June 2, 2011, 5:00pm
'Ethnic Alliances' Deconstructed - the PKK Sanctuary in Kurdistan - CANCELED
Presenter: Johannes Artens, Lecturer University of Exeter
Location: Williams Hall 214


Despite two generations of critical theory scholarship, IR and security studies still mostly view transnational ethnic conflicts through the realist/liberal-interventionist lens that perceives ‘ethnic groups’ as distinct, substantive, static, and bounded entities and treats relations between insurgencies and their ‘kin state’ as equivalent to alliances between states. These view also determines policymakers’ perspectives on many of the world’s conflicts – think the Obama Administration’s AfPak approach. Until recently, it has also determined Turkey’s policy via the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. By way of the relations between the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) and Iraqi Kurdish nationalist parties from the late 1970s until today I will challenge the paradigm of ‘ethnic groupness’ and deconstruct the ‘ethnic alliance’ model, highlighting the complex dynamics of the so called ‘intra-group dimension’ of ethnic conflicts that, in the PKK-Iraqi Kurdistan case have gone from initial collaboration to outright confrontation in the 1990s to today’s ambiguous political space. By doing so I aim to contribute to a better understanding of the multifaceted, and often seemingly contradictory dynamics of ethnic conflicts and to situating the ‘Kurdish Question’ in the regional politics of today’s Middle East. 

Johannes Artens is a PhD Researcher and Lecturer at the University of Exeter, UK, where he teaches modules on politics in the Middle East, and currently a visiting fellow at the Penn Program in Ethnic Conflict of the University of Pennsylvania. His PhD research challenges the paradigm of ‘ethnic groupness’ and deconstructs the model of ‘ethnic alliances’ prevalent in IR theory by way of the case study of relations between the PKK and Iraqi Kurdish nationalist parties. He has worked for the Atlanta-based Carter Center and a think tank advising the German Parliament on US Latin America policy.

The Middle East Center