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Writing Statehood into Existence: Explanatory IR, the War against ISIS & Discourses on Kurdish National Self-determination

Monday 3 April 2017, 2.00PM to 3.30 pm

Speaker(s): Dr Hannes Cerny (Central European University)

ABSTRACT: There is a disconcerting tendency in explanatory IR scholarship to represent ethnic groups and nations in modernist and groupist terms and to analytically equate them with states. This normative essentialist portrayal, it is argued in this talk, contributes to the reification and substantialization of the strategic essentialisms of ethno-nationalist elites, and legitimizes those elites’ claim to national coherence and territorial control as well as their authority to speak on behalf of the nation, thus often rendering scholars co-protagonists in the ethno-national conflicts they set out to describe. This pattern is problematized by way of deconstructing how Iraqi Kurdish national self-determination is explained. The talk demonstrates that the discourse on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan – in particular in the wake of the ISIS war – is more ambiguous and complex than the reductionist representations in the pertinent literature purport, where scholars write Iraqi Kurdish statehood into existence before even Iraqi Kurdish ethno-nationalist elites are actively pursuing it.


Hannes Černy is a Visiting Professor at the Department of International Relations, Central European University, Hungary. He is the author of Iraqi Kurdistan, the PKK, and International Relations: Theory and Ethnic Conflict (Routledge 2017), and has previously taught at universities of Exeter, Hull, and Passau. His research focuses on issues of ethnic identity, ethnic conflict and sovereignty and their representation in IR scholarship.

Location: Derwent College room D/N/104

Admission: All welcome