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Between Majority Power and Minority Resistance : Kurdish Linguistic Rights in Turkey


  • Nesrin Ucarlar

Summary, in English

As the most figurative asset of membership in a majority or minority and the most symbolic aspect of national authority, language is a major site of struggle for majority power and minority resistance. For the purposes of this study, which focuses on the question of Kurdish linguistic rights in Turkey, the sites of struggle for majority power and minority resistance are as follows: the documents of international and European organisations on the linguistic rights of minorities, the impact of the modernisation and nation-state building process in Turkey on the Kurdish-speaking community and the resistance engendered by the Kurdish intelligentsia in the European diaspora and in Turkey against the majority power delimiting the Kurdish linguistic rights. The problematisation or de-normalisation of minority rights and minority resistance constitutes the overall aim of this study. This problematisation is done in two parts, first of which includes a deconstructive analysis using three binary oppositions: the minority and the majority; the individual and community; and the public and private sphere with special reference to language, a significant component of nationalist discourse. This movement also forms the basis of the second part, which critically examines the relationship between power and resistance by the help of post-structuralist understanding of power. Kurdish linguistic rights are a recently specified aspect of the Kurdish question in Turkey, which stretches from the late Ottoman period of administrative reforms to the Republican era of the Turkish modernisation and nationalisation projects. This linguistic aspect enables Kurdish intellectuals in Turkey to criticise Turkey’s EU harmonisation process for being delimited by the binary oppositions between the individual and community and between the public and private sphere. These criticisms are included in the critical analysis of the principle of majority in Turkey through the interviews conducted with Kurdish intellectuals in Turkey. The extent of the potential for leading emancipatory politics for the Kurdish community is also analysed through the interviews conducted with Kurdish intellectuals in the European diaspora and in Turkey. Having said this, the viewpoints of Kurdish intellectuals in the European diaspora are much more vocalised in order to analyse the effects of living in the EU territory when it comes to stimulating a distinctive, namely transformative and trans-national standpoint and resistance. In this respect, this study tries to bring up that what has not been studied before, namely to connect the approach of Kurdish intellectuals on the question of Kurdish linguistic rights in Turkey with a critical analysis of the liberal nation-state philosophy and minority rights.

Publishing year





Lund Political Studies



Document type



Lund University


  • Political Science


  • resistance
  • emancipatory politics
  • transformative resistance
  • post-structuralism
  • deconstruction
  • nationalism
  • transnationalism
  • diaspora
  • European Union
  • Turkey
  • the Kurdish language
  • linguistic rights
  • trans-national outlook
  • minority rights
  • power
  • Kurdish intellectuals




  • Bo Petersson


  • ISSN: 0460-0037
  • ISBN: 978-91-88306-76-0
  • ISBN: 91-88306-76-3

Defence date

30 October 2009

Defence time


Defence place

Edens Hörsal


  • Umut Ozkirimli (Associate Professor)