Radical Disobedience as a Democratizing Praxis: The State and Kurds in Turkey

Özgür Yalçin | University of Amsterdam | Radical Disobedience as a Democratizing Praxis: The State and Kurds in Turkey | Supervisors: Prof. dr Robin Celikates, Prof. dr Yolande Jansen and Assoc. Prof. dr Erdoğan Yıldırım| 2017-2021

Using the Kurdish resistance movement in Turkey as a long-standing and urgent practical question, this study propounds a completely new concept as ‘radical disobedience’. The philosophical literature posits a variety of different conceptualizations and justifications of disobedience through identifying several key elements related to their ideological formations. However, it is increasingly clear that these mainstream perceptions of disobedience are being challenged from a variety of distinctive approaches with regard to present-day protests. Two main types of disobedience can be distinguished: (1) civil disobedience and (2) radical disobedience. Regarding the first one, it is possible to find a broad variety of different and in part convincing approaches. But civil disobedience cannot be a practice of political struggle unless the system of rule is democratic. Regarding the second one, there is a huge gap in the literature. In order to fill this gap, the concept of radical disobedience will be theorized by defining it as a public, violent (unarmed) or nonviolent, illegal, and demand-driven political engagement that aims at a structural alteration in an authoritarian regime with a view to democratize it. For justification, building on the works of two radical thinkers — (1) Jacques Rancière and (2) Chantal Mouffe —, I will demonstrate that radical disobedience is a legitimate type of struggle if a system of rule or regime is indeed authoritarian. In this study, Turkey will be understood as a case of electoral authoritarianism. Accordingly, there are two research questions: (1) how can radical disobedience be a driving force of democratization? and (2) why is radical disobedience a legitimate political struggle? To emphasize, this project will not put forward a purely normative theory but provide a theoretical analysis based in empirical research including expert in-depth interviews and critical discourse analysis.