaro-Yashin’s book is a serious and intriguing exploration... Navaro-Yashin’s work strongly engages this conflict [in Cypriot identity] and, in so doing, enlivens and broadens the social science discourse on Cyprus.” — Bayard E. Lyons, Social Analysis

The Make-Believe Space is a genuinely important and lucidly written book. The theoretical originality that oozes from every single chapter renders it a very inspiring political ethnography.” — Erden Evren, American Ethnologist

“This book is a must-read for scholars interested in the Mediterranean region as well as those with a more general interest in the intermingling of politics,materiality and affect.” — Mikkel Bille, Ethnos

“In The Make-Believe Space, Navaro-Yashin offers an ethnography that pushes the boundaries of anthropological theory and speaks to disciplines like geography, political theory, and conflict studies.” — Olga Demetriou, Anthropological Quarterly

“Overall, this is an insightful and novel book which skillfully unpacks the various aspects of citizenship and belonging in a contested territory. . . . it sheds much-needed light on the complexities and intellectual magnetism of divided societies, Cyprus in particular, and their use as laboratories for innovative social science research.”   — Neophytos Loizides, Journal of Historical Geography

“Navaro-Yashin’s sustained study of the effects of war, displacement, political authoritarianism, and the existential gap between officially sanctioned and actually lived sentiments is not only convincing in its theoretical acuity, breadth, and originality, but it also plays the role of an intervention in its own right through its meticulous witnessing of the suffering of her informants and of their human dignity in the aftermath of terror and in the midst of adversity.”  — Nicolas Argenti, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute

The Make-Believe Space is a very rich account of a violently partitioned spectral space, a stunted temporality, a haunted and cynical people, and a state with no stability, legitimacy, or recognition. It is well written and full of interesting stories. It is innovative in its focus on materiality and affect. I would highly recommend it to those interested in affect theory, material objects, and state formation in post-war contexts.” — Banu Gökariksel, The Australian Journal of Anthropology

"Marked by a decade of ethnographic immersion into the field from 1995 to 2005, Yashin offers a profoundly illuminating account of the messiness of daily human interaction crafted through fantasy, fact and policy."  — Anastasia Christou, Anthropological Notebooks

The Make-Believe Space will appeal to readers in search of an analysis of statecraft that troubles the grounding of its legitimacy and authority in the law. As an ethnographic encounter with critical theory, the book also offers rich material to scholars studying the politics of affect and the socio-materialities of natural and built environments.” — Kabir Tambar, PoLAR

"An unforgettable ethnography of a nation-state whose special status sharpens our eyes to the make-believe quality of every state. Yael Navaro-Yashin's evocative writing brings to life the scarred landscapes of Northern Cyprus and the affective worlds of Turkish-Cypriots who inhabit them—uncomfortable with 'looted' and abandoned objects, melancholic about the ruins of war and the ghostly Greek presence, and cynical about the banal apparatus of the state, whether its documents, laws, or occupations. Intimate conversations with philosophers and theorists weave in and out of profound ruminations on the details of people's interactions with their pregnant material worlds in this unique study that reveals anthropology's incisive beauty." — Lila Abu-Lughod, Columbia University

"Can the experience of citizenship in an illegitimate state reveal something about state making more generally? In her insightful account of Northern Cyprus as 'make-believe' space, Yael Navaro-Yashin traces the diverse practices—imaginative, material, and affective—that craft this de facto polity, both as fantasy and as tangible truth. In the process, she offers profound insight into what it is that makes nation-states believable everywhere." — Jean Comaroff, University of Chicago


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Yael Navaro-Yashin is Senior Lecturer in Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and a Fellow of Newnham College. She is the author of Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in Turkey.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Preface ix

Acknowledgments xxi

Introduction: The Make-Believe Space 1

Part I. Spatial Transformation

1. The Materiality of Sovereignty 37

2. Repopulating a Territory 51

3. The Affects of Spatial Confinement 62

Part II. Administration

4. Administration and Affect 81

5. The Affective Life of Documents 97

Part III. Objects and Dwellings

6. Abjected Spaces, Debris of War 129

7. Affective Spaces, Melancholic Objects 161

8. Home, Law and the Uncanny 176

9. Collectibles of War and the Tangibility of Affect 202

Epilogue 215

Notes 223

Works Cited 247

Index 261
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Winner, 2013 William E. Douglass Prize in Europeanist Anthropology, presented by the Society for the Anthropology of Europe (SAE)

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5204-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5193-1
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