The First Prize Winner
Wendelmoet Hamelink and Hanifi Barış, “Dengbêjs on borderlands: Borders and the state as seen through the eyes of Kurdish singer-poets,” Kurdish Studies 2 (2014): 34-60.
The Second Prize Winner
Harun Yilmaz, “The Rise of Red Kurdistan,” Iranian Studies 47 (2014): 799-822.
From an impressive pool of more than a dozen articles, the committee has unanimously awarded the first prize to Wendelmoet Hamelink and Hanifi Barış’s “Dengbêjs on borderlands” published in Kurdish Studies. The article masterfully combines theoretical insights with meticulous research involving close textual analysis of the stories and symbols of the kilams (recital songs) and interviews conducted with the dengbêj (Kurdish folk singers) themselves to address one of the most important questions in modern Kurdish political history: why Kurds don’t have a state of their own? In contrast to typical conceptions that Kurdish elites “failed” to gain a nation-state, as well as more general condemnations of Kurds as too internally divided to achieve a state of their own, Hamelink and Barış find that Kurdish communities deliberately avoided and evaded the state as a means of maintaining some measure of freedom and independence. They suggest this evasiveness was not limited to preventing external authorities from imposing their will; it also included trying to ensure no state emerged from within Kurdish society. Their demonstration of the relevance of the local—local alliances, relationships, enmities, battles —and the perception in the kilam of the state and borders as external, far-flung, and invasive also offers an important counterpoint to the highly nationalized depictions common in accounts of Kurdish politics and society. The article also illustrates the rich potential of truly interdisciplinary work and draws on multiple methodologies and fields. The clarity and elegance of the writing, and the careful presentation of the kilams in both the original Kurdish and the English translation are also noteworthy.
The committee has awarded the second prize to Harun Yilmaz’s “Red Kurdistan” published in Iranian Studies. Scholarship on the Kurds have overwhelmingly focused on the Kurds in the Middle East. As a result, the Kurdish communities living in the Caucasus region have not received significant attention. Yilmaz’s article addresses this gap and focuses on the Kurdish population in Azerbaijan under Soviet administration between 1920 and 1937.This original work utilizes a wealth of primary and secondary sources in an attempt to demystify a Kurdish population in the Caucasus region subject to both communist modernization policies and Azeri hegemony during the interwar years. It compellingly documents the tensions between the Soviet modernist goal of presenting Azerbaijan as a regional model of ethnic coexistence and bureaucratic, political, and socioeconomic factors hampering literacy and schooling campaigns that brought few tangible benefits to the Kurds until the 1930s.
The first prize winner is awarded $300, and the second prize winner $200.
The committee is composed of Janet Klein (the University of Akron), Hakan Özoğlu (University of Central Florida), Güneş Murat Tezcür (University of Central Florida), and Nicole Watts (San Francisco State University).