A Tale of Two Kurdistans: Ideological Structures and Political Formations in Kurdistan-Syria and Kurdistan-Iraq

Huseyin Rasit, Yale University

Separated by a border imposed from outside, two parts of Kurdistan in Syria and Iraq (Rojava and Bashur, respectively) are not only geographically close but organically tied to each other. Nonetheless, two highly different political formations have been emerging in Rojava and Bashur. Whereas a leftist revolutionary process that pushes forward radical feminism, bottom-up democracy, and anticapitalist structures is taking place in the former, the latter has been building a parliamentary democracy underlay by a nationalist ideological system and capitalist economy. Why have two sides of Kurdistan arrived at such different political formations around similar times, and how these formations are sustained? To answer these questions, this paper starts from two premises. First, we cannot have an adequate explanation without taking ideological formations into account from a historical materialist perspective that sees ideologies as operating autonomously while being anchored in material institutions and practices. Second, we need to transcend national borders and employ a global perspective since both Rojava and Bashur has been heavily shaped by the movement in Kurdistan-Turkey (Bakhur). Starting from these premises, the paper offers the following explanation: Historically, specific class structures in Bakhur, Rojava, and Bashur and political and institutional relations within which respective Kurdish movements found themselves shaped the ideological patterns emerging in Kurdistan. As these ideologies have transformed from political programs into ideological systems, they have also been affected by economic structures within which the movements are situated, alliance patterns in the region, and geopolitical alignments. Emergent ideological systems in Rojava and Bashur, in turn, have impacted political formations themselves by offering specific ways to sustain them and creating path-dependent social arrangements. The comparative analysis here shows that explanations for diverge political formations in the Middle East and beyond must take ideologies into account from a historical materialist and global perspective.

No extended abstract or paper available

 Presented in Session 90. Ideologies and Political Formations