Serap Ruken Şengul – Kurdish Struggles Today
Talk with Serap Ruken Şengul
Serap Ruken Sengul is the Center For Near Eastern Studies
Distinguished Research Fellow at UCLA. She earned her
doctorate in Anthropology from the University of Texas at Austin
and completed her postdoctoral studies at the University of
Michigan-Ann Arbor. Sengul’s research focuses on gender and
sexual formations of sovereignty, nationalism, kinship, violence,
memory and displacement in the Kurdish borderlands of Turkey,
Iraq and Syria. This talk will give an overview of her manuscript,
tentatively titled, Circumcis(cript)ions: Sovereignty, Kinship and
Memory in the Frontier.
This talk will address the contemporary struggles in Turkish Kurdistan and Rojava, Northeastern Syria, by situating the projects in their historical and epistemic context. For the past century, Kurdish communities across the borders of four nation-states have been mobilized in struggles for autonomy, whose definition has shifted across periods of imperial disintegration, nation-state formation, the world-historical context of decolonization, and neoliberal governance of human rights. Straddling borderlands, Kurdish movements on both sides of the Turkish-Syrian border have been formed and transformed by their transnational character while remaining situated in a geography that unites not only Kurdish communities but also the neighboring communities displaced by the waves of genocide and ethnic cleansing that attended nation-state formations, including Assyrians, Armenians and others. These survivors of political violence in the first half of the twentieth century became the backbone of the left in each of these countries in the latter part of the century, with Kurds often at the heart of these struggles across four borders. The talk will trace
these forgotten genealogies with a view to interrogating how some of the core questions that animate our understanding of the Middle East as a region might be differently refracted if we were to center our study of the region on the Kurdish experience.