This award, sponsored by Kurdish Political Studies Program at the University of Central Florida, recognizes the best article in Kurdish Political Studies by a rising scholar during the previous calendar year. In this year’s competition, social science and humanities articles published in English language peer-reviewed journals in 2019 were considered. The winning articles are awarded $400 each. The selection committee was composed of Ozlem Goner (City University of New York), Güneş Murat Tezcür (University of Central Florida), and Metin Yüksel (Hacettepe University).
The committee has found these two articles equally worthy of the award.
Ahmad Mohammadpour and Kamal Soleimani, “Interrogating the tribal: the aporia of ‘tribalism’ in the sociological study of the Middle East,” British Journal of Sociology 70(5) (2019), 1799-1824.
Ahmad Mohammadpour and Kamal Soleimani’s article is a welcome critical intervention into the state of the field of Kurdish Studies. The authors highlight the colonial and ideological underpinnings of the concepts of tribe, tribal and tribalism, and skillfully demonstrate how these terms dominated both academic and non-academic knowledge production on Kurds and the Middle East at large. They offer an emphatic rebuttal of the widespread tendency to assume tribalism as an inherent feature of the Kurdish experience and draw compelling examples from all pieces of Kurdish lands. Providing an incisive critique of hegemonic statist, nationalist and Eurocentric perspectives entrenched in an extensive number of academic works; Mohammadpour and Soleimani put the study of Kurds into an engaging conversation with the scholarship on non-Western peoples around the world from within a postcolonial theoretical framework.
Marlene Schäfers, “Archived Voices, Acoustic Traces, and the Reverberations of Kurdish History in Modern Turkey,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 61(2) (2019), 447–473.
Marlene Schäfers’ rich ethnographic study carefully reveals complex and engendered practices of historicity and archiving, as well as the contradictory processes of selective re-constructions of subaltern histories. By paying diligent attention to Kurdish female singer-poets’ (dengbêjs) personal narratives and their passionate constructions of the archive brings their voices to life. She also deftly argues how making the subaltern voices audible is inevitably subject to hegemonic discursive and aesthetic terms beyond the control of these singer-poets. Informed by theories of memory, historicity, and subjectivity, the article goes beyond a dichotomy of victimhood-agency, and reveals the complex entanglements of power and resistance, critique and complicity, in the discursive field of subaltern history-making. With its in-depth ethnographic analysis and nuanced theoretical contributions, the article is a very significant contribution to the studies of gender, memory, and historicity in Kurdish Studies.
Onur Günay, “In War and Peace: Shifting Narratives of Violence in Kurdish Istanbul,” American Anthropologist 121(3) (2019), 554-567.
Based on an extensive ethnographic study among Kurdish workers in a low-income neighborhood of Istanbul, Onur Günay offers a rich narration of the masculine world of Kurdish workers. This is a world characterized by multilayered precarities and anxieties stemming from ethnic and class inequalities but also spaces of contentious mobilization and solidarities. In the face of illegitimate but legal state violence, Kurdish workers develop their own narratives of illegal and justified counterviolence. As they do so, they craft novel political selves based on a moral and masculine distinction between right and wrong actions. By adopting a bottom-up approach, Günay’s study transcends both the paradigm of victimhood that often sidesteps the agency of ordinary people and the conventional binary conceptualization of Kurdish politics as a struggle between the state and the insurgents.