Special Zones and Local Friends: Boundary-Making in the Kurdish Conflict


Fri, 02/01/2013 - 3:00pm to Mon, 01/24/2022 - 4:40pm

This talk examines the Kurdish conflict in contemporary Turkey. It focuses on the state’s record and shows that boundary work was a Turkish response to ethnic contention. The state constructed physical and symbolic boundaries to isolate insurgency and eliminate it with co-ethnics’ help. Accordingly, state policies divided Kurdish society and territory to secure political survival. This strategy created two outcomes in the conflict. First, it crushed insurgents’ dream of establishing Kurdistan by force. Second, contrary to its purpose, it led to mass Kurdish nationalism. The presentation also registers the close relationship between state-building projects and the making of ethnic minorities. The key mechanism is boundary work. In the Turkish context, by drawing lines of inclusion and exclusion, boundaries shaped the participation of Kurds in the nation-building project. Who was to be included and under what terms? Where would the line of exclusion be drawn? These boundaries proved to be salient and durable. They were at the heart of modern state-building process since late Ottoman times and were reinforced repeatedly over a century. When political violence began, it was no wonder that military contestation would follow these boundaries. While the state was interested in keeping these divisions intact, the insurgency tried to break them.


Cem Emrence is a lecturer at the University of Colorado-Boulder. He was previously a post-doctoral fellow of history at the University of Massachusetts-Amherst. His research focuses on Ottoman Empire and Turkey. Emrence is the author of the book, Remapping the Ottoman Middle East: Modernity, Imperial Bureaucracy and the Islamic State (I.B. Tauris, 2012). His work appeared in many academic journals including Journal of Global History, Middle East Studies Association Bulletin, Middle Eastern Studies, Turkish Studies and Comparative Sociology. He recently a completed a book manuscript on Kurdish conflict in Turkey. Among others, he teaches courses on modern Turkey, Ottoman Empire, Comparative Empires, and the Modern Middle East. More information on research and teaching can be found at www.emrence.com.




MENAS Colloquium Series, Spring 2013
Friday, February 1, 2013

3pm in Marshall 490