Autonomy beyond the State

J.P. Jongerden*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


This chapter discusses and compares two different understandings of self-determination in Kurdistan against the background of administrative centralization and nationalization of populations occurring in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries. It is argued that as a result of the intertwining of centralized-territorial state formation and nationalism a new order emerged that saw Kurds turned into a surplus population confronted with assimilation and erasure. Initially Kurdish movements responded to this new political reality by embracing the very principle by which they were excluded: the idea that a population, defined as a nation, is entitled to a state exercising exclusive territorial control. It was in this context that Kurdish national liberation movements emerging after World War II mostly declared the establishment of an independent state in which to build a postcolonial society as an ultimate goal. Towards the end of the twentieth century, and following a critique (and self-critique) on the character of national liberation struggles, a vein in the Kurdish movement started to tie self-determination not to the establishment of a state, but rather to the development of peoples’ capacities to govern themselves. These two understandings are compared and discussed as responses to the nation-statification of society.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationFederalism and Decentralization in the Contemporary Middle East and North Africa
EditorsAslı Ü. Bâli, Omar M. Dajani
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9781108923682
ISBN (Print)9781108831239
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2023


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