Middle East Studies

Workshop | Warzones as Displacement in the Middle East: the Kurdish Case


Friday, November 9, 2018

9:15 a.m. – 6:30 p.m.

Joukowsky Forum, Watson Institute

Registration on Eventbrite required

With generous cofunding from the Departments of History and Anthropology

Warzones as Displacement in the Middle East: the Kurdish Case

The ‘displaced’ marks our times both in origins and destinations. Forced movements across borders awash by conflict compel us to re-think displacement and re-settlement. This is particularly imminent in the case of the Middle East. This workshop aims at tackling only the particularity of the Kurdish warzones and its ripples in the Middle East and beyond. Kurds have been living in a perpetual warzone since the last decades of the nineteenth century. Ever since the 1980s, however, displacement of Kurds has been a major strategy for the states that divided the Kurdish lands among themselves as the Kurdish uprising turned into armed conflict. Therefore, Kurdish displacement precedes the global refugee crisis of the 2010s.

Kurds, as the ephemeral displaced, have been and are subjects of ecological destruction, institutional (non-)operations, trafficking and evacuation, as well as making diaspora lives predominantly in Europe but also more recently in the US. Displacement is not simply coerced movement, yet we still lack the conceptual toolbox as well as grounded research to extend our perspectives beyond the physical conditions of these mass movements in search of new lives. The landscape of displacement and the involvement of various institutions varying from local to global along the course of displacement is thus not adequately analyzed in the case of Kurdish displacement, in which every step is also compounded by the fact that a stateless people is on a coerced move.

Kurdish Project
Workshops, Conferences, Seminars


This workshop treats this warzone along Turkey, Syria, Iraq, Iran as ‘borders’ and zones of Kurdistan through the following questions and issues placed in 3 panels:

Opening Remarks: 9:15 a.m. Shahzad Bashir (Brown University)

Panel 1: 9:30 a.m. -12:00 p.m.

Displacement in the Middle East
We want to tackle the question of what happens before displacement and how forced migration appears as an option in the first place. What and who is left behind is the next related issue through the following questions: How do tangible and intangible borders operate? How does discrimination create the conditions of displacement? How are lives sustained under continuous conflict?


1. Onur Gunay (Princeton University), "Drugs, Crime, Sex, and Sufis: The Ethics and Politics of Everyday Life in Kurdish Istanbul"
2. Wendy Hamelink (Oslo University, Norway), "Displacement and War in the Lives of Syrian Kurdish Women: Gendered Narratives, Motives, and Moralities"
3. Thomas Schmidinger (University of Vienna, Austria), "The World Forgot About Us and Europe Doesn’t Want Us: The Situation of Yazidi, Christian, and Babawat Internally Displaced Persons and Refugees from Sinjar After the Genocide of 2014"

Discussant: Lisa di Carlo (Brown University)

Lunch for speakers and invited guests: 12:00-1:00 p.m.

Panel 2: 1:00-3.30 p.m.
People in the Warzones
When is displacement over? How do various steps of relocation occur? How are transit paths crossed? How do conditions of warzone travel with the displaced? Last but not least, how does displacement transform the socioeconomic and political landscapes of the migration destinations? How do we rethink displacement in a way not confined to physical conditions? What happens to displaced emotions?


1. Nisa Göksel (Lund University, Sweden), "Thinking Displacement: Kurdish Women and Political Agency in Europe"
2. Delal Aydin (Binghamton University), "The 1990s as a Struggle over Life and Death"
3. Zeynep Gönen (Framingham University), "Displacement, Racism and Criminalization: The Case of Kurdish Youth in Izmir"

Discussant: Ohannes Kilicdagi (Harvard University)

Panel 3: 4:00-6.30 p.m.
Roundtable: Warzone Scholarship and the Global Public
What does scholarly engagement with such warzones really entail?
How do we articulate the ways in which scholarship engages with the issue of displacement?
How does engagement create ‘risks’ for scholars?

Chair: Meltem Toksoz (Brown University)

1. Hamit Bozarslan (ENS, France), "Middle East: a Forty-Years War?"
2. Nazan Bedirhanoglu (Wellesley College), "Global Exile of the Academy: Displacement of the Kurdish Displacement Studies"
3. Utku Balaban, (Humbold University, IGK Forum, Transregionale Studien. Germany) "Displacement as an Industrial Growth Strategy"

Dinner at Brown Faculty Club for speakers and invited guests: 7:15-8:45 p.m.