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Decolonization and the Nation-State: The Anti-Colonial Character of Abdullah Ocalan’s Idea of Democratic Nation
Nationalism and national liberation movements have been historically seen as avenues, or necessary steps, for decolonization. For the most part in the twentieth century, anti-colonial struggles of colonized nations adopted nationalist ideologies to put an end to colonial rule inflicted on them by foreign entities. Therefore, nationalism was viewed as a liberating doctrine and an antidote to colonialism. However, many anti-colonial thinkers and scholars have questioned the viability of nationalism for decolonizing purposes. As the term neo-colonialism suggests, even successful national liberation movements that led to the establishment of sovereign, national states did not succeed in abolishing colonial relations altogether. Although neo-colonial and exploitative economic relations between newly established nation-states in the Global South and their former colonizers were largely due to structural inequalities embedded in global capitalism, nationalist ideas and establishments did not necessarily prevent the reproduction of colonial relations within the newly formed nation-states. While critiques of nationalism have largely suggested a nationalist politics oriented toward the interests of subaltern classes as an alternative to classical nationalism, there has been less attention paid to the concept of the nation as a colonial construct. Since colonization is not merely a matter of establishing exploitative relations and apparatuses but it also involves defining the colonized and ruling them, a decolonizing project must include concepts and definitions that problematize and replace the colonial discursive constructions of the colonized. I argue that Abdullah Ocalan’s notion of democratic nation offers a decolonized conception of the nation as it is framed through reversing and undoing the colonial conceptualization of the nation, hence decoupling the nation from political identification with ethnicity or any other cultural identities. In other words, a democratic nation is not identified with a certain ethnicity but the free coalescing of different collectivities which are bound together by autonomously formed political and social institutions. In my presentation, I will first present an introduction to Ocalan’s criticisms of the nation-state and nationalism and their role in reproducing colonial relations. Then, I will delineate his idea of democratic nation and explain the relationship between decolonization and depoliticization of ethnicity.
Political Science
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