The Kurdish people are one of the largest ethnic groups in the Middle East. They have a strong sense of nationhood and form large populations in Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Turkey, as well as several European countries. The Kurdish Political Studies Program (KPSP), hosted in the Department of Political Science, is the first academic program dedicated to the study of politics of Kurds and Kurdistan in the United States. A brochure of the KSPS is available here.
The Best Article Award in Kurdish Political Studies
The First Prize Winner
Wendelmoet Hamelink and Hanifi Barış, “Dengbêjs on borderlands: Borders and the state as seen through the eyes of Kurdish singer-poets,” Kurdish Studies 2 (2014): 34-60.
The Second Prize Winner
Harun Yilmaz, “The Rise of Red Kurdistan,” Iranian Studies 47 (2014): 799-822.
This award recognizes the best article in Kurdish Political Studies by a rising scholar during the previous calendar year. In this inaugural year of the award, social science and humanities articles published in English language peer-reviewed journals in 2014 and 2015 were considered.
From an impressive pool of more than a dozen articles, the committee has unanimously awarded the first prize to Wendelmoet Hamelink and Hanifi Barış’s “Dengbêjs on borderlands” published in Kurdish Studies. The article masterfully combines theoretical insights with meticulous research involving close textual analysis of the stories and symbols of the kilams (recital songs) and interviews conducted with the dengbêj (Kurdish folk singers) themselves to address one of the most important questions in modern Kurdish political history: why Kurds don’t have a state of their own? In contrast to typical conceptions that Kurdish elites “failed” to gain a nation-state, as well as more general condemnations of Kurds as too internally divided to achieve a state of their own, Hamelink and Barış find that Kurdish communities deliberately avoided and evaded the state as a means of maintaining some measure of freedom and independence. They suggest this evasiveness was not limited to preventing external authorities from imposing their will; it also included trying to ensure no state emerged from within Kurdish society. Their demonstration of the relevance of the local—local alliances, relationships, enmities, battles —and the perception in the kilam of the state and borders as external, far-flung, and invasive also offers an important counterpoint to the highly nationalized depictions common in accounts of Kurdish politics and society. The article also illustrates the rich potential of truly interdisciplinary work and draws on multiple methodologies and fields. The clarity and elegance of the writing, and the careful presentation of the kilams in both the original Kurdish and the English translation are also noteworthy.
The committee has awarded the second prize to Harun Yilmaz’s “Red Kurdistan” published in Iranian Studies. Scholarship on the Kurds have overwhelmingly focused on the Kurds in the Middle East. As a result, the Kurdish communities living in the Caucasus region have not received significant attention. Yilmaz’s article addresses this gap and focuses on the Kurdish population in Azerbaijan under Soviet administration between 1920 and 1937.This original work utilizes a wealth of primary and secondary sources in an attempt to demystify a Kurdish population in the Caucasus region subject to both communist modernization policies and Azeri hegemony during the interwar years. It compellingly documents the tensions between the Soviet modernist goal of presenting Azerbaijan as a regional model of ethnic coexistence and bureaucratic, political, and socioeconomic factors hampering literacy and schooling campaigns that brought few tangible benefits to the Kurds until the 1930s.
The first prize winner is awarded $300, and the second prize winner $200.
The committee is composed of Janet Klein (the University of Akron), Hakan Özoğlu (University of Central Florida), Güneş Murat Tezcür (University of Central Florida), and Nicole Watts (San Francisco State University).
Dr. Najmaldin Karim Fellowship in Kurdish Political Studies
Kellan Ritter, a UCF student majoring in political science, has been selected as the first Dr. Najmaldin Karim Fellow in Kurdish Political Studies. He will be provided a research space conducive to educational and professional development and conduct a research project related to Kurdish politics, broadly defined, under the supervision of KPSP faculty in the spring 2017 semester. The research project aims to enrich the fellow’s academic credentials, providing a unique opportunity to gain in-depth insights about Kurdish politics through independent research. The fellow will receive $500 for the semester.