Ege Selin Islekel received her PhD from the Philosophy Department at DePaul University with Distinction in 2018, together with a Graduate Certificate in Women's and Gender Studies. Her work lies at the intersection of social and political philosophy, critical theory, decolonial feminist theory and 20th century French philosophy. Thematically, her research analyzes the political philosophy of death, investigating the ways in which death is implicated in contemporary biopolitics, and the resistant capacities of grief. Her articles in English and Turkish have appeared in journals and anthologies, such as philoSOPHIA Philosophy Today, and Cinsiyeti Yazmak.
DePaul University: M.A, Philosophy 2014
DePaul University: Ph.D, Philosophy 2018
Areas of Expertise (6)
Industry Expertise (2)
- American Philosophical Association
- Caribbean Philosophical Association
- Society for Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy
- Western Political Science Association
- philoSOPHIA: A Society for Continental Feminism
Research Focus (1)
My current book project, Monstrous Visions: Mechanisms of Defense and Regimes of Visibility, analyzes how the notion of danger renders racialized modes of death invisible. This project centers on the concept of monstrosity, and asks: how is monstrosity both an imaginary concept and one that concretely marks parts of the population as dangerous? Monstrous Visions presents a Foucauldian genealogy that traces monstrosity in the conceptual foundations of social defense. I develop the term mechanisms of defense to designate the methods deployed to protect the normative unity of the society against so-called dangers. These mechanisms are shaped by aesthetic patterns. A genealogy of monstrosity shows that these aesthetic patterns historically shift from first marking threats as rare and scary, then as loathsome and alarming, and finally as frequent and troublesome. These transitions accompany a process where death becomes a normal, and not exceptional, part of politics.
Ethics of the Body
What do our bodies and emotions tell us? Do we need to follow our minds and our rationality in order to live happy lives? What is the significance of being embodied beings, beings that relate to the world through their bodies, through affective and emotional responses? What do we mean by a “body,” what kind of a body is at stake here? Lastly, is there a history to the body, to our bodies, to what we mean by a body?
This course introduces students to philosophical accounts of the body, desire and affect, to fit within the broad theme of “Ethics and Justice.” The course is divided into four units. The first unit, “Ancient and Modern Accounts of Affects” analyzes the role of affects and emotions in Ancient and Modern philosophical accounts. Here, we will read Plato’s Symposium and Spinoza’s Ethics to focus on questions such as “What is love?,” “Where do emotions come from?”. The second unit, “Psychic and the Social: Ethics of Affects” will focus specifically on the question of the ethics of the body: How are our emotions connected to the political structures that we live in? What kinds of ethical responses can be formulated on the grounds of our emotions? Here, we will question the political valence of affects and emotions in our social life and question what ethics based on corporeal affects would entail. The third unit, titled “Histories of Bodies and Pleasures” will work on the claim that there is a history to corporeality and the way we relate to our bodies and the “human body” in general is connected to this history. The final unit is titled “Counter-histories of the body” and focuses on the forgotten histories of the construction of the body.
The Good Life
What is “good”? How do we know what is good? What are the criteria of ethical behavior and why should humans pursue ethical actions? What is a “good life;” is it a life that is beneficial to one’s own person or others around them? What are one’s responsibilities towards others?
In this class, we will attempt to answer these questions. There are two main themes we will be focusing on: first, principles of ethical behavior, and second, the meaning of a “good life.” We will start with Mill’s account of utilitarianism in order to elaborate the relation between good actions and happiness, while focusing on the notions of personal gain and common good. Next, we will focus on Kant’s account of ethical duty, discussing whether or not ethical norms can be derived from reason alone. After elaborating the principles of ethical action in utilitarian and deontic accounts, we will move onto the question of a “good life,” that is, the kinds of habits that are needed in order to live one’s life ethically and virtuously. Lastly, we will turn to Other-oriented ethics, discussing the concept of the “Other” as an ethical and transcendent concept.
Philosophical Inquiry: Human Nature and Transitions to Society
What does it mean to be human? What is it that makes us what we are? Is it ever possible to imagine human life outside of social organizations? Are humans, in essence, lonely beings, or do their nature necessitate the formation of society, establishment of certain rules, norms, mores and laws? What, in human nature, makes people to come and establish various structures?
This course will be devoted to these questions. We will start with the foundational figures of Western philosophy from Ancient Greece. Reading the works of Plato and Aristotle, we will focus on ethics as an essential concern of human subjectivity. From there, we will move on to Modern Philosophy, explore the works of Hobbes and Rousseau. By reading these figures, we will analyze how metaphysical assumptions on human nature impact the kinds of political structures that are imaginable. Having established a solid background in the history of Western Philosophy and gained familiarity with the fundamental questions of metaphysics, ethics and social and political philosophy, the final section of the course will be devoted to an often ignored question: who is the “human” of “human nature”? What are the sexual and racial categorizations that are taken for granted in metaphysical formulations of human nature? We will thus conclude the course by reading The Racial Contract by Charles Mills and The Sexual Contract by Carol Pateman.
Foucault characterizes the defining feature of modern politics in terms of a new form of power concerned with maximizing life, biopolitics, as opposed to the sovereign right to kill. This characterization becomes problematic, especially when the overwhelming frequency of death and massacres in the twentieth century is considered. The question of how so much death is produced in an economy of power concerned with the maximization of life has stirred considerable debate. This paper argues that there is a death-function internal to biopolitics that should be considered in terms of biopolitical social defense. In making the life of a population its object, biopolitics makes death into an immanent condition of the population. The history of the emergence of this death-function internal to biopolitics is traced out in terms of different figurations of the monstrous: the shift from a juridical conception of monstrosity to a criminal and then medico-normative monstrosity shows that the steeping of death in the life of the population is done by normalizing judgment, through which death becomes an immanent condition of society. Thus, I show that the defense of society against its own monstrosity is done on both the disciplinary and the biopolitical levels.
Ege Selin Islekel
This paper works on the investment of politics in prohibiting or otherwise regulating practices of mourning through improper burial practices, such as dumping, immolating, disappearing, collectively burying, airdropping or hindering the burial. I aim to understand why and how politics is invested in practices of mourning, and specifically, what the import of improper burial practices is from a perspective that aims to take into account the relationship between politics and life and death. I adopt the biopolitical framework of Foucault’s corpus throughout and first briefly elaborate the role of death in biopolitics through Achille Mbembe’s account of necropolitics and Banu Bargu’s work on bio-sovereign assemblages. I then read these accounts in relation to improper burial practices in order to problematize the role of mourning in the work of these technologies of power. The third section of the paper focuses on the question of mourning and the political practices of mourning. Here, I touch on readings of Antigone and Butler’s discussion of grievable lives as two possible articulations on the relationship between politics and practices of mourning. The last section returns to the cases of Newale Qaseba above and questions the relationship between death and mourning, articulated from a perspective that works on death not as a natural category, but as an element of power. I argue that the regulation of grief is a necro-sovereign technique that makes the reach of biopolitics on death and the dead possible. The question at the heart of biopolitics, which was stated by Foucault as “make live or let die” is coupled with a necro-sovereign element of making die, actively allowing or disallowing individuals and groups to be dead.