The Kurds in Erdoğan’s Turkey

Balancing Identity, Resistance and Citizenship

William Gourlay

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Investigates Kurdish political identity under the tightening rule of the Justice and Development Party in Turkey
  • Examines Kurdish identity in the Republic of Turkey and inquires whether there is room for pluralism in Turkey’s political sphere
  • Incorporates data gathered in the streets, bazaars and teahouses of Istanbul and Diyarbakır, the most important Kurdish-populated cities in Turkey
  • Documents Kurds’ participation in electoral politics and traditions of civilian resistance within the context of Turkey’s pursuit of liberal democracy
  • Considers central elements of Kurdish identity – language, culture, and geography – and how these are contested between government and Kurdish narratives
  • Provides a detailed examination of the Kurds’ struggle in Turkey at a time of rising Islamism and authoritarianism and emerging trans-national Kurdish mobilisation

This book examines the circumstances of the Kurds in 21st century Turkey, under the hegemony of the AKP government. After decades of denial, oppression and conflict, Kurds now assert a more confident presence in Turkey’s politics – but does increasing visibility mean a rejection of Turkey?

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Introduction: Eruption in Diyarbakır

  1. Identity, ethnicity, politics: from Kemalism to ‘New Turkey’Conceiving Turkishness in the Republic of TurkeyKurdishness: long suppressed nationhood, or otherwiseCountenancing diversity: re-imagining national identityIdentity and difference in flux: the Gezi Park protestsInstituting ‘Yeni Türkiye’
  2. Talking to Kurds about ‘Identity’Entering ‘the field’An Australian in Kurdish neighbourhoodsConceiving ‘identity’Being different, or how to spot a Kurd in Turkey
  3. Demarcating Kurdish cultureLanguage: ‘ana dil’ or ‘zimanê me’Celebrating Newroz, or NevruzResisting managed diversity
  4. The Kurds and Islam: defying hegemony and the ‘caliphate’Kurds & IslamIslam in the Republic of TurkeyThe AKP and Islam in the public sphereShifting Kurdish relationships with IslamKurds as ‘Others’Contesting Islam and asserting difference
  5. Contesting homeland(s): city, soil and landscape‘Toprak’: naming, claiming and relating to the landscapeDiyarbakır: symbolic cityAlternative labelsSpatial contestations: identity and politics
  6. Kurdayetî: Pan-Kurdish sentiment and solidarityKurdayetî: both ‘we’ and ‘us’Crises, cross-border movement and consolidating solidarityKurdayetî confronts ISISVictory over ISIS and its aftermathCross-border currents
  7. Oppression, solidarity, resistanceKurds in Turkey: a History of Oppression?Oppression Catalysing a Collective IdentityBerxwedan Jiyane: ‘Resistance is Life’Maintaining resistance in ‘New Turkey’?
  8. Kurds as citizensCitizenship as obligation, imposition, resignationWeight of circumstances: belonging, friends, relativesParticipating in politics: citizenship made manifestStruggling for democracy?Turning up – again – at the ballot boxThe ‘ideal’: retaining currency?

Conclusion: reconciling ethnic identity, citizenship and the ‘ideal’ in Erdoğan’s Turkey?Whither the Kurds?

Bibiliography

William Gourlay’s The Kurds in Erdogan’s Turkey: Balancing Identity, Resistance and Citizenship is a timely and welcome addition [...] A clear and well-written account of the complex Kurdish question and its manifestation at the micro-level during the region’s current period of drastic change.
Mehmet Gurses, Florida Atlantic University, Bustan: The Middle East Book Review
William Gourlay’s The Kurds in Erdogan’s Turkey: Balancing Identity, Resistance and Citizenship is a timely and welcome addition [...] a clear and well-written account of the complex Kurdish question and its manifestation at the micro-level during the region’s current period of drastic change.
Mehmet Gurses, Florida Atlantic University, Bustan: The Middle East Book Review, 2021, Vol. 12, No. 1
For those seeking an accurate and readable analysis of current Kurdish identity and desiderata in Turkey, Gourlay’s book will be a welcomed addition to a growing library.
Michael M. Gunter, Tennessee Technological University, Middle East Journal
For those seeking an accurate and readable analysis of current Kurdish identity and desiderata in Turkey, Gourlay’s book will be a welcomed addition to a growing library.
Michael M. Gunter, Tennessee Technological University, Middle East Journal 2021
Gourlay provides a lively and nuanced account of how ordinary Kurds, met in Diyarbakir and Istanbul in the crucial period of 2013-15, between the hopeful beginnings of a peace process and its collapse, spoke of what it meant to be Kurds and how they related to state and society of Turkey. Unlike many other recent studies, which focus on the Kurdish political and military movement, this book privileges everyday forms of self-assertion and resistance.
Martin van Bruinessen, Utrecht University
William Gourlay teaches politics and Middle East history at Monash University and is Research Associate at the Middle East Studies Forum at Deakin University. He has published analysis, book reviews, policy briefs and peer-reviewed research in a range of online forums and international media, including in the key journals Middle East Critique, Ethnopolitics, The British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, Third World Quarterly and Ethnic & Racial Studies.

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