Shamal Mirza

Mr. -University College Dublin, IRELAND,


Nationalism is highly a contested concept; it becomes even more contested when it comes to the Kurdish case and its complexities (i.e. its religious divisions, its language issues, its cultural dimensions and its various political settings). This complexity poses a number of critical questions as to what Kurdish nationalism actually means or refers to, and, more specifically, how Kurdish nationalism came to existence and had developed ever since. The existing literature on Kurdish nationalism tends to explain the question from the economic, political or conflict resolution perspective. Hence, Kurdish nationalism is often seen as a ‘reaction to existing nationalism’ or a ‘reaction to the nation-states building project in Iraq, Iran, Turkey and Syria’ (Yavus, 2001; Gunter, 2007; Tezcur, 2009; McDowell, 2006; Natali, 2005). Literature develops within political schools are explained by the political history account, for instance, Bruinessen (2000) and McDowall (2000), highlight the significance of the social and economic change in Turkey as a contributory factor to the formation of Kurdish nationalism. Vali (2011) attempted to associate the development of Kurdish nationalism and identity in Iran with the process of modernisation. Similarly, the conflict analysis literature such as Gunter (1990, 2008) Barkey and Fuller (1998) explain Kurdish nationalism within a historical framework by explicating the conflict between Kurdish nationalists with the states in which the Kurds live.  Such ‘modernist’ attitude toward the study of Kurdish nationalism has somewhat undermined historically more specific explanations of the idea of Kurdish nationalism, particularly its varied conceptual and intellectual history.

This study wants to avoid such shortcomings by investigating the concept of ‘Kurdayati’ (Kurdsihness) and the semantic meaning and force of the concept in conjunction with the social history of the Kurdish society. The aim is to understand how the Kurdish elites and their intellectual discourses facilitated the genesis, formation, dissemination and development of Kurdish nationalism.

The claim my dissertation makes is that Kurdish nationalism was not a reaction to the existing nationalities in the region, as most scholars have argued. Kurdish nationalism did not arise after the creation of the nation-state building project in Iraq, Iran, Turkey, and Syria in the years that followed the breakdown of the Ottoman Empire in 1922. Instead, I argue that Kurdish nationalism study is more productive if and when studying the concept of ‘Kurdayati’ (Kurdishness), particularly when seen in conjunction with the social, economic and political history of Kurdish society. I also argue that prominent poets, novelists and Kurdish writers have played a significant role in the conceptualisation of such a national discourse, something which has been widely ignored by previous studies. 

My research aims are to investigate Kurdish nationalism development by writing its intellectual and conceptual history. This new approach promises to fill the gap not only in the study of Kurdish nationalism development in the Iraqi Kurdistan but also more generally on how nationalism developed in other parts of the global south. My study is guided by pursuing the following central research questions:
1.    How has Kurdish nationalism developed in Iraqi Kurdistan?
2.    What were the roles played by Kurdish elites and intellectuals in the formation of Kurdish nationalism?
3.    To what extent have Kurdish intellectuals contributed to the development of Kurdish nationalism?

Keywords: Kurdish nationalism, intellectual history, conceptual history


CITATION: Abstracts & Proceedings of SOCIOINT 2019- 6th International Conference on Education, Social Sciences and Humanities, 24-26 June 2019- İstanbul, TURKEY

ISBN: 978-605-82433-6-1