Essays on the Origins of Kurdish Nationalism

TitleEssays on the Origins of Kurdish Nationalism
Publication TypeBook
Year of Publication2003
AuthorsVali, Abbas, Bozarsalan Hamit, Hassanpour Amir, and Vali Abbas
PublisherMazad Publisher
Publication LanguageEnglish
KeywordsKurdish Studies, Nationalism, Politic


Of the major nationalist movements which have shaped the modern Middle East, Kurdish nationalism alone has failed to establish a national state. Alongside the Palestinians and until recently the Armenians, the Kurds have remained a stateless nation. But while there exists an extensive literature on the genesis and development of other Middle Eastern nationalisms—Turkish, Arab and in particular Palestinian—historical and theoretical debate on the origins and structure of Kurdish nationalism has been notably scanty.

This collection initiates such a debate, investigating the origins of Kurdish nationalism from a range of historical and theoretical perspectives, and exploring its implications for the present. Its aim is to analyze arguments about the origins of Kurdish nationalism not only as competing historical accounts, but also, and more crucially, as strategic debates about the identity and legitimacy of the Kurdish nation. For this debate is informed by the idea that the concept of national origin lies at the heart of the nationalist claim to power, and different perceptions of that origin thus involve different constructions of the nation and national identity. Historical arguments about the origins of Kurdish nationalism are thus treated as political discourses, in which the origins and development of the Kurdish nation and national identity are traced in order to substantiate specific political positions.

In this pioneering collection of essays, the contributors engage with historical arguments on the origins and development of Kurdish nationalism so as to evaluate their theoretical presuppositions, and their underlying political and ideological premises. The papers in this volume range across different moments in the historical development of Kurdish nationalism, from the debate over the impact and significance of the seventeenth-century Kurdish poet Ahmadi Khani, to twentieth-century Kurdish political organizations and their discourse and practice in Turkey and mandatory Syria. The diverse perspectives of the contributions to the volume, and their opposing arguments over the historical formation of the Kurdish nation—its celebrated antiquity or contentious modernity—testify not only to the conceptual character of historical interpretation, but also to its essentially political nature.

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Nationalism and the Question of Origins—Abbas Vali
2. Some Remarks on Kurdish Historiographical Discourse in Turkey (1919-1980)—Hamit Bozarsalan
3. Ehmedi Xani’s Mem u Zin and its Role in the Emergence of Kurdish National Awareness—Martin van Bruinessen
4. Genealogies of the Kurds: Constructions of Nation and National Identity in Kurdish Historical Writing—Abbas Vali
5. The Making of Kurdish Identity: Pre-20th Century Historical and Literary Discourses—Amir Hassanpour
6. Kurdish Nationalism in Turkey: From Tacit Contract to Rebellion (1919-1925)—Hamit Bozarslan
7. Kurds and Kurdish Nationalism in Mandatory Syria: Politics, Culture and Identity—Nelida Fuccaro