Theses defended

Decolonizing Liberation, De-Patriarchalizing the Nation - Kurdish Women's Struggle as the Keystone of the Radical Democracy Project of Democratic Modernity

Ceren Akyos

Public Defence date
May 2, 2022
Doctoral Programme
Post-Colonialisms and Global Citizenship
Maria Paula Meneses
The Kurdish Liberation Movement (KLM) has been addressed predominantly in terms of nationalism, ethnic conflict, separatism and terrorism and since the 1990s, with the ideological shift of KLM from a national liberation movement fighting for an independent Kurdish state towards pluralist radical democracy, in the framework of global social justice movements. I argue, both the micro analyses drawing on nation-state building and macro analyses on counterhegemonic global movements fail to critically address the universalist meta-narratives and Orientalism. These analyses produced in the Global North based on Western-centric theoretical references end up dissolving historical processes that took shape in the contact-zones of broader geographic realms with specific material, social and political configurations in the exclusive discourses of Western modernity. These analyses also overlook the imperial and colonial processes that still bear upon modern nation-building projects. It should not be ignored that colonial differences underlay the shaping of national identity, which today lie at the core of the Kurdish question in Turkey. Equally, by omitting colonialism from their historical analyses, these perspectives silence and render unthinkable other alternatives issuing from the longstanding traditions, practices and knowledges of marginalized and subalternized peoples who have resisted and survived colonialism. This work addresses the Kurdish Women's Liberation Struggle (KWLS) as the embodiment of these historical alternatives and as the prime mover of the decolonial turn of the ideological premises of KLM. Today, KLM advocates for radical democracy, gender liberation and an anti-capitalist ecological society conceptualized under Democratic Modernity, Democratic Confederalism and Democratic Nation which challenge the basic premises of Western-centric, patriarchal, capitalist and colonial modernity.

In an attempt to extend the analyses beyond the uncritical Western-centric and state-centric theoretic frameworks, on one had this work aims to disclose the link between colonialism, modernity and knowledge production, that is constitutive of the hegemonic political and cultural configurations forming the bases of the contemporary world system. On the other hand, it urges the analyses to thinking from the silences and absences produced by Western-centric modern thinking so as to center the creation of emancipatory alternatives on the epistemologies and knowledges that stem from the resistances of communities that struggle for radical social transformation, and especially of women. In order to do so, the theoretical basis of the present work puts in dialogue interdisciplinary perspectives of political geography, postcolonial critiques, Orientalism, Epistemologies of the South, feminist theories and decolonial thinking Further, this work undertakes a critical historical analysis to disclose the origin of the Kurdish question in the modern nation-state building project as part of Ottoman colonialism and to show the continuity of its imperial mindset in the configuration of the Turkish Republic. This analysis continues with the examination of KLM's outset as part of the socialist anti-imperial struggles with a modernist discourse equating self-determination with nation-state building and its transformation towards a pluralist understanding of community based on an emancipatory project reaching beyond the horizons of Western democracy. Moreover, KWLS and Jineoloji, the science of free women, built on the marginalized and silenced historical experiences and knowledges of women, is tackled as the impetus behind this transformation.

Life histories and counter-mapping are used as methodologies in this work to both re-write history from Kurdish women's point of view to introduce alternative records of colonialism, oppression and domination beyond universal historicism and narratives of 'high-politics', as to provide women with means to tell their unauthorized and silenced versions of history. They also serve in weaving together transborder counter-topographies of resistance and solidarity through interlocking accounts from the flip side of the colonial history. These life histories do not only foreground the intersecting forms of ethnic, racial, class, gender, religious and cultural oppression but also women's experiences that expand the meanings of territory, identity, self-determination, emancipation and autonomy. As such, Kurdish women's life histories build dialogues between local and global histories, reveal hybrid counter-hegemonic praxes and grammars that multiply the present and future alternatives, and expand the horizons of social and political imaginations for achieving global social justice and emancipation.

Keywords: Kurdish Women's Liberation Struggle, Democratic Modernity, Epistemologies of the South, life histories, sociology of absences/emergences, contact-zones, stateless democracy