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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Coloniality and solidarity : an intersectional study of the relationship between the Turkish feminist movement and the Kurdish women’s movement since the 1980s Erengezgin, Berrak Cavlan


This dissertation examines the relationship between the Turkish Feminist Movement (TFM) and the Kurdish Women’s Movement (KWM) since the 1980s. Specifically, it offers a contrapuntal history of their face-to-face encounters narrated through a critical decolonial intersectional lens. I explore how Turkish and Kurdish anti-patriarchal subjectivities were formed historically, how they represent the (post)colonial self and the Other today, how coloniality racializes their core ideas on statehood, patriarchy, and women’s liberation and informs their solidarity work. I observe that the KWM aims to present Kurdistan as a transformative counter-topography to the Turkish nation-state, its foundational ontology, as well as its socialist and feminist opposition. Working with interviews and observations made in a two-year-long fieldwork and primary texts of the movements, I trace the feminist negotiations that take place on the Diyarbakır-Istanbul axis, the political capital of Northern Kurdistan and the cultural capital of western Turkey respectively. Inspired by radical anti-colonial/anti-racist traditions of Black, Indigenous (including Kurdish), Third World and other feminisms of color, I first examine the respective approaches of the TFM and the KWM to intersectionality of oppression. Second, I attempt a deconstructive analysis of the constitution of “postcolonial whiteness” within the TFM and Turkish feminist gestures to justify essentialisms and boundaries of solidarity. This dissertation finds that anti-system Turkish feminisms continue to be shaped by a race-and-coloniality-denying, universalist ontology, despite a shift from a developmentalist to a multiculturalist frame after the 2000s. Turkish feminist relations with the KWM reproduce Turkishness, statehood, and colonial interdependence in subtle forms, even as most Turkish allies identify as anti-nationalist. On a political level, I argue that engaging with Kurdish and other Indigenous women’s situated knowledge and critique might help Western-centric, gender-primary Turkish feminism and other feminisms emerging in dominant (post)colonial nations transcend a political horizon delimited by state recognition, and move towards community-oriented, pluriversal/confederal coalitions accountable to Indigenous self-determination. More broadly, this work seeks to further an academic tradition in the Third World/postcolonial context that takes racism and coloniality as a point of departure in analysis and examines whiteness not only in relation to the West, but also non-Western, postcolonial modes of identification.

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