Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


This research examines the historical evolution of the Kurdish people's movement for achieving cultural rights and political representation in Turkey. The main focus is on the period between 2000 and 2015. It draws upon nationalism and social movement theories to analyze how these dynamics feed each other directly. While the Kurdish nationalist movement has been the basis for the Kurdish social movement, the social movement has served to perpetuate the national cause.

The Kurds constitute the largest ethnic minority in Turkey. However, their political and cultural identity has not been constitutionally recognized. For the last three decades, the Kurds deemed as their only option the creation of an independent Kurdish state that would break away from Turkey. From 2000 onwards, there has been a gradual shift in their objectives. Kurdish identity claims began to evolve towards a willingness to work within the existing political system, albeit calling for significant change including a re-evaluation of the Turkish constitution and decentralization of power across Turkey.

Based on empirical evidence collected through fieldwork, including in-depth interviews with activists, ordinary citizens, members of civil society organizations and political parties as well as participant observation in legal gatherings and general strikes, this research demonstrates how Kurdish activists – as organized political actors with resources and a collective identity – ascribed to mainstream social movement practices, particularly in the period post-2000. It advances the novel argument that they capitalized on the shifting political opportunities deriving from Turkey's EU candidacy in 1999, the curtailment of military power in 2007, and the inspirational impact of the regional upheavals in 2011.

To further explore these dynamics within Turkish society as a whole, this study reveals the emergence of a total social movement between 2013 and 2015. Formulated by Alain Touraine, a total social movement is a historic project where social actors determine the general orientation of their society, which in this study consisted of the combination of civil society activity, a democracy-advocating movement and the expression of Kurdish identity.
Date of Award2016
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • King's College London
SupervisorCarool Kersten (Supervisor) & Stacey Gutkowski (Supervisor)

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