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Sovereignty, Autonomy and Citizenship in the Kurdish Model of Political Community

Asia
Citizenship
Democracy
Nationalism
Political Theory
State Power
Demoicracy
Hanifi Baris
University of Aberdeen
Hanifi Baris
University of Aberdeen
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Abstract

Hanifi Baris’s paper contrasts the statist nationalism on which Turkish elites have long drawn, with what he argues is the radical alternative offered by Kurdish movements. These movements reject not only nationalism but also the kind of sovereignty claimed by the modern state. Baris’s account is largely a theoretical exploration of the positions taken and how the political community is defined on the one hand by the post-Kemalist state, and on the other hand by the mainstream Kurdish political movement. Baris notes that Turkish political elites often deny that Kurds are able and willing to govern themselves. First, the Kurds are not considered a civilization in that, for example, their mother tongue lacks a body of literature. Second, they lack and have always lacked a state. Here, the fact that they lack a state is taken as evidence that they are not worthy of one—if they were, they would have had a state at some point. This is a particular example, one which displays the Turks’ pride in their own (imagined) history of state-building, but which serves to highlight that those arguing for or against claims to political community will have recourse to normative frameworks. Nationalism is one such framework, albeit with many variants of which Turkey’s statist nationalism is one. Baris points to the alternative framework advanced by Kurdish groups under the rubric of “democratic confederalism,” as they seek to avoid merely reproducing the kind of nationalism of which they have long been victims.