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Troubled terrain : lines of allegiance and political belonging in Northern Kurdistan

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Abstract
Northern Kurdistan constitutes a politically highly polarized place. Decades of armed conflict accompanied by assimilationist government and violent displacement have unsettled, transformed and deeply divided Kurdish society. On the troubled terrain of Kurdish politics, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and associated organisations have established a position of hegemony within a polarized world that pits the Turkish state against Kurdish resistance, ‘collaborating’ village guards against ‘honourable’ Kurdish patriots. As a result, questions of loyalty and allegiance occupy paramount significance in everyday interactions in today’s Northern Kurdistan. This paper investigates some of the consequences, difficulties and dilemmas that such polarization entails for ethnographic fieldwork. Based on 17 months of fieldwork experience in the region of Van (2011/12), I argue that the polarized political context puts high pressure on individuals to position themselves in relation to dominant political players. Researchers are not exempt from such pressures, and inevitably find themselves drawn into existing webs of allegiance. Arguing that there is no neutral position from which to carry out research, the paper advocates tracing the boundaries that demarcate spaces of loyalty as a methodology for reckoning with the politicization of everyday life. It outlines how political identities are formed and authority is constituted through the performative enactment, maintenance and negotiation of such boundaries.
Keywords
Kurdish Studies, ethnographic methods, conflict studies

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MLA
Schäfers, Marlene. “Troubled Terrain : Lines of Allegiance and Political Belonging in Northern Kurdistan.” Methodological Approaches in Kurdish Studies : Theoretical and Practical Insights from the Field. Ed. Bahar Baser et al. Vol. 14. Lanham: Lexington , 2018. 69–84. Print.
APA
Schäfers, M. (2018). Troubled terrain : lines of allegiance and political belonging in Northern Kurdistan. In B. Baser, M. Toivanen, B. Zorlu, & Y. Duman (Eds.), Methodological approaches in Kurdish studies : theoretical and practical insights from the field (Vol. 14, pp. 69–84). Lanham: Lexington .
Chicago author-date
Schäfers, Marlene. 2018. “Troubled Terrain : Lines of Allegiance and Political Belonging in Northern Kurdistan.” In Methodological Approaches in Kurdish Studies : Theoretical and Practical Insights from the Field, ed. Bahar Baser, Mari Toivanen, Begum Zorlu, and Yasin Duman, 14:69–84. Lanham: Lexington .
Chicago author-date (all authors)
Schäfers, Marlene. 2018. “Troubled Terrain : Lines of Allegiance and Political Belonging in Northern Kurdistan.” In Methodological Approaches in Kurdish Studies : Theoretical and Practical Insights from the Field, ed. Bahar Baser, Mari Toivanen, Begum Zorlu, and Yasin Duman, 14:69–84. Lanham: Lexington .
Vancouver
1.
Schäfers M. Troubled terrain : lines of allegiance and political belonging in Northern Kurdistan. In: Baser B, Toivanen M, Zorlu B, Duman Y, editors. Methodological approaches in Kurdish studies : theoretical and practical insights from the field. Lanham: Lexington ; 2018. p. 69–84.
IEEE
[1]
M. Schäfers, “Troubled terrain : lines of allegiance and political belonging in Northern Kurdistan,” in Methodological approaches in Kurdish studies : theoretical and practical insights from the field, vol. 14, B. Baser, M. Toivanen, B. Zorlu, and Y. Duman, Eds. Lanham: Lexington , 2018, pp. 69–84.
@incollection{8582368,
  abstract     = {Northern Kurdistan constitutes a politically highly polarized place. Decades of armed conflict accompanied by assimilationist government and violent displacement have unsettled, transformed and deeply divided Kurdish society. On the troubled terrain of Kurdish politics, the Kurdistan Workers’ Party and associated organisations have established a position of hegemony within a polarized world that pits the Turkish state against Kurdish resistance, ‘collaborating’ village guards against ‘honourable’ Kurdish patriots. As a result, questions of loyalty and allegiance occupy paramount significance in everyday interactions in today’s Northern Kurdistan. 
This paper investigates some of the consequences, difficulties and dilemmas that such polarization entails for ethnographic fieldwork. Based on 17 months of fieldwork experience in the region of Van (2011/12), I argue that the polarized political context puts high pressure on individuals to position themselves in relation to dominant political players. Researchers are not exempt from such pressures, and inevitably find themselves drawn into existing webs of allegiance. Arguing that there is no neutral position from which to carry out research, the paper advocates tracing the boundaries that demarcate spaces of loyalty as a methodology for reckoning with the politicization of everyday life. It outlines how political identities are formed and authority is constituted through the performative enactment, maintenance and negotiation of such boundaries.},
  author       = {Schäfers, Marlene},
  booktitle    = {Methodological approaches in Kurdish studies : theoretical and practical insights from the field},
  editor       = {Baser, Bahar and Toivanen, Mari and Zorlu, Begum and Duman, Yasin},
  isbn         = {9781498575218},
  keywords     = {Kurdish Studies,ethnographic methods,conflict studies},
  language     = {eng},
  pages        = {69--84},
  publisher    = {Lexington },
  series       = {Kurdish Societies, Politics, and International Relations},
  title        = {Troubled terrain : lines of allegiance and political belonging in Northern Kurdistan},
  url          = {https://rowman.com/ISBN/9781498575218/Methodological-Approaches-in-Kurdish-Studies-Theoretical-and-Practical-Insights-from-the-Field#},
  volume       = {14},
  year         = {2018},
}