Kurdish Nationalism and Identity in Turkey: A Conceptual Reinterpretation
European Journal of Turkish Studies, No. 10, 2009
18 Pages Posted: 4 Jan 2010
Date Written: December 31, 2009
This article argues that the evolution of Kurdish nationalism in Turkey is more ambivalent and nuanced than is usually acknowledged. This claim is based on three interpretive approaches: 1) The primary actors in national politics are conceptualized as organizations, rather than as ethnic groups; 2) A boundary-making approach to ethnic identities is more promising than an insistence on an ethnic versus civic nationalism dichotomy; and 3) State-society relations are better understood in terms of a series of interactions among state actors and social actors than in terms of a global dichotomy of state and society. These three approaches may help develop answers to important questions regarding political identity in Turkey. First, why do so many Kurdish-speaking citizens fail to articulate their identity in the terms demanded by the Kurdish nationalist movement? Second, why are the electoral returns in those areas of Turkey with large numbers of Kurdish speakers not more closely correlated with the ethnic distribution of the population? Finally, why does the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) often act in ways that are inconsistent with its declared goals of defending and expanding the political and civil rights of the Kurds?
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