Personal narratives of nationalism in Turkey
The Kurdish Question, which dates back to the Ottoman Era, has been a constituent element of narratives of Turkish nationalism for the past 30 years. The Kurdish Question stands as the most prominent “other” of Turkish nationalism. The members of two groups, Kurds and Turks, became highly politicised throughout 30 years of internal conflict and through their daily encounters, giving way to a constant redefinition of the understanding of nationalism and ethnicity. The encounters and experiences of these two groups have facilitated the development of various narrative forms of personal nationalism in daily life. Accordingly, the daily manifestations of the Kurdish Question and Turkish nationalism have grown as an object of academic interest. The question of how ordinary people produce – and are produced in – personal narratives of nationalism is a subject that still needs to be addressed, and this thesis aims to fill this gap by examining the notion of “personal narratives”. Analysing nationalism through personal narratives enables us to see how hegemonic nationalist ideology is reproduced and practiced by individuals through various dynamics. The thesis finds that the determining theme in the personal narratives of Turks and Kurds follows fundamentally the official ideology of the state about the Kurds, which is based principally on „a strategy of denial‟. The macro political transformations of the 2000s and the increased potential of encountering the “other” in daily life underline the challenging nature of this ideological strategy of denial. Herein, while the Turkish participants define themselves as the benevolent party in their nationalist narratives, they mark Kurdish people as terrorists, separatists and primitives. In contrast, the narratives of the Kurdish participants are characterised by the adoption of a “self-defence” strategy against the dominant negative perceptions of Turkish society about their culture: they assert that they are in fact not ignorant; not terrorists; not disloyal citizens, and so on. The narratives of the Turkish participants about the ethnic “other”, the Kurds, generally follow a strategy of contempt and accusation; yet personal experiences give them the opportunity to politicise the problem on different grounds by empathising or humanising. On the Kurdish side, the subjects of the personal narratives are more often the state and the army than Turkish individuals, and again they construct a narrative that endeavours to reverse the dominant negative perceptions about Kurds. They attempt to negate the denial strategy through both collective and personal stories of the discrimination they have experienced over the years and generations. Vital questions such as through which mechanisms of resistance do ordinary people construct and practice their ethnic identities, again become visible through their personal narratives.