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Archive for March, 2016

Protagonists of national movements. A preliminary workshop Prague, Charles University, Institute of Political Science
8 September 2016
Convenor: Ludger Mees (University of the Basque Country)

The importance of the concepts of ‘heroes’ and ‘leaders’ for the development of national movements is reflected by the vast scientific attention paid to them, unwittingly pushing other players to the background. But at least as crucial for the success and failure of national movements are the less well-known and less celebrated advocates of the cause or ‘protagonists’, engaged in the dissemination and transfer of cultural and political ideas, acting as go-between ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’, and actively turning them into reality. There is a clear necessity of defining and analysing this important aspect of national movements and in the process providing data to put related nationalism theories to the empirical test.

Following a conference (in Vilnius from 17 to 18 September 2014) on the concept of heroes, this workshop acts as a preliminary meeting to a subsequent conference on protagonists. The aim is to delineate this analytical category and test it through prosopographical and case studies. The workshop will assist with narrowing down the subject for the conference: for instance which area of activity (organisational, cultural, social, political…) or which ‘Hrochean stage’ (if not all three: phase A: cultural protonationalism; phase B: political mobilisation of an elite; phase C: mass movement) it should focus on or in what way theory formation on the protagonists’ contribution to the movement could be enhanced.

For the workshop we therefore especially welcome conceptual and theoretical contributions as well as concept-related prosopographical studies of both case biographies and group profiles (regional, professional etc.).
Opening the analytical scope to the limitless pool of non-leaders necessitates a strong typology. Instead of prioritising and excluding certain social categories in advance, we want to open a debate on the research agenda for the conference. The concept itself of ‘protagonist’ will have to be examined taking into account the related terminology (hidden key-figure, identity entrepreneur, claim-maker, activist, neglected secondary figure, contested hero…), in perspective of the range of existing social categories and the role of human agency in national and regional identification. Topics could for instance be social groups that escaped our attention and why it is important to include them in the study of national and regional movements, touch upon the role for female figures or the relation between prestige and power, or look at their impact and ‘afterlife’ in national memory (the list is of course not exhaustive). In a broader sense, it should also be discussed to what extent certain non-personal (formal and informal) organisations (such as a chorus for the performance of national folk music, hiking, dancing or theatre groups etc.) should be considered as ‘protagonists’, as subtle promotors of the cultural milieu in which the national movement would emerge and spread.

The workshop is organised by NISE and University of Antwerp (UA), with the help of Centre de Recherche Bretonne et Celtique (CRBC), while the Institute of Political Studies from Charles University acts as host.
NISE (National movements and Intermediary Structures in Europe) is an international platform that connects researchers and institutes working on national and regional movements in Europe. In order to facilitate collaborative research projects, NISE has created the online research environment DIANE (Digital Infrastructure for the Analysis of National movements in Europe) that allows data collection and analysis.

As the format of the workshop is designed to encourage questions and debate, each presentation on the day is limited to maximum 15 minutes; in return the participants have to provide a first draft of their paper prior to the workshop. Participants are also expected to enter basic data on the persons and networks featured in their paper in DIANE.

All contributions will be eligible for publication in NISE’s peer-reviewed journal Studies on National Movements-SNM.

Free accommodation is made available in Prague for all participants for two nights as well as free meals provided. Participants are however expected to pay for their own travel costs (there is a limited grant system assisting with travel costs for those not receiving funding by their institute).

Please send your paper abstract (not exceeding 300 words) and brief CV (one paragraph identifying your name, institutional affiliation, areas of interests, and contact info, and a list of your representative publications) to Laurent Le Gall <legall- vidaling@wanadoo.fr>, by May 1, 2016.
The number of participants for this one-day workshop is limited, and the papers will be selected through double-blind peer review.
Decisions on acceptance will be announced from June1, 2016.

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Call for papers_COST Limerick 2016 _march

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We’re very pleased to let you know about our new twitter account! @CnamEdinburgh

We’ll be using this twitter account to publicise all our upcoming events and activities, as well as to let followers know of relevant events, research and career opportunities in our fields of interest, both in Scotland and (more selectively) further afield.

For information, this new twitter account replaces @EdinburghMCRG and the weekly digest of events and jobs previously compiled for the benefit of Migration & Citizenship Research Group members. So please follow us @CnamEdinburgh to stay up to date with all our news!

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Background

Nowruz is the traditional celebration of the Persian New Year, marking the coming of the spring equinox around March 21st. Its roots lie in the religious traditions of Iran, in particular Zoroastrianism. Despite these origins, today Nowruz is celebrated as a secular festival by a diverse range of ethnic and religious communities in the Balkans, the Black Sea Basin, the Caucasus, Central Asia, and the Middle East. Since the 1980s, Nowruz has been associated in particular with a resurgent and politicised Kurdish national identity. However, in 1991, Turkey began to officially celebrate the festival, despite its Kurdish associations. Furthermore, after the collapse of the Soviet Union, many newly independent Turkic nations in Central Asia and the Caucasus began to celebrate Nowruz as a national holiday. From being a celebration officially observed in only Iran, Nowruz is now observed in over fifteen different countries. Below, we explore the processes by which Nowruz has become a symbol and celebration of both Turkish and Kurdish national identity. In class, we will interpret these processes of national identity construction through the prism of Hobsbawm and Ranger’s ‘invention of tradition’ thesis (Hobsbawm and Ranger, 1983).

‘Newroz’ and Kurdish national identity

Nowruz is celebrated as ‘Newroz’, the Kurdish New Year, on March 21st and was first adopted by Iraqi Kurds as their own national holiday in the 1950s. With the rise of Kurdish nationalism in the 1980s, Nowruz began to be used as an increasingly politicised way of expressing Kurdish national identity in the face of oppression by the Turkish state. The Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) chose March 21st to stage various terrorist attacks in order to gain maximum publicity for their cause. Kurds refer to a mythological legend in using Nowroz as a symbol of their revival; the festival is supposed to mark the commemoration of an uprising led by a blacksmith, Kawa, against the repressive rule of Dehhak. According to the legend, Kawa killed Dehhak and liberated the Kurdish people (Yanik, 2006: 286-7).

Nowruz is also celebrated by Kurds living in exile. Various scholars recognise the intimate connection between exile and nationalism, a relationship Martin van Bruinessen has noted as especially pertinent in the development of Kurdish national identity, claiming ‘the awareness of Kurdistan as a homeland, and of the Kurds as a distinct people, has often been strongest in those Kurds who lived elsewhere, among people of different languages and cultures (van Bruinessen, 2000: no page number given). Following the lead of the those in Iraq, Kurdish students’ unions throughout Europe began organising Nowruz parties, attempting to reach out in solidarity to Kurdish migrant workers in order to promote the idea of a distinct national identity. In the 1980s, due to both the mobilisation of migrant workers and the influx of Turkish Kurds into Europe, Nowruz celebrations came to be dominated by Turkish Kurds, and became much more politicised events. Political groups would hold their own Nowruz celebrations, increasingly assuming the character of political rallies rather than occasions for fun. In particular, celebrations held by the PKK came to be characterised by claims of oppression by the Turkish state and calls for liberation. By the 1990s, Nowruz parties drew up to several tens of thousands of participants of all ages, in contrast to the much smaller parties of the 1970s. In spite of their political character, they remained family events, attended by people of all ages (ibid).

‘Nevruz’ and Turkish national identity

The Turkish coup d’etat in 12 September 1980 designated a sharp shift towards a form of neoliberalism that would be accompanied by gradual Islamization of the society. The ongoing low-intensity war between various leftist and rightist organizations seemed to thus end. Every leftist organization were crashed by the iron-heel of the state and though several figures in right-wing mobilization were prosecuted it is possible to assert, by reminding the infamous saying of the leader of far right MHP (Nationalist Movement Party), that even though far-right were not in power physically, they were indeed in power mentally. This era was marked by total repression accompanied by innumerable acts of disappearances, visible state-violence and especially immense tortures in prisons – eventually leading the Kurdish question to transform into an armed social movement than mere political organization. In this regard, the Diyarbakır Prison mostly consisting of Kurdish political prisoners and that is known with the harshest prison conditions has a specific significance (Güneş 2012). In 21st March 1982 (Newroz) one of the leading figures of PKK (Kurdish Workers’ Party) hanged himself to protest prison conditions and state-terror, while holding three burned matches. His suicide had sparked a new beginning for their struggle, leading up to a wave of hunger strikes and later four people Ferhat Kurtay, Mahmut Zengin, Eşref Anyık and Necmi Öner have set themselves on fire to become free in such prison conditions, according to their own speeches (Güneş 2012). It is possible to state that the current political significance of Newroz amongst Kurdish nationalism has also a strong tie to this event as symbolizing a rebirth and sacrifice, which is also commemorated by posters of such figures in Newroz.

The adoption of Newroz by the rising Kurdish nationalism caused the Turkish State to resurrect and re-invent this tradition which was long-forgotten and rarely celebrated amongst Turks since the Early Republican Era to counter-balance this rise of a competing nationalism. But also following the collapse of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics that gave way to emerging Turkic nations such as Azerbaijan, Turkmenistan, Kyrgyzstan, Kazakhstan and Tataristan, the hegemonic form of nationalism in Turkey had attempted to revive its old pan-Turkism thus building up influence and further social-economic and political connections within these regions. The re-adoption and re-configuration of Nevruz was instrumental in this regard, emerging out of two distinct social change. The initial attempts came from state elites and officials declaring Nevruz as a day for ‘fraternity’, ‘national unity’, ‘harmony’, ‘peace’, ‘solidarity’ and ‘love’(Yanık, 2006: 288-289). For example, the prime minister in 1992 Süleyman Demirel publicly claims that: “Nevruz is being celebrated in Turkey just as it is being celebrated in Central Asia and Caucasus, helping people to get closer to each other” (2006, 2008). However, in that year the celebrations of Nevruz in Cizre (a small town of Şırnak in South-Eastern Turkey) have ended in blood. The main concerns of this state officials gets to be articulated in a narrative which mainly argues that 21st March was a common celebration of northwards equinox amongst various folks in the aforementioned regions, so that is should not be acknowledged as a Kurdish tradition. Yet still, several ultra nationalist such as Abdulhaluk Çay from MHP were claiming that the day authentically belonged to the Turkic peoples signifies the Ergenekon Myth. According to this narrative- either referring to Turkish Khaganate (552-744), Mongols or broadly speaking of Turks in Central Asia- after a great crisis of ancient Turks caused by a massive military defeat these people took refuge in the legendary Ergenekon valley. Being trapped there for four centuries in pain, “they prevent their extinction by coupling with the gray (female) wolf Asena”[in some versions] and when they quite increase in numbers, these people manage to melt down the mountain by the help a great fire made by blacksmiths and thus escape. Then Asena leads them to the valley where Turkic Khaganate was found and became its capital (2006, 300).

Thus, the contestation of Newroz/Nevruz from the perspective of Turkish nationalists have enabled them to instrumentalize this invented tradition for various social and political purposes within the presence. Initially, through mythologization Turkish nationalism added another narrative element to its cultural repertoire that claims a historical continuity and a sense of common past within the social memory of the people sharing the narrative. Moreover this have enabled them to further relations with other nations that are in a process of ‘rediscovering themselves’ under a nation state after Soviet Collapse. In this regard this invention of tradition did not resolve merely out of internal problems that demand a stronger social cohesion following social change (Hobsbawm & Ranger, 1983), but also out of a new international dynamic. Furthermore in terms of the response towards Kurdish nationalism in rise, the state efforts could prove insights about an antagonistic reformation of self-identity in which the self-identity is formed towards the negation of the constructed other.

References:

Güneş, C. (2012) The Kurdish National Movement in Turkey: From Protest to Resistance. London: Routledge

Hobsbawm, E.J. & Ranger, T. (eds.). (1983) The Invention of Tradition. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press

van Bruinessen, M. (2000) Transnational aspects of the Kurdish question. Working paper, Robert Schuman Centre for Advanced Studies, European University Institute, Florence

Yanik, L.K. (2006). ‘Nevruz’ or ‘Newroz’? Deconstructing the ‘invention’ of a contested tradition in contemporary Turkey. Middle Eastern Studies, 42(2), 285-302

 

 

 

 

 

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