The conspiracy archive: Turkey's deep state on trial

Ertür, Başak. 2016. The conspiracy archive: Turkey's deep state on trial. In: Stewart Motha and Honni van Rijswijk, eds. Law, Violence, Memory: Uncovering the Counter-Archive. Abingdon: Routledge, pp. 177-194. ISBN 9781138830639 [Book Section]

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Abstract or Description

The phrase 'deep state' in Turkish popular parlance refers to powers operating with impunity through and beyond the official state structure. It is considered to be a state within the state, a network of illegitimate alliances crisscrossing the military, the police force, the bureaucracy, the political establishment, the intelligence agency, mafia organisations and beyond; lurking menacingly behind the innumerable assassinations, disappearances, provocations, death threats, disinformation campaigns, psychological operations, and dirty deals of the past several decades. Recently, a number of criminal trials brought the deep state into Turkey's courtrooms. My focus in this chapter is on the most famous of these, the so-called Ergenekon trial. I offer a reading of the Ergenekon case file as comprising an archive of the Turkish deep state, not because it successfully captures its history and facticity, but rather because it allows insight into the rationalities and passionate investments that culminate in the reification of the deep state. Two concerns guide my inquiry here: the problem of producing knowledge about the deep state, and the performative production of the state in trials involving state crimes. These two issues are inevitably related, since ways of knowing the political are intimately tied to ways of reifying it (Abrams 1988). In Pierre Bourdieu's words, the state 'thinks itself through those who attempt to think it' (1994, p. 1). The case file in the Ergenekon trial has its own way of conjuring the state, in a bizarre amalgam of fact, fiction, fantasy, desire and disavowal: an amalgam best understood, I argue, in terms of the conspiratorial imagination. I conclude the chapter with a consideration of a way of knowing the deep state beyond the limits of legal and conspiratorial imagination, an articulation that mobilises the legal archive for a counter-conspiracy against the conspiring case files.

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Book Section

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"This is an Accepted Manuscript of a book chapter published by Routledge in 'Law, Violence, Memory: Uncovering the Counter-Archive' on 22 February 2016, available online: It is deposited under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives License (, which permits non-commercial re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, and is not altered, transformed, or built upon in any way.”


Law and Memory, Political Violence, Political Trials, Turkey's Deep State, Ergenekon Trial, Hrant Dink Murder Trial

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Visual Cultures > Centre for Research Architecture
Visual Cultures


22 February 2016Published

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Date Deposited:

10 Oct 2023 12:47

Last Modified:

10 Oct 2023 20:57


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