Hayal Akarsu

About Hayal Akarsu

My dissertation, Reforming the Police: Violence, Security, and the Social in Turkey, analyzes the introduction of new conceptions and practices of security and policing in Turkey as the proliferation of police-related crises once again brings police reform to the global spotlight. Drawing on 18 months of Wenner-Gren funded fieldwork in Turkey, I explore the implementation of new standards, legal codes, training protocols, and policing technologies in the field as they are adopted and put into practice. My research shows that such recalibrations of policing not only involve an effort by police to change their institutional image and culture, but also fashion a set of new governmental technologies that aim to shape the way ordinary citizens behave and experience themselves, the state and security. I also show how the reform of policing can expand the boundaries and nature of police violence and policing practice, which has become a major site of ethical and political negotiations in the increasingly securitized political landscape of the country. 

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 citizens; 5- community-oriented projects that aim to bring police and society together through ‘harmony’ meetings or via other social mediums. 

Rather than address police reforms primarily as a matter of success or failure, my work explores the kind of socialities and subjectivities generated by such reform efforts, and types of interventions, techno-political arrangements, and ethical dilemmas embedded in these processes. My research is addressing how such ostensibly democratizing reforms can be put to many purposes and be made an integral part of a diverse range of governmental modalities, including blatantly authoritarian ones. This question has a much wider relevance beyond Turkey, as many countries around the world go through periods of substantial democratizing police and security sector reforms, only to then turn to authoritarian tendencies. What becomes of police-society relations and the security sector in such contexts? I take police-citizen encounters as a crucial site for anthropological inquiry in order to observe how dynamics of citizenship, power, security and governance are constantly challenged, reflected upon or reworked, providing us a more subtly attuned vantage point from which to account for the understandings and experiences of the public coming into contact with policies and institutional reform in everyday life.             

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.



Selected Publications

‘Proportioning violence’: Ethnographic notes on the contingencies of police reform in Turkey https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/full/10.1111/1467-8322.12403

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

Culture and power; security; policing; governance; environment; cities; social theory; law and society; expertise; critical criminology; science and technology studies.

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. 

Dissertation Title

Reforming the Police: Violence, Security, and the Social in Turkey