Accepted Paper:

A nostalgic expression of Kurdishness in humorous popular culture  


Anna Grabolle Celiker (University of Tübingen)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines an emerging form of Kurdish humorous popular culture in Turkey as an expression of Kurdishness, contextualising it with a discussion of current discourses on Turkishness and Kurdishness in Turkey as well as the discourse on minority rights introduced by EU accession negotiations.

Paper long abstract:

In the past Turkey has often dealt with its Kurdish population by denying its existence as a separate ethnic group and/or by vigorous assimilation drives. The call for Kurdish political and cultural rights has been perceived as a threat to the integrity of the Turkish state, particularly since the Kurdistan Workers' Party (PKK) started its armed campaign in 1984. Different discourses on "Turkishness" and "Kurdishness" thus coexist and influence each other in the country. EU membership negotiations for politically active Kurds represent hope for change, as accession reports note human rights violations and policies towards minorities. It is thus hoped that EU accession negotiations can be used for political leverage in domestic issues. On the other hand, Kurds in Turkey are by no means a unified, politically mobilised community, as differences in region, education, religious affiliation, social class and degree of religiosity cut across ethnic identity. Although there are attempts by a Kurdish intelligentsia to create a Kurdish "high culture", which may even aim at targeting Kurds beyond state borders, the audience is limited because of linguistic and educational limitations and continuing state restrictions on the dissemination of Kurdish culture. In this context, the paper discusses one emerging form of humorous Kurdish popular culture based on folkloric roots which has arguably been enabled by the political struggle and EU pressure for cultural rights, but which is not overtly political itself.

Panel W009
Marginality, nationalism and citizenship