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Utopia and its Discontents: Gender, Morality and Political Subjectivity in Turkey's Kurdistan

  • Author(s): Duzel, Esin
  • Advisor(s): Brenner, Suzanne A.
  • Özyürek, Esra
  • et al.
Abstract

This dissertation is concerned with political morality, how people create, challenge and transform the orders they deem good, better, and even utopian. In particular, it seeks to analyze the moral worlds forged by the Kurdish movement in its struggle for the utopia of a liberated Kurdistan (or what I will call the Kurdish utopia).1 It asks: What happens when the political project out of which utopia is born undergoes profound transformations? What kinds of crisis, ruptures, and contentions emerge in the moral terrain, and how do they affect the utopian project? Where is the hope of liberation, of a better future, of relocated peace, when utopia is itself dislocated from its original time and space? Based on one-year of ethnographic research conducted between 2010–2015 among politically engaged Kurds in

Diyarbakır and archival research in online and physical publications, this dissertation

contends that the Kurdish utopia undergoes fragmentation in the period of the late 2000s. Using a method of historical comparison, this work traces its fragments in three central realms of moral cultivation—namely political community, space, and subjectivity. First, it delineates gendered, spiritual, and personal discourse in which the utopia is born in the 1990s. Then, it shows how these constructs are altered and challenged with the introduction of novel agencies, desires, and urban possibilities in the 2000s. It concludes with the argument that the increasingly felt and visible contentions within the Utopia do not cause its collapse, but rather broadens its moral universe. Political Kurds in Diyarbakır seek possibilities to relocate the utopia in their bodies, gendered selves, and everyday lives, albeit in intermittent and tentative ways. Making these arguments, the dissertation intervenes in key debates in the anthropology of utopia and morality, the anthropological critique of post-conflict reconstruction, and anthropological debates on subjectivity, gender, and violence.

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