'Set aside from the pen and cut off from the foot': imagining the Ottoman Empire and Kurdistan

Christopher Houston*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Citations (Scopus)


Ever since the emergence of the nation-states of Turkey, Iraq, and Iran after World War I, the discourse on Kurdish nationalism has attributed a special signifi cance to the “first division” of Kurdistan, the sixteenth-century incorporation of what is also denoted as the Kurdish regions into the Ottoman system. Some writers have seen the resulting autonomy as a golden age of Kurdish independence, at least in relation to what came afterward. Others have interpreted the event as initiating five hundred years of continuing external—Turkish and Persian—overlordship.1 Both summaries assume two key tenets of nationalism: first, that the social world is divided into territorial groups on the basis of their nationality; second, that those national groups have the right to self-determination. In examining more closely in this article these and other interpretations of that critical event, at least three related concerns connect vitally with contemporary discourse on Kurdish identity. First is the question of the origins and distinguishing features of the Ottoman Empire—Turkish, Islamic, or something more hybrid—and how those origins are made to explain the Ottoman role in Kurdistan. Second are constructions of the Ottoman prehistory of the Kurds. Third is the way these representations of Ottoman Kurdish history and prehistory articulate in turn to key components of official Turkish history, both to its account of the Ottomans and to its broader nationalist discourse on Turkishness.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)397-411
Number of pages15
JournalComparative Studies of South Asia, Africa and the Middle East
Issue number2
Publication statusPublished - 2007
Externally publishedYes


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