Talk: “Structuring Ethnic Boundaries: The Secular Kurdish Movement and Islam” by Dr. Zeki Sarıgil, A-130, 12:30 PM December 2 (EN)

Political Science Department POLS TALKS announces:

“Structuring Ethnic Boundaries: The Secular Kurdish Movement and Islam”

In the last decades, the Kurdish ethnonationalist movement in Turkey, rooted in secularism and Marxism, has adopted a much more positive approach towards Islam. In other words, a secular ethnopolitical movement has been flying ethnoreligious colors, which is a novel phenomenon in Kurdish ethnopolitics in Turkey. Focusing on the puzzling ‘religionization’ or ‘Islamization’ of the secular, leftist Kurdish movement in the recent period, this study addresses the following questions: Why do we see the above-noted shift? How can we explain this interesting development in Kurdish ethnopolitics? Why and how do political elites swing between ‘religionism’ and ‘nationalism’? What are the general causes and mechanisms of such swings? Furthermore, how are ethnic boundaries affected by such elite actions and discourse? What roles do elites play in ethnic boundary-making processes? When and how do they transform ethnic boundaries?

To analyze the shifting attitude of the Kurdish movement towards Islam in the last decades, this study employs ethnic boundary-making theory as a primary framework. Based on the mixed-method design, this study utilizes original data derived from public opinion surveys, elite interviews (104 interviews), textual analyses and ethnographic fieldwork in the Kurdish region. This in-depth analysis of the Kurdish case has major theoretical and practical implications for ethnicity and nationalism studies in general and for Kurdish ethnonationalism and Turkish politics in particular. The study will shed light on the basic theoretical rivalry between primordialist and circumstantialist/constructionist/instrumentalist perspectives on ethnicity and nationalism. In addition, this study helps us generate some specific hypotheses about ethnic boundary-making processes, particularly for boundary-making strategies and boundary contestations. This study also enhances our understanding of the interplay between religion and ethnicity in the context of a Muslim society. Finally, the study has major ramifications for the debates on secularism and political Islam in Turkey and the Middle East.

by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Zeki Sarigil, Department of Political Science, Bilkent University

Wednesday, December 2, 12:30 p.m.
A-130 (Seminar Room)

Short Bio:

Dr. Zeki Sarigil is an Assoc. Prof. of Political Science at Bilkent University. He received his PhD from the University of Pittsburgh in 2007. His research interests include ethnicity, ethnonationalism, Kurdish ethnopolitics; civil-military relations; institutional theory, institutional change, path dependence; and Turkish politics. He has published articles in such journals as European Political Science Review, European Journal of International Relations, Armed Forces & Society, Nations and Nationalism, Ethnic and Racial Studies, Critical Policy Studies, Mediterranean Politics and Turkish Studies. He received grants and awards from various institutions such as the European Union Center of Excellence (University of Pittsburgh), Fulbright, TUBITAK (The Scientific and Technological Research Council of Turkey), and the Council of Higher Education (Yükseköğretim Kurulu, YÖK). He also received 2013 Distinguished Young Scientist Scholarship of Science Academy Association (BAGEP). Dr. Sarigil spent 2014-2015 academic year at Princeton University as Fulbright Visiting Scholar.