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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 The book includes unpublished pieces and some key contributions that are most relevant to the contemporary debates on theory and method of nation/nationalism, and the struggle of national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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10 The (Re)production of Patriarchy in the Kurdish Language1



Many Western observers of Kurdish society and most Kurdish nationalists claim that Kurdish women enjoy more freedom than their Persian, Turkish, and Arab sisters. The claim has been questioned on historical and political grounds (see Mojab 1987; Mojab 2001a; van Bruinessen 2001). This chapter brings the debate to the realm of language and argues that the unequal distribution of gender power is clearly recorded in the Kurdish language, language being one of the ignored yet powerful sites in the exercise of patriarchal rule in Kurdistan. The evidence presented in this study reveals that linguistic, discursive, and symbolic violence against women (VAW) is ubiquitous and is matched by various forms of physical and emotional violence. Women have been denied the right to control their own bodies, sexuality, and sexual desire. The right to control women’s sexuality is conferred on the male members of the family, tribe, community, nation, and the modern state.

One of the contributions of the feminist movements of the 1960s and later in the West was the creation of a body of knowledge about social gender and language, ←235 | 236→focusing on the exercise of patriarchal power in the realm of language. Individual feminists, widely dispersed throughout North America, acted as a language academy, and in the early 1970s launched a language reform movement by successfully promoting “non-sexist,” “inclusive,” or “gender-neutral” language use.

It is significant that, since ancient times, “grammatical gender” (masculine, feminine, and neuter) has been studied and widely codified in the...

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