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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 The book includes unpublished pieces and some key contributions that are most relevant to the contemporary debates on theory and method of nation/nationalism, and the struggle of national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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5 The Making of Kurdish IdentityPre-twentieth-century Historical and Literary Sources

Pre-twentieth-century Historical and Literary Sources


The tradition of all the dead generations weighs like a nightmare on the brains of the living. And just when they seem engaged in revolutionizing themselves and things, in creating something that has never yet existed, precisely in such periods of revolutionary crisis they anxiously conjure up the spirits of the past to their service and borrow from them names, battle cries and costumes in order to present the new scene of world history in this time-honored disguise and this borrowed language.

Karl Marx, Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte (1972b, 595)

“Origins,” in the sense of an ancient and distinct past, is indispensable for both Kurdayetî, that is, Kurdish nationalism, and its adversaries, Turkish, Persian (“Iranian”), and Arab state nationalisms.1 Much more than an academic debate, reference to distinct “origins,” real or constructed, posits and legitimates the existence of a Kurdish nation and the demand for its sovereign rule. For Turkey, Iran and, to a lesser extent, Iraq and Syria, the construction of unique and ancient Turkish, Persian (“Iranian”), and Arab origins has served the project of integrating the Kurds and other non-dominant peoples into the “nation-state.” Indeed, the appeal to origins seems to be true of most nationalist movements, whose raison d’être lies to a great extent in their differences from and conflicts with other nations. In the Kurdish case, however, “origin” is the site of (re)producing differences under a regime of state violence. Although the conflict over origins belongs to the realm...

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