Hayal Akarsu

About Hayal Akarsu

My dissertation examines changing conceptualizations and practices of security in Turkey through a study of ‘social policing’—a group of policing techniques and apparatuses that are mobilized to ‘reform’ the police and policing practices—in the midst of the country’s unfolding socio-economic and political instabilities. The study takes police-citizen encounters as one of the crucial sites to observe how dynamics of citizenship, power, security and governance are constantly challenged, reflected upon or reworked. The General Directorate of Security in Turkey has gone through major transformations as part of ‘democratization’ and ‘good governance’ frameworks of European Union entry negotiations. During eighteen months of ethnographic fieldwork on these social policing practices between 2015-2017, however, the role of the police in Turkey also involved spectacular violence accompanied by a more suffused atmosphere of threat, fear and even ‘insecurity,’ precisely what these reforms had aimed to alter. How do social policing frameworks and practices that have been carefully built up for more than a decade coexist with spectacular violence and insecurity that shape the everyday life? What kind of increasingly authoritarian practices of governing do the projects that I have observed during my fieldwork intersect with, enable or hinder? My dissertation takes these questions as a way to explore how ‘The New Turkey’—the country that the ruling AK Party said would emerge out of more than a decade of reforms—has taken ‘liberal’ technologies of government, security, and policing and put them to patently ‘non-liberal’ ends. My research has revealed that social policing not only involves an effort by police to change their institutional image and culture, but also refers to a set of new governmental technologies that aim to shape the way ordinary citizens behave, and experience themselves, the state and security. This reformulation of security provides a unique opportunity to rethink not only the state’s shifting role as a ‘security making entity’ but also changing grounds of state-society encounters especially in increasingly authoritarian neoliberal settings.   

I specifically track five forms of ‘social policing’ projects undertaken by the General Directorate of Security in Turkey:  1- reform of police education and training; 2- infusion of ‘social policing’ frameworks into practicum training that was made mandatory for every police on duty; 3- harmonization projects in relation to EU-entry negotiations, including the reform of governmental apparatuses, establishment of police complaint and oversight mechanisms, foundation of distinct policing branches concerned with human rights issues; 4- ‘social projects’ conducted by the Turkish National Police to distribute social assistance and welfare benefits to the participants; 5- community-oriented projects that aim to bring police and society together through ‘harmony’ meetings or via other social mediums. Overall, I explore the implementation of new conceptions and practices of security and their circulation in everyday life against a backdrop of increasing violence and insecurity. In contrast to studies that explore “police reforms” either as a success or a failure story, I underline how ethnographic attention on security and policing-based reforms provides a privileged vantage point to account for the understandings and experiences of the public coming into contact with policies and reform in everyday life. I take ‘social policing’ as an ‘anthropological question’ to understand securitization as a process, through which ‘social’, ‘natural’, and ‘emotional’ aspects of life are made into domains with security concerns and implications, contributing to literatures, debates and approaches at the nexus of work on the state, security, policing, violence and citizenship.      

I was  awarded a Wenner-Gren Dissertation Fieldwork Grant for my research project, which is also supported by several other small-research grants provided by the School of Anthropology at U of A.



Courses Taught

Spring 2016: Instructor, ANTV 375: Ethnography of the Middle East, University of Arizona.

Summer 2015Instructor, ANTH 315: World Ethnography, University of Arizona. 

Fall 2014: TA, GEOG 150B1: Human Geography and Global Systems,  University of Arizona.

Summer 2014: Instructor, ANTH 315: World Ethnography, University of Arizona. 

Spring 2014: TA, GEOG 150B1: Human Geography and Global Systems, University of Arizona.

Fall 2013: TA, ANTH 150B: Many Ways of Being Human- Anthropological Perspectives, University of Arizona.

Spring 2013: TA, ART 325: Art History of the Cinema, University of Arizona.   

Fall 2012: TA, ANTH 150B: Many Ways of Being Human- Anthropological Perspectives, University of Arizona.


Areas of Study

Security, Policing, Technopolitics, Government of the Social, Affect, Critical Theory


PhD Research Title- 'Social Policing’ and Affective Encounters: Remaking Security in Turkey

Research Interests


Hayal Akarsu's picture

Contact Information


BA  (2006), Cultural Studies, Sabanci University, Istanbul-Turkey.

MA (2012), Near and Middle Eastern Studies, New York University, NY, NY-USA 

Ph.D. (in progress), Anthropology, University of Arizona, Tucson, AZ-USA.