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Accepted Paper:

Leaving the Party: Former Kurdish Rebels and the Remaking of Post-Revolutionary Subjectivities  
Isabel Käser (University of Bern)

Paper Short Abstract:

This paper analyses processes of disengagement and migration through the life stories of former Kurdish rebels. By zooming into their personal trajectories, this paper asks how former rebels navigate the many borders they encounter as they leave the armed struggle and rebuild a civilian life.

Paper Abstract:

This paper analyses processes of disengagement, migration and bordering through the life stories of former Kurdish rebels. By zooming into the personal trajectories of former rebels who have disengaged from armed liberation movements and live as refugees in Europe or in Iraqi Kurdistan, this paper highlights patterns of post-revolutionary migration, the gendered process of demilitarisation and re-entering into civilian life. As such, it offers new perspectives on the long-term embodied reverberations of political violence. This paper focusses on former PKK members, both women and men, who went from being revolutionaries and sometimes powerful commanders, to ‘traitors’ to the cause, and ultimately to asylum seekers or refugees. The Kurdish context is particularly interesting, as full independence, or ‘Democratic Confederalism’ in the case of the PKK, has not been reached. Therefore, rebels are leaving their movement mid-conflict and are not bound by any mediated peace processes or formal Disarmament, Demobilisation, Reintegration (DDR) frameworks, and instead transition back into civilian life with little to no assistance, while still being criminalized by both their country of origin as well as the European border regimes. The paper asks how do former rebels remake their lives post-revolution? Based on ethnographic fieldwork in Europe and Iraqi Kurdistan, this paper provides an intimate account of ‘life after the party’, exploring the everydayness of the leaving process. Conceptually, the paper is situated on the intersection of gender, conflict and migration studies and speaks to debates in social anthropology and feminist international relations, particularly critical military studies.

Panel P096
Afterlives of armed conflict: former rebels, new political formations, and shifting gender norms
  Session 1 Wednesday 24 July, 2024, -