MESA Banner
Borderland Dynamics: Ambiguities of Control and Conflict at the Edges of Turkey's War
BORDERLAND DYNAMICS: AMBIGUITIES OF CONTROL AND CONFLICT AT THE EDGES OF TURKEY’S WAR What does Turkey’s Kurdish borderlands lay out in terms of the relationship between the state and Kurds? I will address this question, with a specific emphasis on the question of territorial control and its lived experiences. I argue that the intensity of territorial control in the lived experiences of Kurds in contested borderlands has profound impact on state-minority relations. This approach integrates analysis with the interview data from twelve months of fieldwork in the cities of Van, Hakkari and the surrounding towns and villages, located along the Kurdish-populated borders of Turkey, Iraq and Iran. Considering the immense impact of territorial conflicts, the number of scholarly works related to a theory of territory and its empirical analysis in diverse contexts has been increasing. Theoretically, most of the relevant scholarship focuses on the concept of territory (Elden, 2013; Paasi, 2004) and the scope of territorial rights (Miller, 2012; Simmons, 2001). These debates are held among philosophers (Nine, 2008; Kolers, 2009; Moore, 2015), political geographers (Elden, 2010; Yiftachel, 1998) and, of course, political scientists (Murphy, 1996; Agnew, 1994; Fearon and Laitin, 1999). Despite the growing interest, the current literature lacks the explanation for the complexity of the relationship between states and mobilized minorities in borderlands and more specifically, the evolving dynamics of state-minority relations across time and space. My research fills this gap in the literature and contributes to the scholarship on border studies, territorial politics, the politics of MENA, as well as Kurdish studies. Although all of these existing pieces have informed the theoretical background of my research, I go beyond the limits of these theories and develop my own empirically-driven approach, which is the bottom-up view of territorial control. I expand on this literature by examining the relationship between a peace process and territorial control in a divided setting and, in addition, I apply the literature’s theories to a specific territorial context: the Kurdish borderlands of Turkey. This study also develops a typology of territorial control that offers data to identify at least five mechanisms of territorial control and their lived experiences on the ground. In doing so, this presentation contributes to intriguing academic debates on territorial control and engages with the growing body of literature that focuses on the complex relationship between people, states and territory in conflict-ridden border zones.
Political Science
Geographic Area
Sub Area
Kurdish Studies