Deconstructing Ethnic Conflict and Sovereignty in Explanatory International Relations: The Case of Iraqi Kurdistan and the PKK
Thesis or dissertation
University of Exeter
Reason for embargo
Political sensitivity of material addressed; safety of people interviewed during field work
This study is essentially a critique of how the three dominant paradigms of explanatory international relations theory – (neo-)realism, liberalism, and systemic constructivism – conceive of, analytically deal with, and explain ethnic conflict and sovereignty. By deconstructing their approaches to ethnic identity formation in general and ethnic conflict in particular it argues that all three paradigms, in their epistemologies, ontologies and methodologies through reification and by analytically equating ethnic groups with states, tend to essentialise and substantialise the ethnic lines of division and strategic essentialisms of ethnic and ethno-nationalist elites they set out to describe, and, all too often, even write them into existence. Particular attention, both at the theoretical and empirical level, will be given to the three explanatory frameworks explanatory IR has contributed to the study of ethnic conflict: the ‘ethnic security dilemma’, the ‘ethnic alliance model’, and, drawing on other disciplines, instrumentalist approaches. The deconstruction of these three frameworks will form the bulk of the theoretical section, and will subsequently be shown in the case study to be ontologically untenable or at least to fail to adequately explain the complex dynamics of ethnic identity formation in ethnic conflict.By making these essentialist presumptions, motives, and practices explicit this study makes a unique contribution not only to the immediate issues it addresses but also to the wider debate on the nature of IR as a discipline. As a final point, drawing on constitutive theory and by conceiving of the behaviour and motives of protagonists of ethnic conflict as expressions of a fluid, open-ended, and situational matrix of identities and interests without sequential hierarchies of dependent and independent variables, the study attempts to offer an alternative, constitutive reading of ethnic and nationalist identity to the discourses of explanatory IR. These themes that are further developed in the empirical section where, explanatory IR’s narratives of ethnic group solidarity, ethno-nationalism, and national self-determination are examined and deconstructed by way of the case study of the relations between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and the Iraqi Kurdish ethno-nationalist parties in the wider context of the political status of the autonomous Kurdistan Region of Iraq. With this ambition this study makes an original empirical contribution by scrutinising these relations in a depth unique to the literature.
PhD in Ethno-Political Studies