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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 The book includes unpublished pieces and some key contributions that are most relevant to the contemporary debates on theory and method of nation/nationalism, and the struggle of national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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11 “The Morning of Freedom Rose Up” Kurdish Popular Song and the Exigencies of Cultural Survival1

Kurdish Popular Song and the Exigencies of Cultural Survival1


In the final scene of Harold Pinter’s play Mountain Language (1989), a guard informs the prisoners that they are now permitted to speak in their own language, at least “until further notice.” The guard is an agent of an unnamed state that pursues a policy of linguicide, summarized in an earlier scene by an officer who tells prisoners that “Your language no longer exists.” In 1993 the Kurdish Tiyatora Botan theatre troupe (based in Cologne) began to present Pinter’s play to audiences of immigrants from Turkey, where Kurds were long called “Mountain Turks” (Dağlı Türkler) by the government.2

All the arguments and techniques that states can deploy in attempting to suppress languages and cultures have become familiar to the Kurds, who constitute the largest non-state nation in the world.3 Kurds living in Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran have yet to obtain unrestricted rights to education, publishing, and broadcasting in Kurmanji and Sorani, the two main dialect groups of Kurdish.4 Kurdish broadcasting and publishing remain tightly controlled by the government in Iraq and Iran; in Turkey the distribution of Kurdish publications and cassettes was legalized in 1991, but distributors and purchasers face various types of interference from officials and others. We do not write as dispassionate observers of this situation, but as active participants in the continuing struggle to maintain and cultivate all Kurdish dialects wherever they are spoken. To recognize an existing ←271 | 272→plurality of languages and the rights of citizens to express themselves in...

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