New Book Out: Iraqi Kurdistan, the PKK and International Relations – Theory and Ethnic Conflict

6 06 2018

Černy, Hannes

Routledge, 2017

ISBN: 9781138676176

Due to its primacy in explaining issues of war and peace in the international arena, the discipline of International Relations (IR) looms large in analyses of and responses to ethnic conflict in academia, politics and popular media – in particular with respect to contemporary conflicts in the Middle East.

Grounded in constitutive theory, this book challenges how ethnic/ethno-nationalist conflict is represented in explanatory IR by deconstructing its most prominent state-centric models, frameworks and analytical concepts. As much a critique of contemporary scholarship on Kurdish ethno-nationalism as a detailed analysis of the most prominent Kurdish ethno-nationalist actors, the book provides the first in-depth investigation into the relations between the PKK and the main Iraqi Kurdish political parties from the 1980s to the present. It situates this inquiry within the wider context of the ambiguous political status of the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, its relations with Turkey, and the role Kurdish parties and insurgencies play in the war against ISIS in Iraq and Syria. Appreciating these complex dynamics and how they are portrayed in Western scholarship is essential for understanding current developments in the Iraqi and Syrian theatres of war, and for making sense of discussions about a potential independent Kurdish state to emerge in Iraq.

Iraqi Kurdistan provides a comprehensive and critical discussion of the state-centric and essentialising epistemologies, ontologies, and methodologies of the three main paradigms of explanatory IR, as well as their analytical models and frameworks on ethnic identity and conflict in the Middle East and beyond. It will therefore be a valuable resource for anyone studying ethnicity and nationalism, International Relations or Middle East Politics.

For details click here.


New Book Out: Narratives of the History of the Ottoman-Kurdish Bedirhani Family in Imperial and Post-Imperial Contexts – Continuities and Changes

4 06 2018

Henning, Barbara

University of Bamberg Press, 2018

ISBN: 978-3-86309-551-2

This dissertation is concerned with the Ottoman-Kurdish Bedirhani family and its history in Ottoman imperial and post-imperial times. Tracing various members of the extended Bedirhani family over the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it looks at the family’s history as a case-study to inquire about dynamics of post-imperial identity formation over a crucial period of time: A particular focus lies on the Bedirhani family’s history immediately before and after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire – that is, at a decisive moment in the formation of the current geopolitical structure of the Middle East, marked by the rise of nationalisms and nationalist historiographies. The work inquires about the strategies family members used to negotiate the shift from empire to post-imperial contexts. To get a better understanding of how family members coped with and tried to make sense of this transition, it looks at the stories they told about themselves and their family’s history and also investigates the network structures they operated in. It is argued that with the end of the Ottoman Empire, imperial structures of solidarity and frameworks of identification did not just vanish overnight, to be replaced by nationalist identities and loyalties. Rather, identity formation is understood as a long-term process with many options aside from Kurdish nationalism and post-Ottoman identity is read as a multi-layered phenomenon.

Looking at individual trajectories of Bedirhani family members between imperial and post-imperial contexts, different strategies and coping mechanisms can be observed. Departing from similar starting points in terms of resources like social standing, education, networks and economic wealth at their disposal, members of the Bedirhani family ended up in very different places after the First World War and the foundation of the Turkish Republic in 1923. As a counterbalance to existing research on the Bedirhani family, which has focused on a few politically very active family members, this study points to alternative trajectories of family members who did not engage with Kurdish nationalist politics. Their lesser known but equally interesting life stories serve a double purpose in the analysis: On the one hand, their stories sketch out opportunity structures, potentials and ‘roads not taken’ of relevance for all family members. On the other hand, they shed light on the manifold modifications the stories of their more prominent relatives underwent to fit the larger narrative of Kurdish nationalist historiography in the 20th century.

For details click here.

New Book Out: Insurgency and Counter-Insurgency in Turkey – The New PKK

4 06 2018

Plakoudas, Spyridon

Palgrave Macmillan, 2018

ISBN 978-3-319-75659-2

This book seeks to answer the “why” and “how” questions about the insurgency of the PKK, a militant left-wing group of Turkey’s Kurds, in Turkey. The PKK has been inter-locked in an intermittent war against Turkey since 1984 in the name of Kurdish nationalism. The author combines  insights of Strategy and IR – from strategy and tactics in irregular warfare to peace negotiations between state authorities and insurgents, with data from qualitative research, to achieve two inter-related objectives: first, assess the current state of affairs and predict the future course of the conflict and, secondly, draw general conclusions on how protracted conflicts can end and how.

For details click here.

New Issue of Kurdish Studies Out

1 06 2018

Kurdish Studies, Volume 6, Issue 1, May 2018 

Special Issue: Women and War in Kurdistan (open access)

Edited by Nazand Begikhani, Wendy Hamelink, Nerina Weiss

Martin van Bruinessen


Theorising women and war in Kurdistan: A feminist and critical perspective
Nazand Begikhani, Wendelmoet Hamelink, Nerina Weiss

The representation of post-conflict gender violence in Iraqi Kurdish novelistic discourse in Bahdinan
Lolav M. Hassan Alhamid

Reading and feeling gender in perpetrator graffiti and photography in Turkey
Beja Protner

Saving the survivors: Yezidi women, Islamic State and the German Admissions Programme
Thomas McGee

Building brand Kurdistan: Helly Luv, the gender of nationhood, and the War on Terror
Nick Glastonbury

Mother-activism before the European Court of Human Rights: Gender sensitivity towards Kurdish mothers and wives in enforced disappearance cases
Maja Davidovic

Book Reviews

Khanna Omarkhali, The Yezidi Religious Textual Tradition: From Oral to Written. Categories, Transmission, Scripturalisation and Canonisation of the Yezidi Oral Religious Texts, Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz, 2017.

— Reviewed by Martin van Bruinessen

Parvin Mahmoudveysi, Denise Bailey, Ludwig Paul, and Geoffrey Haig, The Gorani Language of Gawraǰū, a Village of West Iran: Texts, Grammar, and Lexicon, 2012, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2012.


Mahmoudveysi, Parvin, and Denise Bailey. The Gorani Language of Zarda, a Village of West Iran: Texts, Grammar, and Lexicon, Wiesbaden: Reichert Verlag, 2013.

— Reviewed by Michiel Leezenberg

David Gaunt, Naures Atto, and Soner O. Barthoma, Let Them Not Return: Sayfo – The Genocide against the Assyrian, Syriac and Chaldean Christians in the Ottoman Empire, New York, Oxford: Berghahn Books, 2017.

— Reviewed by Heleen Murre-van den Berg

Ahmed Fawaz, Opportunity, Identity, and Resources in Ethnic Mobilization: The Iraqi Kurds and the Abkhaz of Georgia, Lanham, Maryland: Lexington Books, 2017.

— Reviewed by Jacob A. Crusinberry

Michael M. Gunter (ed.), Kurdish Issues: Essays in Honor of Robert Olson, Costa Mesa, CA: Mazda Publishing, 2016.

— Reviewed by Michiel Leezenberg

New Book Out: Alevism as an Ethno-Religious Identity – Contested Boundaries

29 04 2018

Jenkins, Celia; Aydin, Suavi; Cetin, Umit (eds)

Routledge, 2018

ISBN: 9781138096318

Until recently the importance of religion in the modern world has often been underestimated in Western societies, whereas its significance is absolutely crucial in the Middle East. Religion is critical to a sense of belonging for communities and nations, and can be a force for unity or division. This is the case for the Alevis, an ethnic and religious community that constitutes approximately 20% of the Turkish population – its second largest religious group. In the current crisis in the Middle East, the heightened religious tensions between Sunnis, Shias and Alawites raise questions about who the Alevis are and where they stand in this conflict. With an ambiguous relationship to Islam, historically Alevis have been treated as a ‘suspect community’ in Turkey and recently, whilst distinct from Alawites, have sympathised with the Assad regime’s secular orientation. The chapters in this book analyse different aspects of Alevi identity in relation to religion, politics, culture, education and national identity, drawing on specialist research in the field. The approach is interdisciplinary and contributes to wider debates concerning ethnicity, religion, migration and trans/national identity within and across ethno-religious boundaries.

For details click here.


Call for Papers: Serbest Kurdish Studies Conference*

11 03 2018

Buffett Institute for Global Studies, Northwestern University, June 1 and 2, 2018

Buffett Institute for Global Studies invites paper proposals for its 2018 Kurdish Studies Conference. The Kurdish Studies Conference Series aims to support the production and dissemination of knowledge and to strengthen the network of scholars in Kurdish Studies. The conference convenes annually to discuss the experiences and struggles of Kurds, and the historical and comparative study of Kurdish politics, society, and culture.

Call for Papers

This year’s conference will focus on three themes:

  • The development of Kurdish Studies as a field
  • The idea of Kurdistan and its transformation in relation to political and cultural change in the region and diaspora
  • The possibilities and dilemmas of Kurdish politics across the Middle East region

In this framework, we ask participants to contribute to the discussion of at least one of these topics based on their research.

We have funds to support air travel (up to $300 for domestic and up to $600 for overseas) and hotel accommodation (up to 3 nights).

To apply, please send a detailed summary of your proposal (~ 750 words) and your current CV to Please name your files NameSurname_Summary and NameSurname_CV. The deadline for submissions isMarch 30, 2018. Participants will be notified by mid April.

*This conference is made possible by the generous support of Northwestern Alumnus Metin Serbest, Esq. (Law’05).

For details click here.

New Book Out: Multiculturalism in Turkey – The Kurds and the State

1 03 2018

Kuzu, Durukan

Cambridge University Press, 2018

ISBN: 9781108278461

Over the past couple of decades, there have been many efforts to seek a solution to the often violent situation in which Kurdish citizens of Turkey find themselves. These efforts have included a gradual programme of political recognition and multiculturalism. Here, Durukan Kuzu examines the case of Kurdish citizens in Turkey through the lens of the global debate on multiculturalism, exploring the limitations of these policies. He thereby challenges the conventional thinking about national minorities and their autonomy, and offers a scientifically grounded comparative framework for the study of multiculturalism. Through comparison of the situation of Kurds in Turkey with that of other national minorities – such as the Flemish in Belgium, Québécois in Canada, Corsicans in France, and Muslims in Greece – the reader is invited to question in what forms multiculturalism can work for different national minorities. A bottom-up approach is used to offer a fresh insight into the Kurdish community and to highlight conflicting views about which form the politics of recognition could take.

For details click here.