Conference: Pasts and Futures of Sovereignty in Kurdistan - Part I

zagros mountains

Zagros mountains, Chahar Mahal o Bakhtiari, image by Ninara, 2011, Creative Commons attribution 2.0 Generic

In the study of the Kurdish movement, political practices have often been framed in terms of resistance, resilience, and belligerence. While valuable, this focus has in many ways diverted attention away from how the Kurdish movement has, throughout its struggle, claimed, enacted, and built sovereignty by changing how participants in the movement live in and understand the world. As sovereignty has traditionally been connected with the state, this conference seeks to broaden this perspective by highlighting other sovereignty-making practices that are not necessarily connected with statehood as such. Transformations of memory, historiography, time, space, gender, and the nature of death, are all phenomena intimately connected with sovereign power that have been down prioritized in favor of perspectives focusing on the state-centric deployment of violence. Mindful of the upcoming elections in Turkey, this conference therefore aims to shed light on how the Kurdish struggle has sought to realize its own forms of sovereignty in the past, as well as on what prospects the movement may face after the results are in.

We ask: How can we think of Kurdish sovereignties, in the past and the present, beyond the confines of states and statehood? What sovereignty-making practices can we identify and trace throughout Kurdistan, across borders and time? And, indeed, how may Kurdish practices of (self-)governance speak to the concept of sovereignty itself?


10:00 Keynote Lecture by Nazan Üstündağ (Independent Scholar)
Welcome and Introduction by Axel Rudi

10:45 Coffee Break

11:00 Panel 1: Dealing with/in the State: Violence, Autonomy and (Im)practical Utopias

Sardar Saadi (Wageningen University/University of Rojava)
Dilar Dirik (Univerisity of Oxford)

Esin Düzel (Sabanci University)

Discussant: Axel Rudi (University of Bergen)

12:30 Lunch

13:30 Panel 2: Inescapable Echoes: Space, Memory and Otherness in the Kurdish Political Imaginary

Eray Çaylı (University of Hamburg)
Onur Günay (Princeton University)

Alice von Bieberstein (Humbolt-Universität zu Berlin)

Discussant: Faisal Devji (University of Oxford)

15:00 Coffee Break

15:15 Discussion with Panel Members, and questions from the audience

16:00 Conference End

Convenors: Axel Rudi & Faisal Devji