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

zagros mountains

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

The aim of this conference is to contextualize Kurdish sovereignties within broader territorial, regional and global settings. As Kurdistan is currently divided between Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey, much research on Kurdistan has often, either implicitly or explicitly, examined its regions as self-enclosed. While valuable, such approaches may circumscribe the imbrications, continuities, and sometime radical breaks that situate the regions in broader spatial and temporal contexts. This conference seeks to address this issue by rethinking sovereignty in Kurdistan beyond aspirations for, or subjection to, statehood. An expanded frame of sovereignty, connected to local constructions of space, time, labor, gender, religion, and death, allows for Kurdistan’s continuities within, connections to, and departures from wider regional and global contexts to be more fully explored. By drawing together scholars who work primarily ethnographically and historically, this conference will examine Kurdistan through a lens of stateless sovereignty, with the aim of shedding new light on both Kurdistan’s contemporary predicaments and, possibly, the concept of sovereignty itself.   

We ask: How can we conceive of Kurdish sovereignties, in the past and in the present, beyond the boundaries of the state? 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 Michael Leezenberg (University of Amsterdam)
Welcome and Introduction by Axel Rudi

10:45 Coffee Break

11:00 Panel 1: Kurdistan Beyond its Parts: Continuities, Interconnections, and Breaks

Isabel Käser (University of Bern)
Schluwa Sama (Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung)

Andrew Bush (Bard College)
Johan Franzen (University of East Anglia)

Umut Kuruüzüm (Istanbul Technical University)

Discussant: Axel Rudi (University of Bergen)

12:30 Lunch

13:30 Panel 2: Before and after Empire: Kurdistan and the Emergence of the Nation State

Djene Bajalan (Missouri State University)
Seda Altuğ (Boğaziçi University)

Veli Yadirgi (London School of Economics)
Michiel Leezenberg (University of Amsterdam)

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