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Joyce Blau l'éternelle chez les Kurdes

 | 
Hamit Bozarslan
, 
Clémence Scalbert-Yücel

From Benedict Anderson to Mustafa Kemal: Reading, Writing and Imagining the Kurdish Nation

Christine Allison

Résumé

This article considers the usefulness of Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities as applied to Kurdish studies. Building on previous critiques (Chatterjee, Rosaldo, Silverstein, Wogan), it argues that « print-capitalism » does not fit this context, but finds merit in the notion of « imagining the nation » through discourse. « Print-capitalism » is interrogated by first considering the issues of orality and literacy, and then those « deep-seated Western views » concerning language ideology which underpin Imagined Communities and impact directly on the Kurdish context. It is asserted that the Kurdish situation before the 1990s cannot be accurately described using the term « print-capitalism ». Next, citing the work of anthropologists (e.g. Karin Barber), who explore the relationship between social context, identity and discourse, the article explores how we may more fruitfully investigate the « imagining of the nation » without the model of « print-capitalism. »

Texte intégral

Introduction

1This article is dedicated with great respect and affection to Professor Joyce Blau. For many years the only professor of Kurdish in « the West », she has been a pioneering figure in Kurdish studies; she has also written a great deal about Kurdish language and literature, transmitted both orally and by writing. These have now become key issues in Kurdish debates on identity and are the subject of much research as Kurdish studies progresses. Bearing all this in mind, I will exercise one of the great privileges of working in this area, which is to use the ever-complex Kurdish case to re-evaluate accepted theory, and consider the work of Benedict Anderson, who makes very coherent links between discourse, literature and nationalism and who is comfortably ensconced on Kurdish studies reading lists. His Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origins and Spread of Nationalism is cited in several publications and yet more student dissertations and theses. However, these citations rarely mention the trenchant criticisms made of Anderson by other scholars, nor the inconvenient fact that his modular schema of « print-capitalism » does not actually fit the Kurdish case. This article aims to point out why it does not fit, and why those of us who write about the Kurds should interrogate Anderson’s work and the ideologies underlying it very rigorously, especially at the present time. I will also reflect on possible future directions in Kurdish studies, for which Professor Blau strove for many years and which, thanks in no small measure to her efforts, has become a fast-developing multidisciplinary field.

  • 1 Nancy Fraser (1990): « Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Exi (...)
  • 2 Jaffer Sheyholislami (2011): Kurdish identity, discourse, and new media, New York, Basingstoke, Pal (...)

2It is not my purpose to reject the ideas of Imagined Communities utterly. Nancy Fraser vigorously upholds the validity of Jurgen Habermas’ concept of « the public sphere » for contemporary theorisations of democracy, but argues that « the specific form in which Habermas has elaborated this idea is not wholly satisfactory. »1 Similarly, I will argue for the validity of Anderson’s wider concept of « the imagined community » whilst making a critique of the mechanism by which he considers this imagination is accomplished, namely « print-capitalism. » Although the 1960s saw a large increase in localised Kurdish print cultures and one could argue for some evolution of « print-capitalism » at this point, it was the arrival of the Kurdish satellite TV stations in the early 1990s which delineated ideas of Kurdish nation and homeland in a way fully consistent with Anderson’s notions.2 Besides enumerating the shortcomings of « print-capitalism », I argue for an integrated examination of the imagination of the nation through discourse, as a complex social process taking place within specific social systems, and realised through the interplay of written and oral, cognitive and emotional, which, Imagined Communities implies, are binary opposites.

  • 3 Maria T. O’Shea (1994): « Between the Map and the Reality. Some Fundamental Myths of Kurdish Nation (...)
  • 4 David McDowall (1996): A modern history of the Kurds, London, IB Tauris; Hamit Bozarslan (1997): La (...)
  • 5 Maria T. O’Shea (2004): Trapped between the map and reality: geography and perceptions of Kurdistan(...)

3We know that a process of imagining the Kurdish nation has taken place. In 1994 Maria O’Shea asserted that Kurdistan existed in the minds and hearts of the Kurds and « on many levels in the discourse of its inhabitants, its supporters and those who would deny its very existence. »3 The history of political mobilisation in the various nation-states4 and the spread of national symbols have been traced.5 But can we confidently assert that this « imagining “has taken place through the mechanism of print-capitalism” »? This article will reply in the negative and will seek more satisfactory mechanisms of explaining how the Kurdish nation is imagined.

  • 6 Peter Wogan (2001): « Imagined Communities reconsidered: is print-capitalism what we think it is? » (...)

4It is timely to highlight the tensions and weaknesses present in Anderson’s work. Imagined Communities is rarely questioned in Kurdish studies, despite the fact that that over the last three decades the concepts of literacy, orality and language on which the print-capitalism model is based have been shown to be ideological rather than autonomous notions. Moreover, the « deep-seated, Western views of language » discerned by Peter Wogan in Anderson’s work6 have by other routes played such an important role in the nation-building of the States where Kurds live, especially Turkey, that they have been widely internalised in the area, and this is now playing out in the evolution of Kurdish language ideology.

  • 7 Amir Hassanpour (1992): Nationalism and language in Kurdistan, 1918-1985, San Francisco, Mellen Res (...)
  • 8 Jordi Tejel Gorgas (2007): Le mouvement kurde de Turquie en exil: Continuités et discontinuités du (...)
  • 9 Nicole F. Watts (2012): « The Role of Symbolic Capital in Protest: State-Society Relations and the (...)
  • 10 Nancy Fraser, op. cit.
  • 11 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit.
  • 12 Estelle Amy de la Bretèque (2007): « La Passion du Tragique : Paroles Mélodisées chez les Yézidis d (...)
  • 13 Partha Chatterjee (1993): The nation and its fragments: colonial and postcolonial histories, Prince (...)

5Some notable scholarship (e.g Hassanpour and Ahmadzadeh)7 has already been published on the role of printing, literature and media in the development of Kurdish nationalism. These authors acknowledge Anderson’s importance; however given the low levels of literacy among Kurds during most of the twentieth century they are unable to implement the « print-capitalism » model as Anderson himself formulated it. Kurdish studies has also seen innovative work in history, sociology and political science by authors such as Tejel Gorgas, Scalbert-Yücel and Watts,8 which has shed much light on the evolution and spread of key ideas about the Kurdish nation. We may ask why it is relevant to consider how the nation is imagined through discourse anyway; after all, Foucaldian ideas of discursive construction have already played an important role in Kurdish studies. However, studying how communities are imagined through discourse may help integrate what are all too often divergent paths in Kurdish studies – the « social sciences » path of politics and history and the « cultural studies » path of literature and « folklore ». There is certainly scope for further interrogating the relationship between culture, politics and identity in the Kurdish arena. There is also a more recent (and welcome) trend in Kurdish studies away from a focus on relationships between the Kurds and their respective nation-states towards issues such as dissent, struggles for hegemony and tactical negotiations of agency.9 Approaches which observe discourse, considering such points as language and genre embedded within a rigorously defined and nuanced social context, may yield a more detailed understanding of such issues, especially when practised at the micro-level in counter-publics.10 These processes are particularly relevant in the development of Kurdish nationalism, which was by necessity a piecemeal and untidy affair. Although Sheyholislami’s recent application of Critical Discourse Analysis to Kurdish satellite television11 gives real insights into the multi-voiced and contestational environment of Kurdish socio-political space, such approaches need not be limited to formal CDA. Nevertheless, despite certain exceptions which draw on ethnographies of speaking and ethnopoetics or which explicitly consider the learned literature alongside the oral tradition,12 studies of discourse in action are rare in Kurdish studies.13

  • 14 Cf. Pierre Bourdieu (1992): Language and Symbolic Power, Cambridge, Polity Press, p. 111.
  • 15 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 117-8; Karin Barber (2007): The Anthropology of Texts, Persons an (...)

6This article will be divided into four sections, building on critiques by Partha Chatterjee, Renato Rosaldo, Michael Silverstein and, especially, Peter Wogan. Firstly, to point out the shortcomings of « print-capitalism, » it considers the issues of orality and literacy and the so-called « Great Divide » between them; it then moves on to a description of « deep-seated Western views » concerning language ideology which underpin Imagined Communities and impact directly on the Kurds. Next it illustrates that the situation among the Kurds before the 1990s (and especially before the 1960s) cannot be accurately described by using the term « print-capitalism ». Finally it makes some suggestions aimed at developing the idea of the « imagination of the community » beyond « print-capitalism. » I turn to sociolinguists and anthropologists, not only to note how the power of words resides in the social relations of those who use them14 but also to consider how new kinds of self and public are created through discourse,15 moving towards more fruitful ways of investigating how the Kurdish nation is imagined through discourse.

Print-capitalism: falling into the Great Divide?

  • 16 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson (1991): Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nat (...)
  • 17 Ibid., p. 44-46.
  • 18 Karin Barber, op. cit., p. 142.

7For Anderson, not only was the book trade one of the earliest forms of capitalism in Europe, presenting a major challenge to the Churches and States that sought to control it, but it played a huge role in the titanic « battle for men’s minds » that was the Reformation.16 The printing of vernacular languages, and the development of new genres, created a « unified field » of communication. The shared reading experience of novels and newspapers created awareness of a wider community, too large for everyone to know each other; the stabilised language helped create a perceived link with antiquity.17 Anderson does not argue that print or literacy alone accomplishes such sea-changes in identity; indeed, we may reflect on the « battles for men’s minds » of the early Christian Church and early Islam, which reached large populations long before the advent of print; in fact, he makes it clear that other preconditions such as mercantile and industrial capitalism were necessary. Nevertheless, as Karin Barber says, he asserts that after the eighteenth century a European model was exported, where « everywhere that it was established, the press played a similar role in interpellating an imagined, bounded national audience. »18 And although this model may explain events in Europe and seems sound for what Anderson calls the « Creole states » of the New World, it enters more difficult waters amid the competing literacies of the Middle East and founders altogether on the rock of Kurdish statelessness, where there was little literacy and no print which could interpellate the national audience as a whole.

  • 19 E.g. Rosalind Thomas (1992): Literacy and orality in ancient Greece, Cambridge, Cambridge Universit (...)
  • 20 Brian V. Street (1984): Literacy in theory and practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
  • 21 Ruth Finnegan (1988): Literacy and orality: studies in the technology of communication. Oxford, Bla (...)
  • 22 Karin Barber, op. cit.
  • 23 Graham Furniss (2004): Orality: the power of the spoken word, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan.
  • 24 Sylvia Scribner and Michael Cole (1981): The psychology of literacy. Cambridge, Mass., London, Harv (...)

8Imagined Communities was first published in 1983, only a year after the first edition of Walter J. Ong’s highly influential Orality and Literacy: the Technologizing of the Word. Drawing on the work of Tedlock, Lord and McLuhan, and sharing some features with Goody, Ong proposed a strong differentiation between « oral societies » – usually community-based, small-scale, unfamiliar with writing – and « literate societies, » which produced analytical and abstract discourse. By implication, literacy brought specific, predictable cognitive changes and « progress » led from pre-literacy to the literate state. This rigid dichotomy between oral and literate societies, known as the « Great Divide, » has been much criticised across several disciplines. Historians showed that literacy was not adopted « across the board » and that it could take many years for it to be trusted for certain uses.19 In education, Street’s study based on fieldwork in an Iranian village emphasised the ideological, non-autonomous nature of literacy.20 Challenges from anthropologists were also numerous, especially those working in Africa where complex social organisation and administrations functioned with little or no literacy. Finnegan’s work is best known;21 Barber’s study of the anthropology of text leaps lightly over the Great Divide by focusing on both oral and written;22 Furniss reinforces the obvious but often ignored point that even after literacy is acquired, orality remains;23 in Liberia, Scribner and Cole noted the interaction between competing literacies of State schools (English), Koranic schools (Arabic) and the local syllabic script; an example highly pertinent to the multilingual and multialphabetic Kurds.24

  • 25 Graham Furniss, op. cit., p. 131-141.

9Furniss’ excellent summary of the debate makes it clear we may consider « Great Divide » models decisively refuted.25 Current scholarship generally refrains from ascribing specific ways of thinking, or stages of developmental attainment, to the modality itself (i.e. orality vs literacy), but to consider the uses of literacy – or other communications technologies in context – foregrounding genre (both spoken and written), social structures, and dynamics of power. Such approaches obviously lead us away from « modular » concepts; indeed it seems that accepting one model of communicative evolution to fit all, as « print-capitalism » invites us to do, is somewhat perilous. The Middle East at large may be distinguished both from many parts of Africa and from Europe, in that very old and prestigious forms of literacy, associated both with holy scriptures and religious law, and with a heritage of ancient scientific writing shared with pre-enlightenment Europe, have been influential for many centuries. In the nineteenth and twentieth century these came into contestation with literacy practices and ideologies imported from Europe, which developed along with the contemporary state education systems.

  • 26 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 39.
  • 27 Karin Barber, op. cit.; Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs (1990): « Poetics and Performance as Crit (...)
  • 28 See Philip G. Kreyenbroek (1995): Yezidism: its background, observances and textual tradition, Lewi (...)

10Since most of this scholarship followed the initial publication of Imagined Communities, it is hardly surprising that Anderson does not seriously interrogate the literacy/orality dichotomy. Certain criticisms are easy to make; for instance, it is noticeable that Anderson speaks of « literacy » in the singular; as stated above this is not adequate for Middle Eastern cases in general, and certainly not for Kurdish. There is also some confusion on the notion of « text » which he seems to equate with « the written; » he says, when discussing Europe at the advent of printing, « for the older Latin was not arcane because of its subject matter or style, but simply because it was written at all, i.e. because of its status as text.26 » This is highly problematic; scholars such as Barber, or Bauman and Briggs,27 would say that it is « text » because it is marked out as such to distinguish it from other forms of discourse, and that this « entextualization » need not involve writing. The Kurds (and their neighbours) have composed and transmitted many texts without writing – not only groups like the Yezidis28 who did not traditionally practise literacy, but also the huge majority who performed the many genres of oral literature, or who memorised written literary, political and religious texts and passed them on. It is not reasonable to reproach Anderson for his lack of rigour in delineating orality and literacy, given his publication date, but in our own time the shortcomings of Imagined Communities on this point should be borne in mind.

« Deep-seated, Western views »

  • 29 Peter Wogan, op. cit., p. 412.
  • 30 On religions of the Book, see Philip G. Kreyenbroek, Yezidism; Philip G. Kreyenbroek and Khalil Jin (...)
  • 31 Peter Wogan, op. cit., p. 411.

11An important strand of Wogan’s critique of Anderson concerns the Eurocentricity of the patterns of thought underpinning print-capitalism. In a section reminiscent of critiques made of « Great Divide » theorists, Wogan summarises the assumptions of « literacy symbolism » prevalent in the West and their presence in Imagined Communities. He lists five areas commonly associated with literacy as opposed to orality – religions of the Book (as opposed to « tribal » religions); « modern » scientific thought (as opposed to « irrational » thought); historical consciousness through written documents (as opposed to oral myth), the nation-state, with its modern record-keeping and bureaucracy; and the notion of « civilization » (as a moral notion, as opposed to « illiterate » Others).29 All five are observable in the Kurdish context and taken up in the scholarly literature.30 He also demonstrates how Anderson’s portrayal of orality conforms to this, citing instances where it is associated with emotion, as opposed to cognition, which is associated with print. Thus the nation is « imagined » through print but « loved » through orality.31 This issue of cognition and affect will be revisited later.

  • 32 Michael Silverstein (1979): « Language Structure and Linguistic Ideology, » in P. R. Clyne, W.F. Ha (...)
  • 33 Daniel Segal and Richard Handler (1992): « How European is Nationalism? » Social Analysis 32, p. 1- (...)
  • 34 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, op. cit., p. 38.
  • 35 John J. Gumperz (1982): Discourse strategies, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 20; cited b (...)

12A key area of discussion for the Kurdish issue is language ideology, defined as « any set of beliefs about language articulated by the users as a rationalization or justification of perceived language structure and use. »32 Print-capitalism’s stress on the importance of the unified field of communication has been critiqued: « Anderson assumes that a common language is a functional prerequisite for “communities” whether imagined as sacred or national. This is, in effect, to treat (linguistic) homogeneity as a human norm, and not as a contingent principle of the nationalistic world view. »33 Indeed, Anderson makes the extraordinary statement, « then [the sixteenth century] and now the bulk of mankind is monoglot ».34 Here Wogan cites Gumperz: « bilingualism or bidialectalism tends to be the rule rather than the exception. »35 It is clear that for Anderson, the nation develops from bilingualism to monolingualism, even though, in theory, the « unified field » of communication need not be the mother-tongue for all members of the imagined community.

  • 36 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 121.

13A necessary part of the print-capitalism model, then, is language standardisation. The impact of this on the Kurds is such that it merits some discussion here. Silverstein refers to it as a « modern and inclusive societal project. »36 Wogan strongly emphasises the essential artificiality of the western ideology of language standardisation:

  • 37 Peter Wogan, op. cit., p. 410.

... an illusion of national community based on a certain linguistic standard, the hegemonic standard promoted in print products like dictionaries and grammar manuals. Just as these language standards claim neutrality, « a view from nowhere » removed from dialects and other impurities, Anderson has created a similar picture of the nation and standardized print.37

  • 38 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 129.

14Similarly, Silverstein, though describing Imagined Communities as a « brilliant little book », criticises Anderson’s apparent readiness to accept the tropes which maintain such language regimes as a reality, dismissing all the contestation, multilingualism and heteroglossia which actually exist.38

  • 39 Renato Rosaldo, op. cit.
  • 40 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, op. cit., p. 26ff.
  • 41 Renato Rosaldo, op. cit., p. 241, 243.
  • 42 cf. Mesut Yeğen, op. cit.

15Since the Kurds constitute minorities in their homeland states, Renato Rosaldo’s critique of Anderson is also relevant.39 He expresses anxiety over the development of hegemonic linguistic and cultural standards which unfold as the national community is imagined. Taking as an example the Ilongot in Filipino nationalism, (of which the novelistic discourse is in fact discussed by Anderson;40 Rosaldo underlines the plight of those excluded by the « coercive uniformity » of the imagined nation and the difficulties they have in attaining « cultural citizenship, » defined as « the right to be different and to belong, in a democratic, participatory sense. »41 Children are sent by their parents to State schools and encouraged to learn « Filipino » religion and methods of agriculture; this gives the younger generation great economic advantages but sets up a cultural chasm between parents and children. We cannot but think of the Kurdish situation and the complex issues surrounding attainment of cultural citizenship, especially in Turkey and Syria.42

  • 43 Kurdish, a Western Iranian language, has two major dialects, Kurmanji (spoken in Turkey, Syria, the (...)
  • 44 For this and the « Turkish History Hypothesis » see Geoffrey Haig (2003): « The Invisibilisation of (...)
  • 45 Yiannis Kanakis (2013): « Dancing the future of Hakkari’s past, according to 9-year-old Ayfer, » in (...)

16For most of the twentieth century all the nation-states inhabited by Kurds, except the former Soviet Union, had single, fully officialised national languages, none of which was Kurdish.43 Turkey’s language policy was perhaps the most firmly embedded in the nation-building process. A root-and-branch language reform which purged Turkish of many of its « foreign » borrowings (mostly Arabic and Persian) was instituted. A new Roman alphabet, disconnecting State discourse from the Ottoman past, was introduced at short notice, in a campaign spearheaded by Atatürk himself, in 1928. State-controlled knowledge production at University level generated Turkish-centred linguistic models such as the « Sun Language Theory » of the 1930s.44 In school, children were taught that Turkish was scientifically proven to be beautiful and high-status, a practice which continues today.45 We may consider Silverstein’s description of the process of standardisation:

  • 46 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 122.

... a language community acquires what we would term a hegemonic standard relative to which variation is experienced as a pyramidal or conical space of divergence: standard-register usage is at the top-and-center, and each coherent cluster of variance is experienced as mere « dialect »... The standard that informs the language community’s norm thus becomes the very emblem of the existence of that community, with a characteristic social distribution of strength and mode of allegiance that can be studied with some precision46

17Not only was this monolithic language policy lethal to the variant forms, the « mere dialects » of Turkish – a purging which Geoffrey Lewis deemed a « catastrophe » – but it was also disastrous for Kurdish, which by the time of the Republic’s inception in 1923 did not have the widely practised forms of literacy enjoyed by some other vernaculars, such as Greek and Armenian.

  • 47 Clémence Scalbert-Yücel, op. cit.
  • 48 Geoffrey Haig, op. cit., p. 131.
  • 49 Philip G. Kreyenbroek, op. cit..
  • 50 See Geoffrey Haig, op. cit., p. 135-136; Mehmet Fırat (1961): Doğu İlleri ve Varto Tarihi (The Hist (...)
  • 51 Philip G. Kreyenbroek, op. cit., p. 75; Tove Skuttnabb-Kangas and Sertaç Bucak, op. cit., p. 355.
  • 52 E.g.: European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance Third Report on Turkey, June 2004. URL: ht (...)
  • 53 Senem Aslan (2009): « Incoherent State: The Controversy over Kurdish Naming in Turkey, » European J (...)
  • 54 Mesut Yeğen (1999): « The Kurdish Question in Turkish State Discourse, » Journal Of Contemporary Hi (...)
  • 55 « Dr. Fritz » (1992): Kürtlerin tarihi (History of the Kurds), Istanbul, Hasat Yayınları.

18The situation in Turkey has certainly been one of language conflict, as Scalbert-Yücel shows.47 State policy towards the Kurdish language was marked by a programme of « invisibilisation »48 interspersed with periods of outright criminalisation. In 1924, Kurdish schools, institutions and publications were banned. After the Dersim rebellion of 1938, a ban came into force covering not only publication and education, but also conversational use of Kurdish.49 During this period the terms « Kurd » and « Kurdistan » were outlawed and the term « Mountain Turk » developed, and many places renamed with Turkish names.50 After a period of relaxation in the 1960s and the ensuing military coups d’état, the constitution of 1982 again imposed draconian restrictions on « prohibited languages. »51 Publication was legalised in 1991, and shortly afterwards private language lessons (which, however, few could afford) began to be available, though often hampered by unnecessary obstacles.52 In 2009, the Justice and Development Party government instituted a Kurdish-language TV station, TRT-6; it also embarked on a programme of embedding Kurdish teaching within State university education, at university level, beginning with Mardin in 2010. However, even since the 1990s, substantiated reports abound of harassment, arrests and prosecutions for diverse activities, including giving a child a Kurdish name,53 commissioning Kurdish-language software for local administration and using the non-Turkish letters q, x, and w in public notices. In Turkish State discourse, including the media, loaded words such as « terrorism, » « separatism, » « tribal » and « developing » are commonly associated with Kurds.54 A pseudonymous pre-Revolutionary pamphlet of 1918 characterizing the language as « primitive » was re-issued in 1992 in Istanbul.55

  • 56 William Eagleton (1963): The Kurdish Republic of 1946, Oxford, Oxford University Press.
  • 57 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 125-130.

19In Pahlavi Iran (1925-1979) Atatürk’s centralized nation-building model was imitated in many respects and Persian enforced as the sole official language, though this was relaxed during periods of government weakness such as 1941-53; the short-lived Kurdish Republic of Mahabad of 1946 saw a notable upsurge of Kurdish-language publishing.56 Kurdish fared better than « non-Aryan » languages such as Turkish, but by 1960 it was still being classified as a « dialect » of Persian. Kurdish publication was not permitted, nor was it taught in schools; intellectuals reported hiding books and memorising texts to avoid being found in possession of Kurdish written material; the state enforced the development and purification of Persian and a Persian « Sun-language theory » existed.57 As with Turkey, Silverstein’s remarks cited above apply, and also their continuation:

  • 58 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 122.

Those with the greatest allegiance to this emblem of community-hood tend to imagine the existence of the perfect standard-using member of the language community as a democratically and universally available position of inhabitance of the language community to which everyone can, and even should, aspire.58

  • 59 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit.

20The iconic status of a vast classical literature makes this especially true in Iran, even after the Pahlavi period. Under the Islamic republic, publication takes place but is subject to censorship, and there is still no teaching in State schools, though in some universities, student societies have opened courses. Private lessons, the only legal option, are beyond the financial reach of many.59

  • 60 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 103-107.
  • 61 Ibid., p. 118.
  • 62 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 64.

21In Iraq, language rights and official status have existed for Kurdish, but these have always fallen short of Kurdish demands, which have been a leitmotif of Kurdish resistance. During the Mandatory period (1918-1932), which saw a somewhat contradictory language policy60 the Kurdish of Suleymani was taught in primary schools, around that city. The Local Languages Law, however, failed to satisfy Kurdish demands for the needs of the other Kurdish speaking areas (Erbil, Mosul and Kirkuk regions) in terms of education and administrative structures. The period of the monarchy continued these provisions – grudgingly, according to Edmonds61 – and the early Republican period following 1958 saw an upsurge in journalism, publishing and broadcasting. Nevertheless language rights were at the heart of the demands underpinning the rebellion of Mulla Mustafa Barzani in the early 1960s and again in the 1970s. 1970 saw a historic agreement whereby Kurdish was recognised as the second language of Iraq and implemented in State infrastructures in the Kurdish areas; it was never banned even after the Treaty of Algiers ended effective Kurdish resistance in 1975, though there is some evidence the Saddam Hussein regime intended to do so.62

  • 63 The Gulf War, the uprising in the Kurdish areas, the imposition of the « no-fly zone » and the ince (...)

22After the events of 1991,63 the Kurdish governorates of Dohuk, Erbil and Suleymani became unofficially autonomous, and moves to use Kurdish for all State administration and education were limited only by lack of resources. Broadcasting, by local and then satellite TV stations, posed fewer problems and was prolific from the beginning. Publication of magazines and newspapers, mostly (like the TV stations) organs of specific political parties, is plentiful (though print runs are small) and among students there has been a noticeable decline in knowledge of Arabic and corresponding surge of confidence in Kurdish. Nevertheless, the bilingual model of education in the two dialects spoken in the region arouses much local criticism.

  • 64 Jordi Tejel Gorgas, op. cit.
  • 65 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 139.
  • 66 I am grateful to Thomas McGee for information on the Kurds of Syria.

23The situation in Syria was influenced by events in both Turkey and Iraq. Under the French Mandate (1920-1946), publication was permitted (though it was not taught in schools) and a generation of nationalists, some refugees from Turkey, published actively.64 This was curbed but revived during the Second World War Ba’athist regime policy, which Hassanpour calls « linguicide, »65 resembles Turkey’s policy of « invisibilization », alongside Arabization policies in Kurdish areas. Since 1999, and more especially since the Qamishli uprising of 2004, Kurdish demands for linguistic rights have come to the fore, alongside demands for full citizenship rights. At the time of writing the situation in Syria remains uncertain, though for Syria’s Kurds, access to « learning » their language is controlled by the Kurdish political parties.66

24In the Soviet Union the situation varied across the different Republics. The Kurds were classified a « nationality » and the language was developed, through literacy, education, literature, broadcasting and scholarship. This development was subject to the vagaries of Soviet history – ideological censorship, no publication between 1937 and the early 1950s, and thereafter a Cyrillic alphabet to replace the Latin one which the Soviet Kurds had at least shared with some of their compatriots. Nevertheless in Armenia, and to some extent in Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan, education in Kurdish took place for much of the Soviet period. Kurdish writers formed part of the creative intelligentsia and in Armenia they had their own section of the Writers’ Union. Since 1991, much of this cultural infrastructure has collapsed for lack of funds. Nevertheless, the type of State propaganda which characterised Turkey and Iran in particular, which singled out Kurdish specifically as an inferior linguistic form, was much less prevalent in the Soviet states.

25Most Kurds, then, labour under a heavy burden of hostile linguistic ideology which includes State denigration of their own language alongside a valorisation of a « unified » and « modern » official language. Although a widespread campaign for language rights has come rather late, notably in Turkey and Syria, Chatterjee’s remark remains pertinent:

  • 67 Partha Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 7.

The bilingual intelligentsia came to think of its own language as belonging to that inner domain of cultural identity, from which the colonial intruder had to be kept out; language therefore became a zone over which the nation first had to declare its sovereignty and then had to transform in order to make it adequate for the modern world.67

  • 68 « What is important ... is the perception of Kurdish nationalists and elites regarding the necessit (...)

26For this transformation, standardisation is crucial. Its importance in Kurdish intellectual circles has been noted by scholars68 and is evident throughout the discourse. Again, Silverstein’s general remarks on the notions associated with language standardisation fit the Kurdish example very well:

  • 69 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 122.

Those people with the greatest allegiance to standard-as-emblem imagine, furthermore, all kinds of good results that come to the user’s mind, to users’ communicative networks, and to society and its institutions as a result of inculcating the use of the standard register. Especially interesting here is the imaginative linking of the use of standard to what we might call expository rationality, purportedly evidenced in the act of making logically coherent denotational text, and the critical and empirical condition of mind this is said to make manifest.69

  • 70 In the current climate where accusations of « Kemalism » have been levelled against those who prefe (...)
  • 71 See Hassan Ghazi (2009): « Language standardisation and the question of the Kurdish varieties: The (...)

27Thus, « deep-seated Western views » of the undesirability of minority dialect and the more « scientific » nature of the standard form, prevalent in Turkish language policy, are visible in Kurdish discourse.70 The classic example is the petition addressed by 53 prominent « Kurdish literary men, writers and academics » to the Kurdish regional government in April 2008, demanding acceptance of Sorani Kurdish as a national « standard » on various grounds, including its greater « development ».This caused vociferous responses both for and against and the debate continues, with acrimonious exchanges in the Kurdish media and online.71

  • 72 Cf. Timothy Brennan (1990): « The National Longing for Form, » in Homi Bhabha (ed.), Nation and Nar (...)

28Current Kurdish anxieties about language standardisation are a normal phase in the development of Kurdish language policy, given the political environment of the nation-states. Hegemonic policies may also to a large extent explain both the perceived importance of literary, especially novelistic, production72 and the drive seen in some circles to pursue research on learned Kurdish literature at the expense of Kurdish oral discourse. It is true that vigorous attempts have been made to hide or suppress Kurdish literature and Kurdish intellectual life in general, and that this injustice must be rectified; however, if, in redressing this wrong, we make the assumption that orality cannot be a vehicle for intellectual life, that it is always a sign of ignorance or stagnation, we risk falling into the very Eurocentric mind-set which the Kemalist state would seek to impose. It would be more fruitful to interrogate Anderson’s categories and the Eurocentric patterns of thought behind them which accept the postulate that language standardisation a priori equals progress, that orality is associated with the emotions and thus inferior to literacy, and that the illiterate play only a passive role in the imagination of the nation. Although these ideas are deeply embedded in contemporary constructs of the Kurdish nation, they are of no help to our methodologies when we seek to analyse the workings of Kurdish discourse.

Not print-capitalism as we know it

  • 73 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 79-82.

29I have argued that « deep-seated Western views » of language and culture which are implicit in the print-capitalism model also inform the imagination of the Kurdish nation. Alongside this conceptual issue, there remains an insurmountable practical problem in applying the term « print-capitalism » to the Kurdish areas before the 1990s, despite the flourishing of localised print and broadcast in the 1960s. In Europe and in the « Creole states, » the term implies a functioning print culture capable of reaching everyone, (though little is said of the illiterate, who may be very numerous in « new » nations). Yet the Kurds had no universal access to Kurd-centred media, and still lack a comprehensive Kurdish education system. Literacy rates in Kurdish-populated areas have traditionally been somewhat lower than average for the nation-states in which Kurds live.73

  • 74 Cf. Michiel Leezenberg (2012): paper presented at Exeter, January 2012.
  • 75 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 221; Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 80.
  • 76 M. Hakan Özoğlu (2004): Kurdish notables and the Ottoman state: evolving identities, competing loya (...)
  • 77 Ibid.
  • 78 Jordi Tejel Gorgas, op. cit., p. 124.
  • 79 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 224.
  • 80 Ibid., p. 244-258.

30Although widespread vernacularization of literature took hold in the Kurdish areas from the eighteenth century onwards,74 print arrived in the late nineteenth century. Haji Qadir Koyi’s 1890 poem saying how fashionable newspapers and magazines had become is now well-known.75 However, Koyi moved in élite circles, living in urban centres and in later life associated with the Bedir Khan family, former princes of Jazira Botan and (along with the Naqshbandi Cemilpaşazade family of Şemdinan), leaders of the Kurdish movement at the end of the Ottoman Empire.76 Early Kurdish print outputs came from organisations and small networks of active individuals from prominent families of notables, seeking dominance.77 In the 1930s, the exiled nationalists who formed the Khoyboun organisation in Syria came from the same limited circles;78 Sureya, Celadet and Kamuran Bedir Khan were responsible for the publication of the first Kurdish magazines, from Kurdistan (1898) to Hawar (1932-44). In Iraq, during the first half of the twentieth century, Kurdish printing was sporadic and perpetuated by a few stalwart individuals such as the Mukriyani brothers.79 Even in the second half of the century, the number of publications (legal and clandestine) per head of the population remained low.80 The highest literacy rates were in Armenia, where a Kurdish newspaper, R’ya T’eze, was read regularly by villagers and professionals alike, from 1930 until 1935 and again from 1955 until the 1990s.

  • 81 Hashem Ahmadzadeh, op. cit.
  • 82 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 221.

31Scholars of the Kurdish media have ascribed great importance to the emergence of Kurdish print as a marker of the beginning of the discourse on national rights;81 Hassanpour describes the Kurdish press as « the organ of Kurdish nationalism. »82 Sheyholislami expresses the situation succinctly:

  • 83 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 83.

...it seems safe to suggest that the Kurdish press has never been the mass medium that would enable the Kurds to imagine themselves as one community. Despite this, it is safe to suggest that the press shaped the ideas and politics of the intellectuals and activists, who are the architect of nationalism.83

32One cannot deny the diffuse influence of these pioneers. However, their printed product was not read silently, as in the print-capitalism model, but was treasured, read and passed on, re-read aloud, commented, and discussed, among circles of interested and trusted people. This is not print-capitalism as we know it, of hundreds of thousands sitting down daily to the same newspapers, but a much more complex modality of communication.

  • 84 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, op. cit., p. 76.
  • 85 Many « previously silent » sheikhs opposed the government of Turkey after it closed down the brothe (...)

33Another aspect of the « print-capitalism » model which does not suit the Kurdish context relates to the distribution of literacy and social status in Kurdistan; we must question Anderson’s remark that « An illiterate bourgeoisie is scarcely imaginable. »84 Most literate men belonged to clerical or medrese-educated circles; though some had real power, many of them had limited, localised influence. By contrast, many of the tribal chieftains and landowners were illiterate, but were knowledgeable men of tremendous political and social standing, and we can hardly doubt their influence on wider Kurdish opinion among the lower classes, especially before the 1960s.85 Again, we think of Fraser’s contestational counter-publics, rather than a coherent and bourgeois public sphere.

34Thus « print-capitalism, » though appealing in many ways, is a notion we must be wary of in Kurdish studies. Conceptually, those seeking to use it should understand and interrogate its deep links with those Eurocentric ideological notions of the written, the « scientific » and the « civilised » that also underpin the nation-states. Empirically, the widespread simultaneity of input which is a prerequisite of print-capitalism was not part of the Kurdish experience until the early 1990s, with the arrival of the Kurdish satellite television stations. Moreover, the print-capitalism model presupposes a distribution of literacy and social status (not to mention material resources such as bookshops) which does not fit Kurdish society through most of the twentieth century. Thus, the use of the print-capitalism model in any Kurdish region before the 1960s, and globally before the 1990s, would be ill-advised.

Imagining the nation: beyond print-capitalism

35Nevertheless, print-capitalism is only Anderson’s working model; his central notion that the nation is « imagined » – and, moreover, imagined through discourse – remains valid and useful. The remainder of this article will explore how this notion might work for Kurdish studies without the impediment of the print-capitalism model.

  • 86 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 113-117.
  • 87 David Romano, op. cit., p. 145-147.
  • 88 Oral history interviews, Berlin, 1997 and 1998.

36Sheyholislami shows convincingly that since the mid-1990s, the Kurdish nation has been imagined in ever-increasing detail through the new media of satellite television and the Internet. Kurds in both home states and diaspora can watch the same news bulletins, documentaries, comedies and quiz programmes, and the uptake, shown by online comments and the range of people calling the phone-in programmes, shows that they do. On Kurdish satellite TV, the lack of « unified linguistic field » is compensated for by the simple expedient of multilingual broadcasting. Evidence seems to show that the audience learns to understand material in previously unfamiliar varieties of Kurdish; the audience also has a much more complete knowledge than previously of historical events in other parts of Kurdistan, of national symbols such as the flag, and of the map of the homeland.86 In terms of mobilization, the satellite stations played a key role in demonstrations across Europe following the deportation of Abdullah Öcalan to Turkey in 1999.87 Sheyholislami contrasts this with the relative lack of Kurdish mobilisation following the chemical bombing of Halabja in 1988, reasonably suggesting that it is the Kurdish ownership of the satellite media which ensures the audience’s trust. Moreover in my own fieldwork, most non-intellectuals in Northern Iraq in 1992 knew little of the history of Kurds in Turkey; in the late 1990s, interlocutors from Northern Iraq and Turkey living in Europe told me that they had learned the history of other areas of Kurdistan in the diaspora.88

  • 89 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 102.
  • 90 E.g. Two of my interviewees stressed the impact of KDP radio among Kurds in Turkey.
  • 91 Nicole F. Watts, op. cit., p. 41. For Soviet « nationality » see: Terry Martin (2001): The affirmat (...)
  • 92 My own fieldwork, Iraq and Armenia.
  • 93 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, op. cit., p. 141-154.

37Yet many laid down their lives for the Kurdish cause before this detailed ideological education – did they not imagine a Kurdish nation? The earlier rebellions – Sheikh Said (1925), Simko (1919-1922), Sheikh Mahmud Barzinji (1920s), and Dersim (1937-8) – relied on pre-existing clan-based or religious loyalty networks; Ararat (1930) failed largely because it could not draw on these. Yet Kurdish nationalists had a sense of pan-Kurdishness at least since the beginnings of the twentieth century.89 By the 1960s, Mulla Mustafa Barzani, touched with the glory of the doomed Mahabad republic (1946) and his subsequent exile in the Soviet Union (1946-58), could recruit guerrilla fighters and political supporters from outside his clan’s loyalty networks; support for his Kurdistan Democratic Party extended beyond the bounds of Iraq.90 In the 1960s, before the « ethnicization » of the Kurdish movements, young activists in Turkey could mobilize significant numbers of supporters demanding their rights as members of a separate nationality, according to socialist ideology.91 The PUK, founded in 1975, drew upon wider networks of socialist sympathy. By the 1980s and 1990s many Kurds from outside Turkey were motivated to join the PKK guerrilla forces.92 Kurdish humanitarian mobilization, where local populations tried at grassroots level to bring material aid to Kurds (not necessarily their kinsmen) from other nation-states, was observed by the international community for the first time after the Gulf War in the prelude to « Operation Provide Comfort »; however, it had already been a commonplace of the Iran-Iraq war. All these examples, both political and humanitarian, presuppose a rather developed idea of common Kurdishness in the sense of « a community of suffering »; Anderson is surely right in his emphasis on the role of the emotional bond for the imagining of a community.93

  • 94 Hamit Bozarslan, op. cit.; Jordi Tejel Gorgas, op. cit., Nicole F. Watts, op. cit.
  • 95 Abbas Vali, op. cit.

38Are ideas of common Kurdishness and common suffering something different from « imagining » the nation? Does the nation remain unimagined when its members have a limited grasp of history or current affairs? Should the criterion for full imagination of the community be knowledge of certain canonical elements deemed essential by the movement, a sort of catechism? Surely not, and indeed the in-depth studies of Bozarslan, Tejel Gorgas and Watts94 have shown how complex the development of Kurdish nationalism is and how resistant to an overall schema fitting all areas. Sometimes it seems that the question « when did Kurdish nationalism begin? » has reached an impasse of disagreements over when « Kurdism » or « protonationalism » or even « feudal nationalism » becomes « nationalism, »95 The « deep-seated Western views » critiqued by Wogan are once again playing out, and one sometimes wonders how many boxes the Kurds need to tick, as it were, before they are deemed a « nation. » Sheyholislami clearly feels the need to think more widely:

  • 96 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit.

... not all nationalisms are political: some are cultural, and some are both... Since nationalisms create all nations... one could suggest that some of these nations could be political from the beginning (i.e., state-nation), some others could be cultural at first (e.g. nation), and then become both political and cultural (nation-state).96

39Like Sheyholislami, I would favour a broader view; my own inclination would be to consider a more « fuzzy » community as elaborated by Kaviraj and discussed by Chatterjee.

  • 97 Partha Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 222.

.... a community [that] did not claim to represent or exhaust all the layers of selfhood of its members... the community, though definable with precision for all practical purposes of social interaction, did not require its members to ask how many of them there were in the world.97

40This implies a notion of a wider Kurdish community, a Kurdishness beyond one’s native area and the Kurdish areas of one’s own nation-state, to which the individual feels a sense of belonging. Through the study of the sometimes chaotic flows of discourse, I would argue, we may come a more detailed understanding of how such notions are delineated and negotiated.

  • 98 Cf. Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs, op. cit.
  • 99 Janet Klein (2011): The margins of empire: Kurdish militias in the Ottoman tribal zone, Stanford, S (...)
  • 100 Clémence Scalbert-Yücel, op. cit.
  • 101 Ibid., p. 322.
  • 102 Metin Yüksel, op. cit., p. 141-178.
  • 103 My interviews, Berlin, 1997, 1998.
  • 104 Joost Jongerden and Ahmet Akkaya (2011): « Born from the Left: The Making of the PKK, » in Marlies (...)
  • 105 Hamit Bozarslan, personal communication.

41Anderson’s notion of print-capitalism may beguile us into focusing on text as object at the expense of the processes surrounding textuality, such as entextualization98 and transmission. Past studies of networks of exchange and transmission have revealed a great deal; we may cite the historical work of Klein,99 in addition to Hakan Özoğlu and Tejel Gorgas on the early nationalists and autonomists, and Scalbert-Yücel’s Bourdieusian study of actors within the sociological field of Kurdish literature, set in the context of linguistic conflict in Turkey.100 Another useful perspective of study is the social space or arena in which discourses of Kurdishness are exchanged. Scalbert-Yücel mentions prison as a place of learning for many authors;101 Yüksel foregrounds the medrese.102 The guerrilla movements themselves were an arena for learning and exchange, with organised ideological meetings held by the PKK in the mountains and more ad hoc exchanges of knowledge described by former pêşmerge fighters in KDP and PUK.103 Kanakis cites the use of music, dance and words in the streets and cafés of Kurdish towns, specifically Hakkari (forthcoming); Amy de la Bretèque highlights female space: the relations between mother and child, gatherings of women (forthcoming). One might also cite the traditional village guesthouses or dîwanxane and the şevberk events which are its successors, the funeral, whether large-scale and politicised or more familial and village-based, and the overtly politicized spaces – from the huge rallies, concerts and Newroz celebrations, via the student houses of Ankara where PKK ideology was forged and refined104 to Mehdi Zana’s workshop in Silvan in the 1960s.105 State-owned spaces too, such as school and courtroom, where encoded forms of communication and contestation take place, should not be overlooked.

  • 106 Norman Fairclough (1995): Critical discourse analysis: the critical study of language, London, Long (...)
  • 107 Ronald Scollon, and Suzanne B. K. Scollon (2004): Nexus analysis: discourse and the emerging Intern (...)
  • 108 Richard Bauman and Joel Sherzer, (eds.) (1989): Explorations in the ethnography of speaking: studie (...)
  • 109 Karin Barber, op. cit., p. 138.
  • 110 Bakhtin described speech genres as « relatively stable ... types of utterance; » see Mikhail Bakhti (...)
  • 111 Karin Barber, op. cit., p. 174.

42In all these social spaces a wide range of speech genres are performed and exchanged; understanding their workings and interactions is crucial for understanding discourse more widely. The well-known methodologies for studying discourse all place a strong emphasis on genre and context; CDA operates on the levels of sociocultural practice, discourse practice and textual practice;106 nexus analysis considers the range of semantic and discursive practises surrounding specific events;107 ethnographies of speaking and ethnopoetics refer to social context and forms of discourse.108 Karin Barber follows in the latter tradition and considers how discourse convokes new publics and fashions new identities,109 by using Bakhtin’s notion of speech genre110 and placing considerable emphasis on reception.111 Such approaches may develop Anderson’s notion of the imagination of the community through discourse, whilst collapsing the unhelpful binaries implicit in Imagined Communities, such as orality/literacy and cognition/emotion.

  • 112 Ibid., p. 22.
  • 113 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 110.

43To find more productive ways of thinking about orality and literacy, we must leave behind the notion of any exclusive link between literacy and text. Texts, including the literary output of cherished Kurdish authors, have played an important role in discourses of Kurdishness, which we cannot discount. But « text » denotes not only literary, but also oral, production; I would in general follow Barber’s definition of text as a piece of discourse which is constructed (as seen in its derivation from texere « to weave ») and which is patterned or situated in such a way that it can be removed from its context and placed elsewhere.112 Silverstein’s term « text-artifact »113 usefully describes its potential value and implies a whole range of processes surrounding the production, consumption and further transmission of the artifact.

  • 114 Many Kurdish manuscript collections associated are now lost or hidden, but Jaba’s collection, made (...)

44There are various classic texts of Kurdishness. Without reopening the stale question of whether the seventeenth-century Kurdish writer Ehmedê Xanî was a nationalist or not (or indeed what he meant by the terms « Kurd », « Arab », « Turk » or « Persian »), one can at the very least note that at the turn of the eighteenth century he wrote of Kurds as being distinct from others, as capable of wielding political power given the right leadership, and as deserving of literature in their own language. He was widely read in Kurdish medreses in the ensuing centuries.114 Sheykh ‘Ubeydullah wrote of the Kurds as « a people apart » in 1880. The poet Koyî, tutor to the Bedir Khan children, transformed notions of language and identity from his predecessors, Nalî, Kurdî and Salim, into a more nationalist idiom, which then inspired not only the Bedir Khan brothers but also the nationalist poets of the twentieth century, Cigerxwîn, Dildar, Pîremêrd and others. Modern poets and essayists were joined by novelists in the late twentieth century. Such cherished examples, too numerous to list here, are enshrined in anthologies and histories of Kurdish literature; the list has become almost canonical.

  • 115 Hakan Özoğlu defines Kurdish notables thus « ...notables came from among the Sufis, especially the (...)
  • 116 Hawar had a print-run of 500 in 1933, though only 75 readers had paid their subscriptions; Jordi Te (...)
  • 117 Hamit Bozarslan, personal communication.
  • 118 E.g. Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 57 n.18, on the value of printed materials smuggled from Ir (...)
  • 119 Clémence Scalbert-Yücel, op. cit..
  • 120 Michael Lewisohn Chyet (1991): « And a Thornbush Sprang Between Them: Studies on Mem û Zin, a Kurdi (...)
  • 121 Ordixan Celîl (Djalilov) (1960): Kurdskij Geroičeskii Epos ‘Zlatorukii Xan’ (The Kurdish Heroic Epi (...)
  • 122 Christine Allison (2001): The Yezidi oral tradition in Iraqi Kurdistan, Richmond, Curzon.

45As noted earlier, such key texts of Kurdishness, whether literary, journalistic or political, were diffused in complex ways. Texts, quotations used in synecdoche, and ideas from prestigious texts or thinkers, spread over large distances. We can see from British political officers’ interactions during the First World War and the Mandatory period with Kurdish notables – clergy, tribal leaders and landowners115 – that despite their small circulation and print-runs,116 the ideas expressed in Kurdish magazines published in urban centres spread far beyond their élite reading public into Eastern Anatolia, the Syrian Jazira and Northern Iraq.117 The oral history of Kurdish nationalist movements often refers to concealment, protection and careful transmission of the text-artifact.118 Nor must we forget the huge body of oral texts, both spoken and sung. These formed a key element in local discourses of identity and, as the century moved on and ideas of « folklore » as a national resource took hold, of wider Kurdish identity.119 At the more « fantastic » end of the spectrum lie folktales and folk romances such as Memê Alan;120 closer to « history » lie renditions of historic events such as Castle Dimdim,121 family narratives as told to visitors and younger generations and numerous songs and stories recounting battles, loves and losses in the villages and among the tribes, experienced by people whose kin are still alive today.122

  • 123 Ibid.,p.  206-7.
  • 124 E.g: Dildar’s poem Ey reqib (O enemy!) which became the Kurdish national anthem; Cigerxwîn’s poem K (...)

46Here we approach the issue of the cognition/affect binary. Some genres, such as the lyrics about battles, heroism, and lost loves, were extremely popular. Like the Western ballad, these Kurdish songs may be richer in affect than information, and may need explanation to their audience. They are intimately linked to feelings of identity, arousing nostalgia for the individual’s human experiences;123 previously linked to regional and local feelings of belonging, they now inspire emotions associated with wider Kurdishness. In the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries such genres were not merely the province of the non-élites; they were performed not only at village guesthouses but also for aghas and tribal leaders (many of whom employed their own singers). The Bedir Khans valorised them still further by including them in their text-artifacts, especially Hawar. They found an enthusiastic audience on the few radio stations which broadcast Kurdish material. After the invention of the cassette, the 1980s and 1990s saw wide dissemination of the work of Kurdish music. Many of the most popular political songs (themselves noteworthy in constituting new publics)124 drew on the melodies and idioms of the traditional genres. Given the intimate link between affect and mobilization, such genres are a key part of the imagination of the nation, alongside the literary, ideological and journalistic texts. Nevertheless, they are linked to valued historical narratives which are often delivered alongside speech genres imparting « cognitive » information (in the pages of a publication like Hawar, in a dîwanxane, or at a political rally). Both they and the more overtly political and intellectual material bring strong feelings associated with belonging to the imagined community evoked by the discourse. Cognition and affect, then, are extremely difficult to disentangle, and may be profoundly entwined not only in the same performance but within the same utterance.

Conclusion

47Anderson is a theorist who should be very seriously interrogated within Kurdish studies. Those Eurocentric patterns of thought which underpin the print-capitalism model also underpin language policy in the States in which Kurds live, and within Kurdish counter-hegemonies; it is easy for all of us, Europeans and Kurds alike, to internalise them. Kurdish politics will evolve in its own way, but for those of us working in the academic field it is important to use a model which does not make such assumptions, which does not automatically ascribe more worth to literacy than to orality, to cognition over affect, but which examines the role of all these modalities, and thinks in terms of spectrum rather than binary. Print-capitalism as a model does not serve the Kurdish context well, at least for discussions of the period before the 1990s. Nevertheless Anderson’s wider idea of the nation being imagined through discourse is extremely relevant. Studies of Kurdish discourse, across many genres and contexts, could provide new directions in Kurdish studies, revealing much about strategies of negotiation of identity and developing new trends in the field, moving away from studies of State hegemony versus Kurdish resistance towards studies of the dynamics and strategies of inter-Kurdish constituencies.

48The complexity of Kurdish discursive construction and its refusal to conform to tidy theoretical models should inspire us to confront many received academic ideas. Perhaps we need to think more widely, of bourgeois oralities, of proletarian public spheres; certainly we should note what « fits » for us and what does not. Anderson is a case in point: « print-capitalism » may not work for us, but with the notion of imagining the community through discourse, he has offered some exciting avenues of further research and for this we may legitimately thank him.

Notes

1 Nancy Fraser (1990): « Rethinking the Public Sphere: A Contribution to the Critique of Actually Existing Democracy, » Social Text 25/26, p. 57. DOI : 10.2307/466240.

2 Jaffer Sheyholislami (2011): Kurdish identity, discourse, and new media, New York, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan.

3 Maria T. O’Shea (1994): « Between the Map and the Reality. Some Fundamental Myths of Kurdish Nationalism, » Les Kurdes et les États, Peuples Mediterranéens 68-69, p. 165. URL: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316627778_Between_the_map_and_the_reality_some_fundamental_myths_of_Kurdish_nationalism.

4 David McDowall (1996): A modern history of the Kurds, London, IB Tauris; Hamit Bozarslan (1997): La question kurde : États et minorités au Moyen-Orient, Paris, Presses de Sciences Po ; Idem (2007): « Kurdish Nationalism under the Kemalist Republic: some hypotheses, » in Mohammed M.A. Ahmed and Michael M. Gunter (eds.), The evolution of Kurdish nationalism, Costa Mesa, Mazda Publishers, p. 36-50; Gareth R.V. Stansfield (2003): Iraqi Kurdistan: political development and emergent democracy, London, Routledge, Curzon; David Romano (2006): The Kurdish nationalist movement: opportunity, mobilization, and identity, Cambridge Middle East studies, Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press.

5 Maria T. O’Shea (2004): Trapped between the map and reality: geography and perceptions of Kurdistan, New York, London, Routledge; Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit.

6 Peter Wogan (2001): « Imagined Communities reconsidered: is print-capitalism what we think it is? » Anthropological Theory 1:4, p. 403-418. DOI : 10.1177/14634990122228809.

7 Amir Hassanpour (1992): Nationalism and language in Kurdistan, 1918-1985, San Francisco, Mellen Research University Press; Hashem Ahmadzadeh (2003): Nation and novel: a study of Persian and Kurdish narrative discourse, Acta Universitatis Upsaliensis Studia Iranica Upsaliensia, Uppsala, Uppsala Universitet; Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit.

8 Jordi Tejel Gorgas (2007): Le mouvement kurde de Turquie en exil: Continuités et discontinuités du nationalisme kurde sous le mandat français en Syrie et au Liban (1925-1946), Berne, Peter Lang; Abbas Vali (ed.) (2003): Essays on the origins of Kurdish nationalism, Costa Mesa, Mazda Publishers; Clémence Scalbert-Yücel (2005): « Conflit Linguistique et Champ Littéraire kurde en Turquie, » PhD thesis, Sorbonne–Paris IV, Paris; Nicole F. Watts (2010): Activists in office: Kurdish politics and protest in Turkey, Seattle, University of Washington Press.

9 Nicole F. Watts (2012): « The Role of Symbolic Capital in Protest: State-Society Relations and the Destruction of the Halabja Martyrs Monument in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, » Comparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East 32:1, p. 70-89. DOI : 10.1215/1089201X-1545327.

10 Nancy Fraser, op. cit.

11 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit.

12 Estelle Amy de la Bretèque (2007): « La Passion du Tragique : Paroles Mélodisées chez les Yézidis d’Arménie, » PhD thesis, Paris X, Nanterre; Metin Yüksel (2011): « Dengbêj, mullah, intelligentsia: The survival and revival of the Kurdish-Kurmanji language in the Middle East, 1925-1960, » PhD, Department of Near Eastern Languages and Civilisations, University of Chicago, Chicago.

13 Partha Chatterjee (1993): The nation and its fragments: colonial and postcolonial histories, Princeton, N.J, Princeton University Press; Renato Rosaldo (1994): « Social Justice and the Crisis of National Communities, » in Frances Barker, Peter Hulme and Margaret Iverson (eds.), Colonial Discourses and Postcolonial Theory, Manchester, Manchester University Press; Michael Silverstein (2000): « Whorfianism and the Linguistic Imagination of Nationality, » in Paul V. Kroskrity (ed.), Regimes of language: ideologies, polities and identities, Oxford, James Currey, p. 85-138; Peter Wogan, op. cit.

14 Cf. Pierre Bourdieu (1992): Language and Symbolic Power, Cambridge, Polity Press, p. 111.

15 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 117-8; Karin Barber (2007): The Anthropology of Texts, Persons and Publics: oral and written culture in Africa and beyond, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

16 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson (1991): Imagined communities: reflections on the origin and spread of nationalism, London, Verso, p. 39-40.

17 Ibid., p. 44-46.

18 Karin Barber, op. cit., p. 142.

19 E.g. Rosalind Thomas (1992): Literacy and orality in ancient Greece, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press; Michael T. Clanchy (1993): From memory to written record: England 1066-1307. 2nd ed. Cambridge, Mass., Oxford, Blackwell.

20 Brian V. Street (1984): Literacy in theory and practice, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

21 Ruth Finnegan (1988): Literacy and orality: studies in the technology of communication. Oxford, Blackwell.

22 Karin Barber, op. cit.

23 Graham Furniss (2004): Orality: the power of the spoken word, Houndmills, Palgrave Macmillan.

24 Sylvia Scribner and Michael Cole (1981): The psychology of literacy. Cambridge, Mass., London, Harvard University Press.

25 Graham Furniss, op. cit., p. 131-141.

26 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, Imagined Communities, p. 39.

27 Karin Barber, op. cit.; Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs (1990): « Poetics and Performance as Critical Perspectives on Language and Social Life, » American Review of Anthropology 19, p. 59-88. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2155959.

28 See Philip G. Kreyenbroek (1995): Yezidism: its background, observances and textual tradition, Lewiston, N.Y., Lampeter, Edwin Mellen.

29 Peter Wogan, op. cit., p. 412.

30 On religions of the Book, see Philip G. Kreyenbroek, Yezidism; Philip G. Kreyenbroek and Khalil Jindi (2005): God and Sheikh Adi are perfect: sacred poems and religious narratives from the Yezidi tradition, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz; on modern scientific thought, see Eszter Spät (2005): « Changes in the Oral Tradition of the Yezidis of Iraqi Kurdistan, » Journal of Kurdish Studies 5, p. 73-82; on historicity, archives and the nation-state, see Yavuz Aykan (2013): « Unacknowledged Memory: The nineteenth-century Ottoman Empire and the Ambivalence of National Memory in the Turkish Republic, » in Philip G. Kreyenbroek, Christine Allison (eds.), Remembering the Past in Iranian Societies, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, p. 78-93. URL: https://www.academia.edu/18518702/Unacknowledged_Memory_The_nineteenth-century_Ottoman_Empire_and_the_Ambivalence_of_National_Memory_in_the_Turkish_Republic; on the notion of « civilization », see Dicle Koğacıoğlu (2004): « The Tradition Effect: Framing Honor Crimes in Turkey, » Differences 15:2, p. 118-151. DOI : 10.1215/10407391-15-2-118; Mesut Yeğen (1996): « The Kurdish State Discourse and the Exclusion of Kurdish Identity, » Middle Eastern Studies 32:2, p. 216-229. DOI : 10.1080/00263209608701112; Selim Deringil (2003): « ‘They Live in a State of Nomadism and Savagery’: The Late Ottoman Empire and the Post-Colonial Debate, » Comparative Studies in Society and History 45, p. 311-342, DOI : 10.1017/S001041750300015X.

31 Peter Wogan, op. cit., p. 411.

32 Michael Silverstein (1979): « Language Structure and Linguistic Ideology, » in P. R. Clyne, W.F. Hanks and CL Hofbauer (eds.), The Elements: A Parasession on Linguistic Units and Levels, Chicago, Chicago Linguist. Soc., p. 193.

33 Daniel Segal and Richard Handler (1992): « How European is Nationalism? » Social Analysis 32, p. 1-15. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23164547.

34 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, op. cit., p. 38.

35 John J. Gumperz (1982): Discourse strategies, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press, p. 20; cited by Peter Wogan, op. cit., p. 408.

36 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 121.

37 Peter Wogan, op. cit., p. 410.

38 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 129.

39 Renato Rosaldo, op. cit.

40 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, op. cit., p. 26ff.

41 Renato Rosaldo, op. cit., p. 241, 243.

42 cf. Mesut Yeğen, op. cit.

43 Kurdish, a Western Iranian language, has two major dialects, Kurmanji (spoken in Turkey, Syria, the Caucasus and parts of Iraq and Iran) and Sorani (dominant in Iraq and Iran), alongside two smaller variants, Zaza and Gorani/Hewrami. See Geoffrey Haig, and Yaron Matras (2002): « Kurdish linguistics: a brief overview, » Sprachtypol. Univ. Forsch. (STUF) 55:1, p. 3-14. URL: https://www.uni-bamberg.de/fileadmin/aspra/bib-haig/kurdish_linguistics_a_brief.pdf; Philip G. Kreyenbroek (1992): « On the Kurdish Language, » in Philip. G. Kreyenbroek and Stefan Sperl (eds.), The Kurds: An Overview, London, Routledge, p. 68-83.

44 For this and the « Turkish History Hypothesis » see Geoffrey Haig (2003): « The Invisibilisation of Kurdish: The other side of language planning in Turkey, » in Geoffrey Haig and Stefan Conermann (eds.), Die Kurden: Studien zu Ihrer Sprache, Geschichte und Kultur, Schenefeld, EB-Verlag, p. 121-150.

45 Yiannis Kanakis (2013): « Dancing the future of Hakkari’s past, according to 9-year-old Ayfer, » in Philip G. Kreyenbroek, Christine Allison (eds.), Remembering the Past in Iranian Societies, Wiesbaden, Harrassowitz, p. 113-123; See Tove Skuttnabb-Kangas, and Sertaç Bucak (1994): « Killing a mother tongue – how the Kurds are deprived of linguistic human rights, » in Tove Skuttnabb-Kangas and Robert Phillipson (eds.), Linguistic Human Rights: Overcoming Linguistic Discrimination, Berlin, New York, Mouton de Gruyter, p. 347-370. URL: http://people.cas.sc.edu/dubinsk/LING240/readings/Skutnabb-Kangas.Bucak.1994.Killing.a.mother.tongue.pdf.

46 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 122.

47 Clémence Scalbert-Yücel, op. cit.

48 Geoffrey Haig, op. cit., p. 131.

49 Philip G. Kreyenbroek, op. cit..

50 See Geoffrey Haig, op. cit., p. 135-136; Mehmet Fırat (1961): Doğu İlleri ve Varto Tarihi (The History of Varto and the Eastern Provinces), Ankara, IQ Kültür Sanat.

51 Philip G. Kreyenbroek, op. cit., p. 75; Tove Skuttnabb-Kangas and Sertaç Bucak, op. cit., p. 355.

52 E.g.: European Commission Against Racism and Intolerance Third Report on Turkey, June 2004. URL: http://hudoc.ecri.coe.int/XMLEcri/ENGLISH/Cycle_03/03_CbC_eng/TUR-CbC-III-2005-5-ENG.pdf.

53 Senem Aslan (2009): « Incoherent State: The Controversy over Kurdish Naming in Turkey, » European Journal of Turkish Studies 10. URL: https://ejts.revues.org/4142.

54 Mesut Yeğen (1999): « The Kurdish Question in Turkish State Discourse, » Journal Of Contemporary History 34:4, p. 555-568. URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/261251; Aykan, op. cit.

55 « Dr. Fritz » (1992): Kürtlerin tarihi (History of the Kurds), Istanbul, Hasat Yayınları.

56 William Eagleton (1963): The Kurdish Republic of 1946, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

57 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 125-130.

58 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 122.

59 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit.

60 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 103-107.

61 Ibid., p. 118.

62 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 64.

63 The Gulf War, the uprising in the Kurdish areas, the imposition of the « no-fly zone » and the inception of the Kurdish autonomous zone.

64 Jordi Tejel Gorgas, op. cit.

65 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 139.

66 I am grateful to Thomas McGee for information on the Kurds of Syria.

67 Partha Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 7.

68 « What is important ... is the perception of Kurdish nationalists and elites regarding the necessity of a standard unifying Kurdish language. Given this perception, the status quo of political-educational-linguistic division will be seen by them as highly unsatisfactory, and they will seek out remedies for the situation. » David Romano (2002): « Modern Communications Technology in Ethnic Nationalist Hands: the case of the Kurds, » Canadian Journal of Political Science/Revue Canadienne de Science Politique 35:1, p. 132-133. DOI : 10.1017/S0008423902778207.

69 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 122.

70 In the current climate where accusations of « Kemalism » have been levelled against those who prefer to use the Latin alphabet, I should emphasise that the issue of alphabets is not part of my argument; it is the standardising « one nation-one language » policy which rejects « dialects » and « variants » as inferior which I would cite as consistent with Kemalism.

71 See Hassan Ghazi (2009): « Language standardisation and the question of the Kurdish varieties: The language debate in Iraqi Kurdistan, » Kurdish Academy of Language http://www.kurdishacademy.org/?q=node/582.

72 Cf. Timothy Brennan (1990): « The National Longing for Form, » in Homi Bhabha (ed.), Nation and Narration, London, Routledge, p. 44-71. DOI : 10.1007/978-1-349-20079-5_4.

73 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 79-82.

74 Cf. Michiel Leezenberg (2012): paper presented at Exeter, January 2012.

75 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 221; Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 80.

76 M. Hakan Özoğlu (2004): Kurdish notables and the Ottoman state: evolving identities, competing loyalties, and shifting boundaries, Albany, State University of New York Press, p. 87-120.

77 Ibid.

78 Jordi Tejel Gorgas, op. cit., p. 124.

79 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 224.

80 Ibid., p. 244-258.

81 Hashem Ahmadzadeh, op. cit.

82 Amir Hassanpour, op. cit., p. 221.

83 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 83.

84 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, op. cit., p. 76.

85 Many « previously silent » sheikhs opposed the government of Turkey after it closed down the brotherhoods following the Sheikh Said rebellion; Hamit Bozarslan, op. cit., p. 42.

86 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 113-117.

87 David Romano, op. cit., p. 145-147.

88 Oral history interviews, Berlin, 1997 and 1998.

89 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 102.

90 E.g. Two of my interviewees stressed the impact of KDP radio among Kurds in Turkey.

91 Nicole F. Watts, op. cit., p. 41. For Soviet « nationality » see: Terry Martin (2001): The affirmative action empire: nations and nationalism in the Soviet Union, 1923-1939, Ithaca, London, Cornell University Press; Francine Hirsch (2005): Empire of nations: ethnographic knowledge & the making of the Soviet Union: Culture & society after socialism, Ithaca, Cornell University Press.

92 My own fieldwork, Iraq and Armenia.

93 Benedict R. O’G. Anderson, op. cit., p. 141-154.

94 Hamit Bozarslan, op. cit.; Jordi Tejel Gorgas, op. cit., Nicole F. Watts, op. cit.

95 Abbas Vali, op. cit.

96 Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit.

97 Partha Chatterjee, op. cit., p. 222.

98 Cf. Richard Bauman and Charles Briggs, op. cit.

99 Janet Klein (2011): The margins of empire: Kurdish militias in the Ottoman tribal zone, Stanford, Stanford University Press.

100 Clémence Scalbert-Yücel, op. cit.

101 Ibid., p. 322.

102 Metin Yüksel, op. cit., p. 141-178.

103 My interviews, Berlin, 1997, 1998.

104 Joost Jongerden and Ahmet Akkaya (2011): « Born from the Left: The Making of the PKK, » in Marlies Casier and Joost Jongerden (eds.), Nationalisms and Politics in Turkey: Political Islam, Kemalism and the Kurdish Issue, London, Routledge, p. 123-142. URL: https://www.academia.edu/376932/Born_from_the_Left_the_making_of_the_PKK.

105 Hamit Bozarslan, personal communication.

106 Norman Fairclough (1995): Critical discourse analysis: the critical study of language, London, Longman; Ruth Wodak, Rudolf de Cillia, Martin Reisigl, Karin Liebhart (eds.) (2009): The discursive construction of national identity, 2nd ed, tr. Angelika Hirsch, Richard Mitten and J.W. Unger, Edinburgh, Edinburgh University Press.

107 Ronald Scollon, and Suzanne B. K. Scollon (2004): Nexus analysis: discourse and the emerging Internet, London, New York, Routledge.

108 Richard Bauman and Joel Sherzer, (eds.) (1989): Explorations in the ethnography of speaking: studies in the social and cultural foundations of language, 2nd ed. Cambridge, New York, Cambridge University Press.

109 Karin Barber, op. cit., p. 138.

110 Bakhtin described speech genres as « relatively stable ... types of utterance; » see Mikhail Bakhtin, Caryl Emerson, and Michael Holquist (1986): Speech genres and other late essays Austin, University of Texas Press.

111 Karin Barber, op. cit., p. 174.

112 Ibid., p. 22.

113 Michael Silverstein, op. cit., p. 110.

114 Many Kurdish manuscript collections associated are now lost or hidden, but Jaba’s collection, made in Erzurum in the 1850s and now in St Petersburg, shows Xanî’s popularity.

115 Hakan Özoğlu defines Kurdish notables thus « ...notables came from among the Sufis, especially the Naqshbandis, from the Kurdish tribal nobility, and also from families whose leaders managed to secure local administrative positions, » op. cit., p. 12.

116 Hawar had a print-run of 500 in 1933, though only 75 readers had paid their subscriptions; Jordi Tejel Gorgas, op. cit., p. 284.

117 Hamit Bozarslan, personal communication.

118 E.g. Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 57 n.18, on the value of printed materials smuggled from Iraqi Kurdistan into Iran, following the Islamic revolution.

119 Clémence Scalbert-Yücel, op. cit..

120 Michael Lewisohn Chyet (1991): « And a Thornbush Sprang Between Them: Studies on Mem û Zin, a Kurdish Romance, » PhD thesis, University of California at Berkeley.

121 Ordixan Celîl (Djalilov) (1960): Kurdskij Geroičeskii Epos ‘Zlatorukii Xan’ (The Kurdish Heroic Epic ‘Khan Goldenhand’), Moscow.

122 Christine Allison (2001): The Yezidi oral tradition in Iraqi Kurdistan, Richmond, Curzon.

123 Ibid.,p.  206-7.

124 E.g: Dildar’s poem Ey reqib (O enemy!) which became the Kurdish national anthem; Cigerxwîn’s poem Kîme ez (Who am I?) sung as Kîne em (Who are we?) by Şivan Perwer; Zakaria’s rendition of the song Kurdistan, which is analysed by Jaffer Sheyholislami, op. cit., p. 123-138.

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Université dʻExeter

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