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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 The book includes unpublished pieces and some key contributions that are most relevant to the contemporary debates on theory and method of nation/nationalism, and the struggle of national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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2 The Absence of Peasant Revolts in the Middle EastA Historiographic Myth

A Historiographic Myth


While the countries of the Middle East were predominantly rural until the 1960s, the city has visibly dominated both the history and historiography of the region. As recently as 1960, the rural population of most Middle Eastern and North African countries was no less than sixty percent of the total population (Anderson, Siebert, and Wagner 1982, 238). Half a century later, an uprising in an urban space in Cairo, Tahrir Square, captivated millions of people throughout the world, and the place-name has permanently entered the language of politics everywhere. History is now being re-written in the streets of urban centers from the east in Iran and Bahrain to the west in Morocco and Algeria. In this dramatic conflict between despotism and democracy, the vastness of rurality seems to have disappeared in the crisscrossing streets and squares of the cities.1

Yet the disparity between the town and country involves more than a question of numbers or divergent ways of organizing space and time. From the perspective of historical materialism, the “contradiction between town and country” is one of the major divides in world history, a cleavage that (re)produces unequal divisions of economic, social, political, and cultural power. Even in societies with a predominantly rural population, the town exercises power over the country while its very survival depends on the food produced by the rural population. Far from be←39 | 40→ing one-sided or linear, however, relations between town and country constitute, from a dialectical perspective, a unity and...

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