Project Researchers

Alice von Bieberstein

© Polina Georgescu

I am a political anthropologist working at the intersection of political violence, political economy and material culture. My work has fundamentally circled around the challenge of engaging ethnographically with the Armenian genocide, as an event that lies at the foundation of the Turkish nation-state but whose reality and reverberations have always been transnational. In my PHD dissertation, I approached this challenge from the perspective of the Armenian community in Germany and Turkey, focusing on their subjection to and negotiation of particular regimes of citizenship and politics of history as manifested both nationally and transnationally (such as through the dissemination of a particular ‘expertise’ in matters of confronting the past from Germany to Turkey, and through the dissemination of a denialist programme in Germany). Since 2012 my focus has shifted from Berlin and Istanbul and the Armenian communities there to a provincial town in the far East of Turkey, also known or referred to as Western Armenia and Northern Kurdistan. Researching the case of an urban regeneration scheme in a formerly Armenian historical quarter as well as the widespread practice of hunting for ‘Armenian’ treasures, my analytical interest has moved towards a concern with questions of matter, violence and value.

My project at CARMAH grows out of this research and addresses how the politics of urban regeneration and the practices of treasure hunting target ‘non-recognised’ or ‘denied’ minority cultural heritage as objects of speculative economies, raising questions as to relation between violence, economy and temporality. This project therefore combines political anthropology with political economy and heritage to address how historically contingent forms of economic valuation and accumulation constitute not only an integral part of political violence, but implicate particular objects and materials in ways that have temporally destabilising effects. It speaks to broader contemporary concerns with economic and biopolitical governance in an era of austerity and debt, while drawing attention to the historical depths these developments are immersed in. Moving beyond current ‘crisis-talk’, my project combines ethnography and historical analysis to enquire into the place of death and debt in relation to both the necromantic foundation of the nation-state and contemporary neoliberal governance. The project also resonates with current debates on the provenance and return of art and antique objects. I enquire into how profit is sought from minority heritage in a context of genocide denial, where material remains are not recognised and commodified as ‘cultural heritage’ and where trade in looted objects occurs without much objection.



Navaro, Y., Biner, Z.Ö., von Bieberstein, A. & Altug, S. (eds.) Reverberations: Violence across Space and Time. Philadelphia, PA: Pennsylvania University Press.


“Speculating on death: Treasure-hunting in Present-Day Moush” in Navaro, Y., Biner, Z.Ö., von Bieberstein, A. & Altug, S.(eds.) ‘Reverberations: Violence across Space and Time’ (Philadelphia, PA: Pennsylvania University Press), pp. 63-82.


“Hole of Plenty” In: Waste, 2021, Vol 33 (2), Stitching Etnofloor, pp. 74-91.


“Was kommt danach? Solidarität mit bedrohten Wissenschaftler*innen in und aus der Türkei” co-authored with Corinna Trogisch and Steffen Käthner, Forum Wissenschaft 19(1): 24-31.


“Memorial miracle: Inspiring Vergangenheitsbewältigung between Berlin and Istanbul” in Gabowitsch, Mischa (ed.) ‘Replicating Atonement: Foreign Models in the Commemoration of Atrocities’ (Basingstoke, Hampshire: Palgrave Macmillan).


“Treasure/Fetish/Gift: Hunting for ‘Armenian gold’ in post-genocide Turkish Kurdistan”, Subjectivity 10(2): 170-189.


“Surrogate apologies, sublated differences: contemporary visions of post-national futures in Turkey under the spectre of the Left” in Karakatsanis, L. & Papadogiannis, N. (eds.) ‘The Politics of Culture in Turkey, Greece & Cyprus: Performing the Left Since the Sixties’ (London: Routledge). Pp. 56-74.


“Surviving Hrant Dink: carnal mourning under the specter of senselessness”, Social Analysis 61(1): 55-68, a special issue on ‘Post-Ottoman Topologies’ edited by Nicolas Argenti.


“Not a German Past to be Reckoned with: Negotiating Migrant Subjectivities between Vergangenheitsbewältigungand the Nationalization of History”, Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute(JRAI) 22 (4): 902-919.


“From Aggressive Humanism to Improper Mourning: Burying the victims of Europe’s border regime in Berlin”, co-authored with Erdem Evren, Social Research83(2): 453-479.


“Violated obligations’: WWII Turkey and its Jews” (book review of ‘Turkey, the Jews and the Holocaust’ by Corry Guttstadt), Turkish Review Vol. 4(1): 101-103.


“The What of Occupation: ‘You took our cemetery, you won’t have our park!'” Co-authored with Nora Tataryan, for Fieldsights-Hot Spots, Cultural Anthropology Online. October 31, 2013.