Kurdish Women Activists’ Conceptualisation of Feminism and Nationalism: An Ethnographic Study of London-Based Kurdish Organisations

ALTIN SORAN, Berrin (2023) Kurdish Women Activists’ Conceptualisation of Feminism and Nationalism: An Ethnographic Study of London-Based Kurdish Organisations. PhD thesis, University of Nottingham.

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This study has explored the ways in which Kurdish women activists interpret and practise feminism and nationalism in London. Kurdish women’s relations to nationalism can be analysed in various ways. However, this study specifically focuses on the claim that nationalism is antithetical to feminism. Moreover, it has argued that the pre-migration experiences of Kurdish women, related to their national and gender identities, direct them to continue their activism in London. Accordingly, I asked: what roles did the pre-migration experiences of Kurdish women play in their identities and their engagement with activism in London? In what ways do Kurdish women activists in London articulate their political and social demands? How do these women activists negotiate feminism and nationalism?

This research was born in a need to analyse Kurdish women’s activism in diasporas, which fills the gap in the literature on diasporas, women and activism. Firstly, this research narrows the focus by taking the gender component into account. This is because it was considered that women experience diasporas differently than men. Secondly, migration was discussed as a linear journey that starts from the home country. The main consideration was that different ties with the homelands give rise to various forms of activism that enrich diaspora studies. While some research has been carried out on Kurdish women’s relation to nationalism, no previous study has investigated Kurdish women activists’ approach to nationalism in diasporas.

Based on feminist ethnographic research, including observations and unstructured interviews, this study offers an understanding of how the background of diasporic Kurdish women shapes their activism in London, what demands they raise, and how they negotiate feminism and nationalism. Because Kurdish women’s relation to nationalism is multidimensional, the intersectional approach, which emphasise the multiplicity of identities, is applied for this study.

Along with transnational feminists, this study underlines the fact that Kurdish women’s political activism can be understood through analyses of their multiple identities. However, transnational feminists have been criticised as they omit women’s national identities for fear that nationalism might overshadow feminism.

The findings of this study contribute to the literature on women and nationalism, diasporas and migrants’ activism in many ways. However, two main contributions need to be highlighted.

Firstly, Kurdish women’s relation to nationalism in their activism puts them in discussions about whether nationalism is antithetical to feminism. In this study, I have shown that in the case of Kurdish women, there is no certain response to the claims that nationalism is detrimental to feminism or that nationalism strengthens feminism. Kurdish women meet with different forms of state nationalism as there is not an official Kurdish state and different forms of Kurdish nationalism exist in different Kurdish national movements. Kurdish women’s different encounters with nationalism led them to develop different approaches to nationalism, which was reflected in their activism. Compared to Kurdish women from Iranian and Iraqi Kurdistan, Kurdish women from Turkey’s Kurdistan emphasise their national identity more intensively in their demands.

Secondly, Kurdish women developed different approaches to nationalism because of their different meetings with patriarchy in national movements. What we know about patriarchy is largely based on feminist studies that investigate what patriarchy is and how it affects women’s lives. However, feminist scholars have not examined women’s reactions to patriarchy in much detail. This study underlines two points. First, women from different ethnic groups may encounter different forms of patriarchy in national movements. Hence, the focus is on Kurdish women activists and the patriarchy that they have encountered. Second, women develop multiple reactions when they encounter patriarchy. These Kurdish women developed three reactions to patriarchy: internalising patriarchy, dealing with patriarchy and challenging patriarchy. This study used the concept ‘hidden patriarchal codes’ for the first time to express that some Kurdish women believe that they were challenging patriarchy as they broke away from the patriarchal mentality. However, these women may still possess aspects of masculine cognition, albeit they may not even be aware of them.

Keywords: Activism; Diasporas; Kurdish women and nationalism

Item Type: Thesis (University of Nottingham only) (PhD)
Supervisors: Zontini, Elisabetta
D'Angelo, Alessio
Keywords: Kurdish women, women, female activists, activism, diasporas
Subjects: H Social sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
H Social sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
Faculties/Schools: UK Campuses > Faculty of Social Sciences, Law and Education > School of Sociology and Social Policy
Item ID: 74418
Depositing User: Altin Soran, Berrin
Date Deposited: 28 Feb 2024 14:03
Last Modified: 28 Feb 2024 14:03
URI: https://eprints.nottingham.ac.uk/id/eprint/74418

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