Skip to main content Accessibility help
×
Home
Hostname: page-component-7ccbd9845f-xwjfq Total loading time: 0.366 Render date: 2023-01-31T19:50:37.146Z Has data issue: true Feature Flags: { "useRatesEcommerce": false } hasContentIssue true

KURDISH CINEMA AS A TRANSNATIONAL DISCOURSE GENRE: CINEMATIC VISIBILITY, CULTURAL RESILIENCE, AND POLITICAL AGENCY

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  18 July 2014

Abstract

Within the last few years, “Kurdish cinema” has emerged as a unique discursive subject in Turkey. Subsequent to and in line with efforts to unify Kurdish cultural production in diaspora, Kurdish intellectuals have endeavored to define and frame the substance of Kurdish cinema as an orienting framework for the production and reception of films by and about Kurds. In this article, my argument is threefold. First, Kurdish cinema has emerged as a national cinema in transnational space. Second, like all media texts, Kurdish films are nationalized in discourse. Third, the communicative strategies used to nationalize Kurdish cinema must be viewed both in the context of the historical forces of Turkish nationalism and against a backdrop of contemporary politics in Turkey, specifically the Turkish government's discourses and policies related to the Kurds. The empirical data for this article derive from ethnographic research in Turkey and Europe conducted between 2009 and 2012.

Type
Articles
Copyright
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2014 

Access options

Get access to the full version of this content by using one of the access options below. (Log in options will check for institutional or personal access. Content may require purchase if you do not have access.)

References

NOTES

Author's note: The research on which this article is based was supported by the Wenner Gren Foundation, the Indiana University Office of International Programs, and a David C. Skomp Fieldwork Grant. I appreciate the feedback of numerous friends, colleagues, and especially the thoughtful reviewers and editors of this journal. I bear all responsibility for the views and materials presented in this article.

1 The “Opening” project included establishing Kurdish language departments in public universities, reassigning Kurdish villages their names in Kurdish, and launching a state-run Kurdish television channel, TRT 6. See Demokratik Açılım: Soruları ve Cevaplarıyla Demokratik Açılım Süreci (AKP Tanıtım ve Medya Başkanlığı, 2010), http://www.demokratikacilimkitabi.com/ (accessed 20 September 2010). Many Kurdish political activists harshly criticized the Kurdish Opening because of the government's disregard for the institutions of the Kurdish nationalist movement, including the pro-Kurdish political party in parliament, while it lays the groundwork of the new political reality. Criticisms have escalated with the arrest of numerous Kurdish politicians, intellectuals, and journalists for alleged membership in the KCK (Koma Ciwakén Kurdistan-the Union of Communities in Kurdistan), considered to be the urban wing of the PKK. Because of such contradictory political behavior on the part of the AKP-led government, the Kurdish Opening is often seen as an attempt by the state to co-opt the Kurds.

2 For a list of Kurdish film festivals in Europe and North America, see “Kurdish Film Festivals across the World,” http://www.kurdishcinema.com/Festivals.html (accessed 25 March 2014).

3 Arslan, Müjde, ed., Kürt Sineması: Yurtsuzluk, Sınır ve Ölüm [Kurdish Cinema: Homelessness, Borders, and Death] (Istanbul: Agora Kitaplığı, 2009)Google Scholar.

4 Briggs, Charles L. and Bauman, Richard, “Genre, Intertextuality, and Social Power,” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2 (1992): 149CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

5 Hayward, Susan, “Framing National Cinemas,” in Cinema and Nation, ed. Hjort, Mette and MacKenzie, Scott (London and New York: Routledge, 2000), 91Google Scholar.

6 Appadurai, Arjun, Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 49Google Scholar.

7 Ibid., 4.

8 Featherstone, Michael, ed., Global Culture: Nationalism, Globalization, and Modernity (London: Sage, 1990), 1Google Scholar.

9 Ong, Aiwa, Flexible Citizenship: Cultural Logic of Transnationality (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 1999), 11Google Scholar.

10 Ayata, Bilgin, “Kurdish Transnational Politics and Turkey's Changing Kurdish Policy: The Journey of Kurdish Broadcasting from Europe to Turkey,” Journal of Contemporary European Studies 19 (2011): 526CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

11 Hassanpour, Amir, “Satellite Footprints as National Borders: MED-TV and the Extraterritoriality of State Sovereignty,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 18 (1998): 58CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

12 Ibid., 530.

13 Hamid Naficy's analysis of transnational ethnic film festivals applies to Kurdish film festivals in Europe. Naficy writes that “by showing a number of films to insider and outsider audiences over a short time, and by bringing together filmmakers, producers, financiers, and media critics, [ethnic film festivals] make a claim on public consciousness, facilitate collective identity formation, and enable the kind of discursive and financial networking that encourages further productions.” Naficy, Hamid, An Accented Cinema: Exilic and Diasporic Filmmaking (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001), 65Google Scholar.

14 Mustafa Gündoğdu, interview, 13 December 2009, Diyarbakır.

15 Joppke, Christian, “Multiculturalism and Immigration: A Comparison of the United States, Germany, and Great Britain,” Theory and Society 25 (1996): 449500CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

16 For a detailed account of Kurdish organizations in the United Kingdom, see Baser, Bahar, “Kurdish Diaspora Political Activism in Europe with a Particular Focus on Great Britain,” in Diaspora Dialogues for Development and Peace, Berghof Peace Support and Center for Just Peace and Democracy (Berlin: Berghof Peace Support, 2011)Google Scholar.

17 Ibid., 19.

18 Gündoğdu, interview, Diyarbakır.

19 Lee, Benjamin and LiPuma, Edward, “Cultures of Circulation: The Imaginations of Modernity,” Public Culture 14 (2002): 191213CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

20 Ibid., 192.

22 Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 33.

23 Mustafa Gündoğdu, interview, 5 November 2009, London.

24 For a discussion of Ghobadi's film production at the interstices of national and global cinema industries, see Suner, Asuman, “Outside In: ‘Accented Cinema’ at Large,” Inter-Asia Cultural Studies 7 (2006): 363–82CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

25 Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 35.

26 Goankar, Dilip Parameshwar and Povinelli, Elizabeth A., “Technologies of Public Forms: Circulation, Transfiguration, Recognition,” Public Culture 15 (2003): 391Google Scholar.

27 Quoted in Chris Kutschera, “Iran Kurdistan: Bahman Ghobadi and the Pain of Giving Birth to Kurdish Cinema,” Kutschera 30 Years of Journalism (2003), http://www.chris-kutschera.com/A/bahman_ghobadi.htm (accessed 15 August 2012).

28 Appadurai, Modernity at Large, 3.

29 Gündoğdu, interview, London.

30 Faye Ginsburg discusses such social and political functions of cinema in relation to the Aboriginal communities in Australia. See Ginsburg, Faye, “Indigenous Media: Faustian Contract or Global Village?,” Cultural Anthropology 6 (1991): 104CrossRefGoogle Scholar; and idem, “Embedded Aesthetics: Creating a Discursive Space for Indigenous Media,” Cultural Anthropology 9 (1994): 365–82.

31 Hassanpour, Amir, “Satellite Footprints as National Borders: MED-TV and the Extraterritoriality of State Sovereignty,” Journal of Muslim Minority Affairs 18 (1998): 5372CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

32 Mustafa Gündoğdu, interview, 20 April 2012, Istanbul.

33 These sites of observation include the Diyarbakır Kurdish Cinema Conference in 2009, the Batman Yılmaz Güney Kurdish Short Film Festival in 2010, the Dersim Human Rights Film Festival in 2011, the London Kurdish Film Festival in 2009, cinema workshops in Mesopotamia Cinema in 2010 and 2011, and other film screenings, informal panels, and talks on Kurdish cinema between 2009 and 2012.

34 Bakchinyan, Arstvi, “Ermenistan Sinemasında Kürt Renkleri,” in Kürt Sineması: Yurtsuzluk, Sınır ve Ölüm, ed. Arslan, Müjde (Istanbul: Agora Kitaplığı 2009), 43Google Scholar.

35 Alakom, Rohat, “Kürtleri Anlatan İlk Film Zaré,” Kürt Sineması: Yurtsuzluk, Sınır ve Ölüm, ed. Arslan, Müjde (Istanbul: Agora Kitaplığı, 2009)Google Scholar.

36 Nichols, Bill, Representing Reality (Bloomington, Ind.: Indiana University Press, 1991), 153Google Scholar.

37 Hayward, “Framing National Cinemas,” 91.

38 Mette Hjort and Scott MacKenzie, “Introduction,” in Hjort and MacKenzie, Cinema and Nation, 4.

39 Nora, Pierre, “Between Memory and History: Les Lieux de Memoire,” Representations 26 (1989): 724CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

40 Marks, Laura, The Skin of the Film: Intercultural Cinema, Embodiment, and the Senses (Durham and London: Duke University Press, 2000), 28Google Scholar.

41 Ibrahim Gürbüz, interviews, January 2009 and June 2010, Istanbul.

42 Scholarship on Kurdish cinema remains limited. However, Tim Kennedy discusses Kurdish cinema from a historical and comparative perspective, in “Cinema Regarding Nations: Re-imagining Armenian, Kurdish, and Palestinian National Identity in Film” (PhD diss., University of Reading, 2007). For analyses of common thematic and aesthetic tendencies in Kurdish films, see, for example, Özgür Çiçek, “The Fictive Archive: Kurdish Filmmaking in Turkey,” Alphaville: Journal of Film and Screen Media (2011); and Ayça Çiftçi, “Tahakkümden İktidara: Türkiye'de Kürt Sinemasının Doğumu” (master's thesis, Istanbul Bilgi University, 2008).

43 For example, Arslan, Müjde, Kürt Sineması: Yurtsuzluk, Sınır ve Ölüm [Kurdish Cinema: Homelessness, Borders, and Death] (Istanbul: Agora Kitaplığı, 2009)Google Scholar; and idem, “Kürt Sinemasının Cesur Kadınları” [The Brave Women of Kurdish Cinema], Yeni Özgür Politika (2013), http://yeniozgurpolitika.org/index.php?rupel=nuce&id=25261 (accessed 27 March 2014).

44 Arslan, Müjde, Ez Firiyam Tu Ma Li Cih (Istanbul: Asi Film, 2012)Google Scholar.

45 Müslüm Yücel discusses how, since the 1950s, Kurds were seen in Turkish cinema, including in legendary Kurdish director Yılmaz Güney's films, not as Kurds but as feudal, rural subjects. See Yücel, Müslüm, Türk Sinemasında Kürtler (Istanbul: Agora Kitaplığı, 2008)Google Scholar.

46 Ax (The Land) is a twenty-seven-minute film about the forced evacuations of Kurdish villages by the Turkish military, and revolves around an old man who refuses to leave his Kurdish village. Kazım Öz, Ax (Istanbul: Yapım 13, 1999).

47 Briggs, Charles L. and Bauman, Richard, “Genre, Intertextuality, and Social Power,” Journal of Linguistic Anthropology 2 (1992): 148CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

48 Irvine, Judith and Gal, Susan, “Language Ideology and Linguistic Differentiation,” in Regimes of Language: Ideologies, Polities, and Identities, ed. Kroskrity, Paul V. (Santa Fe, N.Mex.: School of American Research Press, 2000), 37Google Scholar.

49 Kemal Yıldız, 5 December 2009, Diyarbakır.

50 Earlier in 2009, accused of involvement with the KCK, known as the PKK's urban organization, several Kurdish municipal leaders were arrested. These politicians had declared that they would not testify in court unless they were allowed to do so in their native Kurdish language. Even though the original charges against them were not about the use of Kurdish language per se, many believed that they were arrested because of their involvement in institutions of the Kurdish movement that sought to legitimize the Kurdish language. Through such acts of civil disobedience as refusing to testify in Turkish, the Kurdish language became once again both a symbolic battlefield for the Kurdish movement and the means of producing Kurdish political agency.

51 During the course of the KCK trials, when the detainees refused to testify in Turkish and spoke in Kurdish in court, the court minutes noted their utterances as “an unknown language.” Recent legislation has somewhat alleviated the crisis of Kurdish in the courtroom, as the detainee can now testify in her native language if she hires a translator to be present. “KCK davasında ‘bilinmeyen dil’ krizi” [Unknown Language Crisis in the KCK Suit], Radikal, 4 November 2010, http://www.radikal.com.tr/Radikal.aspx?aType=RadikalDetayV3&ArticleID=1027417&CategoryID=77 (accessed 15 August 2012).

52 Briggs and Bauman, “Genre, Intertextuality, and Social Power,” 145.

53 Tambiah, Stanley, “The Nation-State in Crisis and the Rise of Ethnonationalism,” in Politics of Difference, ed. Wilmsen and Patrick McAllister (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2001 [1996]), 131Google Scholar.

54 Ibid., 132.

55 Gunter, Michael M., The Kurds and the Future of Turkey (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1997), 6Google Scholar.

56 Yeğen, Mesut, “Prospective-Turks or Pseudo-Citizens: Kurds in Turkey,” Middle East Journal 63 (2009): 599CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

57 See Briggs and Bauman, “Genre, Intertextuality, and Social Power”; and especially Goodman, Jane E., “Writing Empire, Underwriting Nation: Discursive Histories of Kabyle Berber Oral Texts,” American Ethnologist 29 (2002): 86122CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

9
Cited by

Save article to Kindle

To save this article to your Kindle, first ensure coreplatform@cambridge.org is added to your Approved Personal Document E-mail List under your Personal Document Settings on the Manage Your Content and Devices page of your Amazon account. Then enter the ‘name’ part of your Kindle email address below. Find out more about saving to your Kindle.

Note you can select to save to either the @free.kindle.com or @kindle.com variations. ‘@free.kindle.com’ emails are free but can only be saved to your device when it is connected to wi-fi. ‘@kindle.com’ emails can be delivered even when you are not connected to wi-fi, but note that service fees apply.

Find out more about the Kindle Personal Document Service.

KURDISH CINEMA AS A TRANSNATIONAL DISCOURSE GENRE: CINEMATIC VISIBILITY, CULTURAL RESILIENCE, AND POLITICAL AGENCY
Available formats
×

Save article to Dropbox

To save this article to your Dropbox account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Dropbox account. Find out more about saving content to Dropbox.

KURDISH CINEMA AS A TRANSNATIONAL DISCOURSE GENRE: CINEMATIC VISIBILITY, CULTURAL RESILIENCE, AND POLITICAL AGENCY
Available formats
×

Save article to Google Drive

To save this article to your Google Drive account, please select one or more formats and confirm that you agree to abide by our usage policies. If this is the first time you used this feature, you will be asked to authorise Cambridge Core to connect with your Google Drive account. Find out more about saving content to Google Drive.

KURDISH CINEMA AS A TRANSNATIONAL DISCOURSE GENRE: CINEMATIC VISIBILITY, CULTURAL RESILIENCE, AND POLITICAL AGENCY
Available formats
×
×

Reply to: Submit a response

Please enter your response.

Your details

Please enter a valid email address.

Conflicting interests

Do you have any conflicting interests? *