Disasters that Matter: Gifts of Life in the Arena of International Diplomacy
This article examines the bodily donations made by Greeks, Turks and Cypriots to the victims of two devastating earthquakes in Turkey and Greece (1999), as well as to a Greek and a Turkish Cypriot boy, both suffering from leukemia (2000). Considering the age old discourse of amity and enmity shared by the citizens of the three nation states, I ask what made them see these hardly rare events as exceptionally important, and rush to offer each other their blood and body organs. Politicians and journalists of the time presented these corporeal responses as "civil society's demand for brotherly rapprochement," thus underscoring the anthropological insight that contemporary identity politics is increasingly "medicalized". Taking into consideration both the medical regimes of truth that made these donations possible, and the painful political experiences lived and remembered by Greeks, Turks and Cypriots to this day, I argue that the conciliation these donors performed revealed the suspense of their faith in the reconciliatory future rather than their acceptance of restorative notions such as brotherhood and rapprochement. Stated otherwise, these donors, being familiar with the euphemistic and the conditional hence pending nature of such political conciliations, dared the Derridian impossible: without endangering the principle of sharing, they opened their bodies to alterity, to their foe's bodies, and hence entertained the possibility of non-predetermined, thus unexpected even incongruous events of memory.
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