Imagination: The Making of Kurdish National Identity in the Kurdish Journalistic Discourse (1898-1914)
Ekici, Denis Kendal
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
By utilizing Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA) methodology, this study explores the ideological function of language in the Kurdish journalistic discourse of the pre-WWI period (1898-1914). Informed by the CDA approach, the present study perceives language as a social practice that produces meanings and presumes a dialectical relationship between language and ideology in the construction of social realities, beliefs and identities. Hence, this study is situated within the wider scope of discourse analysis that focuses on the link between identity, discourse, power and ideology. The study particularly utilizes, in an eclectic manner, the CDA conceptual frameworks developed by Norman Fairclough and Ruth Wodak in order to examine and explain the ideological function of the Kurdish journalistic discourse in the formation of Kurdish national identity from the prespective of a linguistically informed discursive study. To this end, from the perspective of CDA approach, the study methodically and analytically conducts an exhaustive close textual examination of numerous discourse samples taken from the corpora of three Kurdish journals of the late Ottoman period, i.e., Kurdistan (1898-1902), Kürd Teavün ve Terakki Gazetesi (The Kurdish Gazette for Mutual Aid and Progress) (1908-1909) and Rojî Kurd (Kurdish Sun) (1913). Given that the historical circumstance have a tremendous effect on the formation of discourses, this study investigates discourse practices and language devices employed in the Kurdish journals by taking into consideration the distinctive sociocultural and political conditions in which each journal was published. The study concludes that contrary to the common misperception in the literature, the Kurdish press of the late Ottoman period served as a platform on which Kurdish intellectuals negotiated, constructed and disseminated a distinctive form of Kurdish national identity and nationalism in their discourse despite –sometimes at the expense of- the hegemonic Ottoman and Pan-Islamic identities. However, although the Kurdish journalistic discourse managed to produce a Kurdish nationalist discourse among the Kurdish intellectuals and a small segment of Kurdish reading public, it failed to imitate the Andersonian notion of ‘imagined communities’ as the ‘cultural products’ of ‘print-capitalism’ that would immensely contributed to the formation of a unified field of communication around a national print-language. As a result the Kurdish identity discourse remained inconsequential in terms of making an impact among a larger Kurdish public that would ultimately lead to the construction of a braoder imagined Kurdish national community. The present study attributes the limited power and influence of the Kurdish journals or the Kurdish printing-press on Kurdish masses to the unfavourable historical circumstances, including the novelty of the newspaper genre, the low literacy rate in Kurdistan, the state-imposed restrictions on the production and dissemination of the journals, the personal and familial concerns and interests of the Kurdish leadership of the period and the lingering effects of both parochial (tribal, linguistic, sectarian, regional) and meta-loyalties (Islamism, Ottomanism) among Kurds in the era of nationalism.
PhD in Kurdish Studies