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VIDEO DOI: https://doi.org/10.48448/5ha5-a726

technical paper

AAA Annual Meeting 2021

November 18, 2021

Baltimore, United States

Naturalizing Alien Grandma: Longevity, Nationalism, and the Allure of Cosmic Kinship in a Turkish Black Sea Town



conspiracy theory


In the long nineteenth century, in Surmene in Northeast Turkey, there lived a woman who was called Meyves Nine (tr. Nana Meyves). She never got sick; she never took medication. One night, in the 130th year of her life, she went to bed and never woke up again. This is an abridged version of her life and it would not be worth telling if the thirty years after her death was not also the beginning of her new life as an alien grandma. On August 3rd, 1998, the local newspaper announced that American UFO organizations were soon arriving to visit Nana Meyves’ village. Building on media resources and interviews, this paper traces truth claims about the alienness of Nana Meyves, from the edges of scientific inquiry into longevity to conspiracy theories about Israeli intervention and US meddling. I discuss how the long-lived, healthy body of Nana Meyves became a sign of the extraterrestrial characteristics of the human gesturing towards the promise of alien encounters (Doyle 2003; Battaglia 2006; Roth 2006) to expand the limits of earthly bodies (Helmreich 2012). But, what happens when these claims about an alien grandma circle back to her village? I argue that Nana Meyves’s alien body•read through her extraordinary health and longevity•is embraced regionally by pointing to the touristic potentiality of having alien kin; however, this cosmic kinship first needed to be nationalized through wrestling with conspiracy theories that claim the alienness of Nana Meyves could be used as a foreign plot against Turkish unity.


Transcript English (automatic)

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