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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 The book includes unpublished pieces and some key contributions that are most relevant to the contemporary debates on theory and method of nation/nationalism, and the struggle of national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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3 The Politics of A-political LinguisticsLinguists and Linguicide

Linguists and Linguicide


Writing in early 1999, I feel it is fairly superfluous to question the neutrality of linguistics or, even, the “exact sciences” such as physics and chemistry. However, the claim to a value-free, neutral, or “autonomous linguistics” is still a powerful one, rooted not only in the positivist-empiricist tradition but also maintained by the linguists’ political and ideological preferences, the interests of the discipline, and the historical context under which this area of knowledge is (re)produced and utilized. It may be useful, therefore, to examine the ways in which linguists try to depoliticize their study of language and, by doing so, engage in highly partisan politics.

I begin by examining a case—the linguistic study of Kurdish, a language that has been subjected to harsh measures of linguicide. The majority of linguists who have studied the language have kept silent about the deliberate killing of the “object” of their research by the Turkish, Iranian, and Syrian states. The policy of linguicide, enshrined in the constitutions and laws of these states, has not only denied the Kurds linguistic rights, but also seriously violated the academic freedom of linguists in and out of the countries where the language is spoken. An integral element of this policy has been the suppression of academic study of the language, its dialects, geography, and history. However, linguistic studies of Kurdish avoid documenting, let alone protesting, the ways in which this linguicide has ←73 | 74→destroyed the life of a people and suppressed the discipline...

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