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Whose Kurdistan? Class politics and Kurdish nationalism in the Middle East, 1918-2018

Degli Esposti, Nicola (2020) Whose Kurdistan? Class politics and Kurdish nationalism in the Middle East, 1918-2018. PhD thesis, London School of Economics and Political Science.

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Identification Number: 10.21953/lse.00004201


This thesis is a study of the different trajectories of Kurdish nationalism in the Middle East. In the late 2010s – years of momentous advance for Kurdish forces in Turkey, Iraq, and Syria – Kurdish politics was deeply divided into competing movements pursuing irreconcilable projects for the future of the Kurdish nation. By investigating nationalism as embedded in social conflicts, this thesis identifies in the class basis of Kurdish movements and parties the main reason for their political differentiation and the development of competing national projects. After the defeat of the early Kurdish revolts in the 1920s and 1930s, Kurdish nationalism in Iraq and Turkey diverged along ideological lines due to the different social actors that led the respective national movements. In Iraq, the Kurdish national movement that emerged in the early 1960s was largely dominated by the tribal and landowning elite and primarily interested in preserving existing social hierarchies, while middle-class progressive nationalists were systematically sidelined. Conversely, in Turkey, as the Kurdish traditional elite had been co-opted into the Kemalist state in the 1950s, the nationalist struggle was resumed in the late 1970s by a generation of Kurdish students of peasant extraction that framed their project as an anti-colonial struggle and that violently opposed both Turkish security forces and Kurdish landlords. The thesis argues that these opposing trajectories of Kurdish nationalism were influenced by the evolving class structure of the newly established states of Turkey and Iraq, and by their location in the international state system and within global capitalism. The analysis of the social origins of competing ‘nationalisms’ provides a novel approach to the study of nationalism based on Historical Sociology and Political Economy and offers a materialist reading of the history of Kurdish politics.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Additional Information: © 2020 Nicola Degli Esposti
Library of Congress subject classification: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
J Political Science > JZ International relations
Sets: Departments > International Relations
Supervisor: Dalacoura, Katerina

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