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Trajectories of Kurdish Political Economy and Political Identity:
Exploring Great (non)Transformation, Counter-hegemony and Opportunity Spaces

TEKDEMIR, OMER (2013) Trajectories of Kurdish Political Economy and Political Identity:
Exploring Great (non)Transformation, Counter-hegemony and Opportunity Spaces.
Doctoral thesis, Durham University.



The transformation and internationalisation of the Kurdish political identity plays a momentous role and also determines the antagonistic relations of agent, structure and superstructure, in a cycle of violence, which has simultaneously impacted peace building and both Turkey’s EU accession and democratisation processes. Therefore, the ‘complexity’ of the Kurdish status in Turkey significantly makes the counter-hegemonic discourse, strategy, policy and ideology of the Kurdish ‘intellectual and moral leaders’ a valuable variable to consider in conceptualising the Kurdish political economy and its transformation. The Kurds’ challenging of the ‘unity’ of regional nation states by deconstructing their imposed and ‘imaginary’ national(ist) identities, in a post-nationalist or globalist era, makes it necessary to socially construct identity in relation to politically-defined identities.
The aim of this research is, thus, to explore, examine and analyse the transformation and development of the Kurdish political economy and identity within a historical context through three main periods. In understanding the nature of each of these periods, the study is compelled by the respective periods’ circumstances to apply a particular theoretical framework relevant to that particular period. Hence, three distinguished theoretical frameworks are utilised to understand the macro and micro dynamics of the Kurdish political economy and identity, which help to demonstrate and present a comprehensive analysis of transformation of the Kurdi(sh) political identity.
Initially, the research critically examined the social formation and political economy of Kurdish society in the late Ottoman period with the aim of demonstrating how the Kurds could not follow the ‘Great Transformation’ articulated by Karl Polanyi. After a discursive enquiry, the study concludes that the internal factors in relation to the social formation of Kurdish society as identified in its political economy did not allow the Kurds to converge towards the modern society. Therefore, the study focuses on the social structure and political economy of Kurdish society from the nineteenth century onwards by examining the linear-modernisation and institutionalisation vis-à-vis Kurdish society and the role of the internal dynamics in relation to traditional institutions. However, this era ended with modernity being imposed on the ‘centre’, with the new Turkish state under the Kemalist Republic in 1923 resulting in the disappearance of the Kurdish leadership, which led to the emergence of the hegemonic gap.
In the new advanced-modern era, the Kurds created their own identity protection strategies, a resistance-oriented response by the new counter-hegemonic Kurdish socio-political agents resulting in double movement, which is explained by Antonio Gramsci’s ‘Hegemony Theory’, within ‘war of manoeuvre’ and ‘war of position’ strategies, which could be considered prevalent in Kurdish circles and dominating Kurdish activism until the 1984 period. After the observed and theorised hegemonic struggle by different actors in different sub-periods, a counter and modern Kurdi identity is socially constructed based on socialist, secular and nationalist values.
Nevertheless, this identity has been challenged by various sub-agents; ‘many Kurds’, following the EU’s institutional impact in shaping the Turkish, and hence, the Kurdish political culture, emerged as various groups in the form of ‘postmodern Kurdi historical bloc’ and have competed for a share of the opportunity space with the help of the ‘EU-isation’ of the identity process since the 1990s. Therefore, the study argues, through a social constructivist approach, that the new ‘EU-ising Kurdiness’ has challenged the mainstream Kurdish political identity, while the latter have also become a member of pro-EU sides in Turkey to extend the democratic nature of the country, in terms of a ‘non-otherising democracy,’ which is non-exclusive and shaped in the context of ‘radical democracy’.
This study hence argues that, since political economy and political culture are not fixed but represent a dynamic process permeating around various internal and external factors, it is not possible to explain them with only one variable or theoretical framework. Therefore, three different theoretical frameworks are utilised by this study to respond to the dynamics of each period. The Kurdish future may still seem still bleak in Turkey and beyond, and the search for the emergence of various counter-hegemonies in exploiting the available opportunity spaces created through social constructivism will remain the dynamics of the process.

Item Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Award:Doctor of Philosophy
Keywords:Kurdish, Political Economy, Identity, Great Transformation, Hegemony, Social Constructivism, Turkey, EU
Faculty and Department:Faculty of Social Sciences and Health > Government and International Affairs, School of
Thesis Date:2013
Copyright:Copyright of this thesis is held by the author
Deposited On:31 May 2013 12:17

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