An anti-history of a non-people

Kurds, colonialism, and nationalism in the history of anthropology

Christopher Houston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

8 Citations (Scopus)


In this article I seek to contest certain aspects of the 1960s revisionist history of the discipline of anthropology, narratives that can be accused ironically of an autocentric overestimation of the power of the imperial West in their very uncovering of its more or less hidden influence over the genre of ethnography and anthropological practice. Taking as my focus in this regard the case of the anthropology of the Kurds, I suggest that not only have Western ethnographic texts been relatively un-influential in the wider scheme of discourse about Kurds, but also that the recent decision of Kurdish publishing houses in Istanbul to translate and re-publish them indicates where in the present many Kurds feel an active 'colonial project' is continuing. The role and development of anthropology in Turkey, then, complicate this by now decades-old examination of the embeddedness of ethnographic discourse in Western modernist projects of political transformation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)19-35
Number of pages17
JournalJournal of the Royal Anthropological Institute
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2009

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