Edited by Angela Harutyunyan and Aras Ozgun
Sharjah Biennial, 16 March – 16 May, 2011
In Arabic, the word “jneb” is said to connote ritual impurity after sexual intercourse. Derived from this root and with the suffixes “i/ee,” the term “ajnabee” comes to mean foreigner or stranger. Moreover, in Turkish religious terminology, “cenabet” pronounced “janaabet,” also refers to the condition of being unclean or impure after a sexual act. Connoting these multiple layers, the word has been employed in Ottoman Turkish, Kurdish and other Muslim languages in the region of the Middle East and Anatolia. Up until the recent past, the word was used in the legal language of the Turkish Republic to denote non-Muslim Turkish citizens such as Armenians, Assyrians, Greeks and others, until the President of Turkey, Abdullah Gül, issued a decree banning the usage of the word from the legal lexicon.
We wish to take the multiple meanings of ejneb in order to construct new meanings and semantic possibilities that are interventionist in character. These meanings we hope will intervene in the very the fabric of history, the structures and institutions of knowledge production, and the different modalities at work in the production of subjectivity. Nevertheless, while interfering in various constellations of power, we abandon agency and authorship in order to act as mere witnesses and recorders of the deeds and acts of St. Ejneb and his disciples. Although we endow ejneb with sanctity, it is one that does not grant special access to religious transcendence, but rather, refers to the figure of homo sacer or the figure that stands as a crystallization of bare life within the configurations of biopolitical power.
Through maps, visual materials, historical documents, contemporary reflections and semi-fictive dictionary definitions, we trace the trajectory of the life of St. Ejneb and his disciples. St. Ejneb thus comes forth both as a general name and as a set of specific acts, which ultimately confuse the general and the particular.
We will refer to ejneb with the pronoun ‘it’, not in the sense that it is genderless, but in the sense that its gender, as well as the other markers of its identity can never be fixed or recognized. Ultimately, the ejnebi are people who follow the ways of St. Ejneb and commit ethically grounded, heterodox acts across times, places, geographies and various power practices in the contemporary world. It is a paradoxical figure of corruption whose acts and deeds are nevertheless affirmative rather than transgressive. Our collaborative narrative, woven through fact and fiction, practice and theory, discloses ejneb’s affirmative potential. That is: its ability to envision an alternative world.