Beyond ethnopolitical contention: the state, citizenship and violence in the 'new' Kurdish question in Turkey

Gökalp, Deniz, 1978-
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This dissertation aims to illuminate the changing nature of the Kurdish contention in Turkey since the 1990s as well as its ubiquitous dissemination among the Kurdish grassroots through examining the repercussions of political violence and the relocation of the grassroots from rural to urban centers. My understanding of the recent internal displacement of Kurdish citizens in Turkey in the late 1980s, but en masse in 1990s relates the issue to three overarching intertwined trajectories; 1) the end of the cold war, resulting in the changing nature of political violence and of identity politics; 2) the incursion of neoliberalism and the changing paradigms regarding the nature of state-society relations, resulting in a tendency for decentralization and a decline in the welfare functions of the state 3) the increasing salience of new international concerns--particularly international human rights rhetoric--and their influence domestically. Against this backdrop, I examine how the displacement of Kurdish citizens on a large scale has become part of the changing nature of the Kurdish Question, and in turn has started to redefine its contemporary face in Turkey in the 1990s. I argue that following the 1990s, the Kurdish question in Turkey has [re]surfaced as 1) a problem of political legitimacy between the state and (Kurdish) citizens affected by conflict and displacement 2) an ethno-nationalist claim, 3) a poverty and social citizenship problem. I analyze these three propositions in relation to three main processes. First, I propose that new dynamics have been introduced into the state/center-citizen/periphery relations, through which 'legitimate' Kurdish citizens and secure spaces/geographies are distinguished by the Turkish state in contrast to the 'illegitimate,' 'so-called', 'undeserving' and/or 'suspicious' ones. This process, in turn, brought in question the legitimacy of the state in the eyes of the displaced Kurdish citizens. Second, previously existing Kurdish contention has turned into an ethno-political issue, which is entrenched among the Kurdish masses mired in poverty in the urban centers of southeastern Turkey. Finally, the discontents of neoliberal restructuring in the form of poverty, unemployment and social exclusion have converged with the ethnicized discontent prevailing among the Kurdish masses in the city centers in southeastern Turkey.