First Person as Molecular Subjectivities: Turkey and Turkishness

Pekun, Didem. 2016. First Person as Molecular Subjectivities: Turkey and Turkishness. Doctoral thesis, Goldsmiths, University of London [Thesis]

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Abstract or Description

This thesis explores first person films as platforms for producing alternative subjectivities within contemporary Turkey. Its central question is: “Considering its history and power structures, how do first person films address the limitations and potentials of forming diverse subjectivities within contemporary Turkey?”

This question is addressed through a video diary practice and coupled with a theoretical inquiry. The video installation Of Dice and Men negotiates hegemonic identity politics in Turkey through moments of rupture and constant migration within my daily routines in London and Istanbul — both shaped by political violence. Migratory subjectivities are thought through Félix Guattari’s proposal of molecular subjectivities, which was fruitful for enacting such subjectivities in a geography where identity is largely monolithic.

The video installation Of Dice and Men is thus born of negotiating hegemonic identity politics in Turkey as well as a conformist filmmaking industry. In terms theory, one persistent question was: “How can a filmmaking method with a strong history, theorized foremost for US and European contexts, be a platform for alternative (in Guattari’s words, molecular) forms of subjectivity reflective of the specificities of Turkey?” The thesis thus proposes an expansion of the history and theorizations of first person film, through Guattari’s notions of the molar and the molecular.

To elaborate and probe the above problematic I discuss recent first person films and how they address subjectivisation through normative ideologies in Turkey, pertaining to two separate but intertwined spheres of identity formation. M.M. Arslan explores Kurdish-Turkish conflicts in I Flew You Stayed (2012), while Aykan Safoğlu’s Off-White Tulips (2013) explores queer subjectivity and migration. Within this focus are multiple aims: 1) mapping the limits, if not dangers, of imposing a single identity on the body politic of an entire geographical region; 2) outlining issues of subjectivity in contemporary Turkey; and 3) examining filmmakers who use first person narrators to challenge the hegemonic perspectives linked to the formation of modernity.

I conclude with reflections on the construction of an author persona through my own filmmaking method in Of Dice and Men. Furthermore, presenting my work as an installation led to thinking through fluid subjectivities and reflecting on active modes of spectatorship. The installation thereby stands in a mutual questioning and expanding relationship to the written component of the thesis.

Item Type:

Thesis (Doctoral)

Identification Number (DOI):


first person film, essay film, Turkey, identity, subjectivity in film

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Visual Cultures


31 October 2016

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

29 Nov 2016 14:36

Last Modified:

08 Sep 2022 11:43


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