The Marett Memorial Lecture 2023: Catastrophe and More-than-Human Worlds

‘Memory’ has been the overarching framework for anthropological studies of political violence in its long durée. But, until more recently, ‘memory’ was conceptualised in a human-centred way, with works on loss, trauma, their social construction, cultural mediation, and collective commemoration. In this lecture, I ask if memory’s qualities and associations may be studied across ‘more-than-human’ worlds in sites of catastrophe and its aftermaths. Reflecting on the evidentiary limitations on research in the aftermath of catastrophe, when the human witnesses have been absented or silenced, I explore memory’s ‘other-than-human’ and ‘more-than-secular’ possibilities. Threading my ethnographic work on the aftermath of the Armenian genocide through with the aftermath of the recent earthquake in south Turkey, I ask if ‘more-than-human’ beings, ‘non-human’ things, and ‘more-than-secular’ entities may be incorporated in memory’s conceptual work and evidentiary potentialities.

Biography: Yael Navaro is Professor of Social, Political and Psychological Anthropology at the University of Cambridge. She is the author of Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in Turkey (Princeton University Press, 2002) and The Make-Believe Space: Affective Geography in a Postwar Polity (Duke University Press, 2012), and the co-editor of Reverberations: Violence Across Time and Space (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021), alongside articles in leading anthropology journals. Her ethnographic research in Turkey and Cyprus has developed new methods and new conceptual frameworks for the anthropological study of the state, secularism/Islamism, bureaucracies, and borders. Her work in post-war and post-genocide environments has contributed to affect theory and materiality studies. Her new and emerging work focuses on political violence in more-than-human worlds, with a forthcoming conference on More-than-Human Memory. She is currently writing a book on catastrophe’s temporalities based on long-term fieldwork in south Turkey.