Crafting symbolic geographies in modern Turkey: Kurdish assimilation and the politics of (re)naming

Beril Çakır

Research output: Working paperAcademic

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Place is a social site of meaning and memory. The critical appreciation of
place and its link to power in toponymic studies involve the identity
politics of place naming. This paper discusses the relationship between
the naming of places and identity construction in Turkey. First,
conceptualized as a hegemonic practice, the Turkification of toponyms
in the Kurdish region of the country is argued to be part of a broader
system of assimilation. Supported by the imposition of particular ethno-
nationalist narratives on the past, and conducted with concomitant
processes of linguistic and demographic design, top-down and
centralized engineering of the country’s toponymic order has two sides;
the construction of symbolic Turkish spaces and the cultural erosion of
Kurdishness. Later, the research examines the act of naming places as a
Kurdish strategy of resistance and a cultural right. As an attempt to
remove spatial and linguistic injustice, Kurdish toponymic practices aim
at re-asserting the ‘self’ and reclaiming memory, space and identity
through the re-introduction of former place names or new alternatives
that are conducive to the reparation of the Kurdish identity. The
discursive and material struggle over space and the clash between the
Turkish and Kurdish discourses on naming places reflect the overall
structure of social and political power relations in Turkey.
Original languageEnglish
Place of PublicationDen Haag
PublisherInternational Institute of Social Studies (ISS)
Number of pages39
Publication statusPublished - Feb 2014
Externally publishedYes

Publication series

SeriesISS working papers. General series


  • ISS Working Paper-General Series


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