Pluralistic Nationalism: The Example of the Kurds

Faculty Sponsor

David Western


Christ College

ORCID Identifier(s)


Presentation Type

Oral Presentation

Symposium Date

Spring 2019


It has become commonplace to think that nationalism is a social problem—a source of group identity and, therefore, of hegemonic claims, exclusion, and conflicts. This view of nationalism emerges from an exaggerated focus on European nationalisms and the manner in which these ideas established their national identity as dominant, through the marginalization of others. However, when we shift our focus to minority nationalisms beyond Europe, we can start to see the pluralistic potential of nationalism. In this paper, I explore one such case: Kurdish nationalism in Iraq. This minority group and their narratives surrounding national identity complicate previously presumed pictures of nationalism in important ways. Specifically, Iraqi Kurdish nationalists do not exclude or exert themselves over others. Rather, they are working to open a conversation about respect as an element of national identity, which includes questions on gender equality and how to support, but not stifle, minorities. The Iraqi Kurds developed this nationalism not to reduce the world to themselves, but to tell the world not to reduce them. As the Kurds have faced centuries of repression, it is important to them to develop a profound national identity that ultimately leads to peace among conflicting ethnic groups. Therefore, Kurdish nationalism, formed from the region’s intense conflict, is something very different from previously studied nationalisms. In this paper, I will argue that Kurdish nationalism reveals the progressive and tolerant potential of nationalism, where the narratives of national identity do not have to be about intolerance or exclusion, but about the acknowledgment of others.

Biographical Information about Author(s)

Rachel is pursuing a degree in mechanical engineering and the humanities. She is currently the President of Tau Beta Pi and actively encourages an open atmosphere in engineering by co-founding an organization called the Council for Engineering Inclusion and Equity. She completes research in solar thermal technology and electrochemistry and plans to attend graduate school for renewable energy technology.

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