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Kӓser, Isabel (2019) The Kurdistan Women's Liberation : Movement Between Violence and Resistance. PhD thesis. SOAS, University of London. DOI:

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The Kurdistan Women’s Liberation Movement (KWLM) has women at the forefront of its many struggles across the Kurdish Middle East. Amidst ongoing wars and insecurities female fighters, politicians and activists are trying to build a new system based on gender equality, radical democracy, sustainable ecology and selfdefence. According to existing post-colonial and trans-national feminist literature, militarisation of societies not only leads to greater gender-based violence, but also shows how women are pushed back into the private sphere in post-conflict settings. The KWLM claims to be different because its structures and ideology enable it to sustain women’s gains during and ‘post’-conflict. This thesis examines the claim of sustainability by tracing the trajectory of the women behind this movement, as well as their everyday lived experiences. Based on empirical data generated during a multisited ethnography in Turkey and Iraqi Kurdistan in 2015-2016, it asks how female politicians and activists in Diyarbakir (Turkey) fight for space, how female fighters in the mountains (Iraqi/Iranian border) learn to become steadfast militants, how martyr mothers in Maxmur (Iraqi Kurdistan) navigate the terrain between life and death, and lastly, unpacks the nexus between the movement’s revolutionary body politics and non-state nationalism. Conceptually, this thesis engages with debates around gender and war, nationalism and feminism, as well as militarism, body politics and sexuality. It introduces the concept of militant femininity, a framework of agency women learn to perform as party subjects. Through the militant femininity lens, this thesis traces the continuum of violence and resistance the women operate in, examining how both militancy and femininity are produced, taught, practised, and policed. It analyses the continuities, contradictions and everyday challenges of this struggle and shows that while the KWLM holds great emancipatory power, it also sets out an undisputed path of what liberation should look like.

Item Type: Theses (PhD)
SOAS Departments & Centres: SOAS Research Theses
Supervisors Name: Nadje Al-Ali
DOI (Digital Object Identifier):
Date Deposited: 11 May 2020 14:56

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