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Turkey's Kurdish Question: What Do the 1190s Tell Us About Contemporary Politics?

September 14, 2015 from 12:00pm-1:30pm EST
Center for Contemporary Arab Studies Boardroom (ICC 241),
 Georgetown University, Washington, DC
Speaker: Dr. Akin Ünver, Kadir Has University

The Kurdish question is one of the most complicated and protracted conflicts of the Middle East and will never be resolved unless it is finally defined. The majority of the Kurdish people live in Turkey, which gives the country a unique position in the larger Kurdish conundrum. Society in Turkey is deeply divided over the definition and even existence of the Kurdish question, and this uncertainty has long manifested itself in its complete denial, or in accusations of political rivals of 'separatism' and even 'treason'.

In this talk, Dr. Ünver explores how these denial and acknowledgement dynamics often reveal per-existing political ideology and agenda priorities, themselves becoming political actions. While the very term "Kurdish question" is discussed in the academic literature as a given, a new and systemic study is required to deconstruct and analyze the constitutive parts of this discursive construct. This book, Turkey's Kurdish Question Discourse & Politics Since 1990, upon which this talk is based on, provides the first comprehensive study and analysis of the discursive constructions and perceptions of what is broadly defined as the "Kurdish question" in Turkish, European and American political cultures. Furthermore, its new methodological approach to the study of discourse and politics of secessionist conflicts can be applied to many similar intra-state conflict cases. Through a concise discussion of the book, the talk will explore what lessons do the conflict-prone 1990s give us about the politics and ideology on the Kurdish question, as well as why past attempts at its resolution have failed.