Kurdish Studies: The Need for a New Approach

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University of Sofia, Bulgaria: Center for Eastern Languages and Cultures
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Yashar Abduselyamoglu is a sociologist and an Assistant Professor of Kurdish Studies at the Center for Eastern Languages and Cultures, University of Sofia, Bulgaria.

The subject of this paper are the emergent changes in Kurdish studies today, and the problems and opportunities opening before this academic field. What are the historical parameters of this discipline? Is it possible to strive for a new type of Kurdish Studies, whereby  Kurdish ethnicity is not the issue of paramount importance? Can the polarizing questions, with which this field is fraught , be set aside? Is it possible to aspire for academic and scholarly autonomy of Kurdish Studies?
The Kurdish Studies of yesterday were generally conducted in the context of identity construction, and the paradigms applied to the field did not contribute significantly to its advancement. A characteristic feature of the discipline is its limited and fragmentary character.   Kurdish Studies, as conducted in the different nation-states of the region (with the possible exception of Russian Kurdology), usually focus on a given dialect, locality, or province. They are conducted primarily in the context of political conflict, nationalist agendas, and ethnic strife--all factors with affect and determine the priorities and the slant of the discipline in a given university system. The majority of the research projects so far attempt to construct a homogenous and uniform Kurdish culture and identity, eschewing historical and social parameters, and the interrelations of the Kurds with the societies and cultures amidst which they live. As well,  Kurdish Studies rarely resort to comparative methods, or to the latest theoretical and methodological  developments in the social sciences.
It is time for Kurdish Studies to become an autonomous discipline, free from the tutelage of various nationalistic agendas.  An independent, interdisciplinary, multifaceted approach to this important subject is of paramount importance to all concerned. The new policies adopted by the Republic of Turkey  with regard to Kurdish Studies in the Turkish academic institutions, and the development of autonomous Kurdish Studies in the universities of the Kurdish regions of Iraq, create a new situation and a new hope for the development of Kurdish Studies as an academic discipline.   It is necessary also that Kurdish Studies do not become completely detached from the broader discipline of Iranian Studies, within which it historically originated. The continuous dialogue between these two disciplines will be beneficial for both. 

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