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Essays on Kurds

Historiography, Orality, and Nationalism


Amir Hassanpour

The essays in this collection offer robust theoretical analysis of language and cultural rights, class and gender, policy and politics, history and historiography, nation and nationalism, and Marxism. They continue to remain original to a vast array of debates and contestations in these areas. The book includes unpublished pieces and some key contributions that are most relevant to the contemporary debates on theory and method of nation/nationalism, and the struggle of national minorities for sovereignty, cultural and political rights. Each chapter provides original data and are written over a span of decades, but significantly, they offer a radical break with the colonial, orientalist, and nationalist traditions of knowledge production. This book is an exemplary exploration of nation and nationalism in a Marxist dialectical, historical materialism.

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1 Orality and Nationalism



Graham Wallace…emphasized the importance of oral tradition in an age when the overpowering influence of mechanized communication makes it difficult even to recognize such a tradition. Indeed, the role of the oral tradition can be studied only through an appraisal of the mechanized tradition for which the material is all too abundant.

Harold Innis, The Press (1949, 4)

There is a great divide, according to Harold Innis (1894–1952), between oral and written traditions. The two worlds, oral and written, are conceived as different, separate, and even mutually inaccessible. For him, the boundaries of distinctness are drawn by the media or technologies of communication (speaking, writing, printing, or broadcasting), which play a powerful role in shaping relations of power in society, culture and politics.

The divide between oral and literate communications is present everywhere in social relations, modes of thinking, personality, knowledge, and space and time. A reviewer of Walter Ong’s 1983 publication Orality and Literacy: The ←3 | 4→Technologizing of the Word derived from the study the following dualisms based on the two different modes of communicating (Deckman 1984, 244):

Other theorists (such as Marshall McLuhan, Eric Havelock, Jack Goody, and Ian Watt) have constructed other dichotomies, often supported by interesting evidence from both the past and the present and Western and non-Western societies. However, Innis’ position is to be distinguished from other medium-centered views first by his opposition of orality not only to writing/printing, but also in more complex...

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