Yesim Yaprak Yildiz, PhD student

With our Postgraduate Open Day fast-approaching (3 November), we introduce five PhD students who are already making waves at Cambridge.

I'm planning to pursue an academic career while continuing to work in grassroots movements and NGOs on human rights violations.

Yesim Yaprak Yildiz

Fourth in the series is Yesim Yaprak Yildiz, a sociologist exploring the relationship between political violence, truth and reconciliation with a focus on Turkey.

My research sets out to 

My passion is to understand the relationship between truth and justice, more specifically whether revelation of truth about an atrocity would lead to justice. I set out to answer this question by examining the social and political effects of public confessions of state officials on past atrocities against civilians. I focus on Turkey and state violence against the Kurds in the 1990s. 

My motivation

I have been working on human rights violations in Turkey, particularly on torture and impunity, for over ten years. Turkey’s failure to account for the collective political violence in its history has been one of the main reasons which motivated me to pursue a PhD on this topic. Questioning approaches that establish a linear link between confession, truth and justice, I have sought to understand the workings of power in the confessional form of truth telling.


I am currently in the final year of my PhD so I spend most of my time either at the library or at home writing my thesis. When I visit the department to meet my supervisor and fellow PhD students, I usually study at the ‘Attic’, the study space provided for PhD students in the department. It provides quite an appealing atmosphere thanks to student initiatives including writing groups and coffee breaks. Due to my part-time job at the Human Rights Consortium, School of Advanced Study at University of London, I also commute between London and Cambridge.
My best days 

Cambridge is a unique place not only to indulge in solitary intellectual work but also to socialize with fellow academics in a wide range of events. As one of the conveners of the Cambridge Interdisciplinary Performance Network, a research group at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, I also organise seminars on performance and performativity related themes. One of the seminars I recently organised featured Professor Leigh Payne from the University of Oxford. It was a particularly special occasion for me as I decided to study confessions after I heard her talk at a workshop in Denmark.
I hope my work will lead to 

I want to contribute to the academic literature on political violence, truth and reconciliation, and thereby inform decision makers, scholars and broader public on some specific aspects of achieving and keeping peace by addressing the need for justice. More importantly, I hope my research will make people reflect on the roots of denial not only caused by forms of silencing but also by certain forms of speech. 

While I am planning to pursue an academic career, I would like to continue working in grassroots movements and NGOs on human rights violations. My future projects will involve both elements of research and art. Through interactive and creative projects, I aim to reflect upon alternative ways of working through the past.  

It had to be Cambridge because

The best part of studying at Cambridge has been its fulfilling and vibrant intellectual environment. In addition to the wide-ranging academic events featuring renowned scholars and research methods courses, I also had the chance to attend a short film making course which enhanced my digital story-telling skills. I have been very lucky to have an inspiring environment in the department thanks to the encouragement and support of my supervisor, Professor Patrick Baert.

Postgraduate Open Day

For more information about the University's Postgraduate Open Day on 3rd November 2017 and to book to attend, please click here.

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