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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 The book includes unpublished pieces and some key contributions that are most relevant to the contemporary debates on theory and method of nation/nationalism, and the struggle of national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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6 Language Rights in the Emerging World Linguistic OrderThe State, The Market, and Communication Technologies

The State, The Market, and Communication Technologies


The transition from feudalism to capitalism in Western Europe was associated with the increasing intervention of the state in the linguistic life of individuals and communities.1 If the premodern state was distinguished by its general inability to centralize power, the modern state, often labeled the “nation-state,” achieved a remarkable centralization of political, economic, cultural, and linguistic power. Even in states that are cited as models of “civic” rather than “ethnic” nations, for example, France, Britain, and the United States, there is a tradition of legislating the universal use of the national language and the banning of other languages (de Varennes 1996, 10–19). It is not surprising, therefore, that the first struggles for equal rights in the realm of language coincide with the increasing centralization of political and linguistic power in early nineteenth-century Europe (1996, 16–18).

In modern states, individuals are treated as citizens entitled to a diversity of rights. According to the liberal democratic tradition, this regime of rights imposes considerable limits on the power of the state over citizens (Waldron 1993, 575). Ironically, however, it is the institution of the state that grants these rights. While the state recognizes, constitutionalizes, or guarantees such rights, individuals only “exercise their rights” to the degree that the state permits (Schneider 1993, 508).

Many poststructuralists and postmodernists reject modernity’s state-centered politics by pointing to the advent of a radical rupture in governance, the regime of rights, and citizenship. According to one account, there is a

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