Middle East Studies

Delal Aydin

PhD candidate, sociology, Binghamton University

The 1990s as a Struggle over Life and Death

This presentation is a reflection on the 1990s, when a new social world was built for the Kurds in Turkey as the Kurdish masses demanded recognition of their existence in the face of death. This led to a period of turmoil, both defined by the governance of death and human will to live. While the Turkish state attempted to repress the resistance by extensive violence, Kurdish lives became even more devalued as human lives. The 1990s was a period of destruction of communities, millions of Kurds lost their homes as a result of the “low profile war,” and almost every Kurd in Turkey lost a loved one to the war. In the meantime, however, Kurdish society was deeply transformed in terms of identity and belonging. Kurdish masses were no longer ashamed of their language, or their accents when they speak Turkish. Millions of Kurds participated to Newroz demonstrations all over Turkey, reclaiming their distinct identity as Kurds. The 1990s, therefore, was a historically specific period, where the temporality of the state (Turkish state) and the temporality of the nation (Kurdish mobilization) collapsed onto each other. While the state made an absolute claim over the lives of Kurds, political resistance emerged as a vehicle to reclaim control over one’s own life. My presentation focuses on this struggle over life and death in the 1990s, which created a particular understanding of the state and a particular formation of Kurdish political subjectivity. My discussion relies on the field research that I conducted for my dissertation project in Diyarbakir between January 2015 and January 2016.

Delal Aydin is a PhD candidate at the Sociology Department, Binghamton University. Her research focuses on the making and contesting of political subjectivities in the process of Kurdish mobilization in Turkey, on which she recently published several articles in major collections. Her research areas include race and ethnicity, political anthropology, youth studies, state theory, historical sociology, and identity and citizenship.