‘Kurdish Studies Summer School’ 27-29 June 2016

Kurdish Studies Summer School

Kurdish Politics and Society: Contemporary and Historical Perspectives

A three-day intensive summer school focusing on Kurdish politics and society was held at the University of Leicester, 27-29 June 2016.  It was organised by Dr Ipek Demir, Associate Professor in Sociology, University of Leicester. This was the first-ever Kurdish Studies Summer School and brought together scholars, postgraduate students and community advocates from across the world (e.g. New Zealand, the US, Mexico, Germany, Belgium, Australia, Italy) as well as the UK (Leicester, Kent, Manchester, Exeter, Essex, UCL and others).

The summer school was designed to engage postgraduate students (Master’s and PhD), independent scholars, recent graduates in the field of Kurdish Studies as well as community advocates in the politics, society and culture of Kurds. Five scholars of Kurdish Studies namely Dr Necla Acik, Professor Christine Allison, Professor Hamit Bozarslan, Dr Ipek Demir and Dr Ulrike Flader gave lectures based on their areas of specialisation. Six specific areas were covered by the lecturers:

Area 1: ‘Kurdish Language, Literature, Popular Culture and Folklore in Kurdistan’

Area 2: ‘Coercion and Violence in Kurdistan and in the Middle East.'

Area 3: ‘The Contemporary Kurdish Movement: Key Questions and Developments’

Area 4: ‘Gender and Kurdish Studies’

Area 5: ‘Kurdish Diaspora’

Area 6: 'Ethics and Challenges of Doing Ethnographic Fieldwork in the Shadow of the Kurdish Question’

Each day, one or two of the lecturers gave lectures, outlining the main approaches and methods employed in their specific field. Some of the lecturers also held seminar sessions where students worked in groups. Given the interdisciplinary nature of Kurdish studies, the school aimed to widen the knowledge and understanding of students. Lectures were planned for both experienced and novice students of Kurdish Studies. They exposed students new to that particular sub-field of Kurdish studies to fresh areas and ideas. They also ensured that students who had specialist understanding were exposed to the latest, original and innovative developments in the field. This way, students at different levels and from different specialisms were all able to take home something new.

The school also included short presentations by selected student participants which were followed by feedback and questions from the lecturers and other students. Each day was concluded by a ‘day summary’ whereby two student rapporteurs summed up the key insights from the day, enabling main points to be reiterated and closing statements to be provided. Students were encouraged to think about overarching themes and further questions. Dinners in the evenings provided further intense debates and discussion on Kurdish politics and society.

The school was distinctly different from a conference. First of all, it was a learning event. Special attention was paid to ensuring that there was a constructive, supportive but intellectually challenging environment. Methodological considerations were also considered, enabling students to become more reflexive about their research methods and fieldwork. The school also provided ample space for questions, feedback and discussion, including a final session on the future of Kurdish Studies, inviting students to reflect about the way in which canonisation in this field is developing.

In addition, the school hosted Kurdish community advocates and two journalists, enabling them to enhance their knowledge of Kurdish politics, history and society from academic sources. The school provided a platform for them to share their non-academic experiences.

Participant feedback on the Kurdish Studies Summer School:

‘Dr Demir packed the days with learning and informed discussion so that I felt like I left with a whole semester of knowledge and understanding. The level of engaged and friendly discussion across the disciplines made this summer school such an inspiring and worthwhile project.’ Sevin Gallo (USA)

‘My expectations for the summer school were exceeded. It was a unique opportunity which allowed me to engage with postgraduate, early career academics and established researchers in an intellectually stimulating and constructive environment. I now have got a lot of invaluable insights for my own research and I am motivated to continue research in Kurdish Studies. The student rapporteur format is great for students who don’t present. It allows them to make critical reflections and to keep them engaged with broader themes. I really enjoyed that!’ Alvina Hoffman (Paris)

‘Lectures, discussions and student presentations – it was very holistic and broadened my horizons. Thank you for running the summer school and putting it together so efficiently.’ Jeremy (Dohuk, Iraqi Kurdistan)

‘Kurdish Studies Summer School was an important event in that it brought together diverse voices and ideas. I benefited from the guidance provided and connected with a range of helpful and impressive scholars.’ Michael Quinones (USA)

‘This summer school provided me with the opportunity of learning and discussing the Kurdish issue in a culturally diverse and interdisciplinary environment.’ Nohemi (Mexico & Free University of Brussels)

‘I feel in a better position to discuss the current state of Kurdish Studies. It was a great opportunity to establish links with scholars and researchers from different disciplines.’ Lolav Alhamid (Kent, UK)

‘The learning environment allowed students to find out about other approaches and methods. As attendees we now have a strong network for future studies. Thanks Ipek, please do it again.’ Ali (Essex, UK)

‘The format was great! First lecture from a keynote and then having to opportunity to hear about other PhD projects. The lectures and the discussions were really insightful and made me think about new questions concerning my own research project.’ Eren (Germany)

‘It was an excellent course. Well organised in an excellent venue. The lecturers and organisers were very kind and supportive. I really enjoyed it.’

‘I enjoyed the convivial and non-competitive atmosphere of learning and discovery. I am new to Kurdish Studies so I enjoyed hearing what I felt was a diverse selection of topics and approaches to the field. I enjoyed the energy and camaraderie of the group.’

‘Intellectual discussion and stimulation in an interdisciplinary and non-competitive environment. Thank you!’

‘The interdisciplinary of the school made it profoundly educational for me.’

‘Discussion on the griefs of fieldwork in this area! This helped me know I’m not alone in the struggles of doing interviews.’

‘At KSSS I could easily talk about my research without the need to go over the basics – as you do when you talk to an audience who doesn’t know much about Kurdish issues.’

‘I think discussing research methods and ethics/practical concerns were very helpful for my work.’

‘The discussions were very interesting. As a law student I have learnt a lot about Kurdish Studies in general and Kurdish women’s revolution in particular.’

‘I enjoyed learning and discussions in an interdisciplinary environment.’


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