Specters of Kurdish Nationalism: Governmentality and Counterinsurgent Translation in Turkey


  • Nicholas Glastonbury


Translation, Governmentality, Kurdish Nationalism, Neoliberal Multiculturalism, Spectrality


This essay examines translations of the Kurdish epic poem Mem û Zîn into Turkish, tracing the logics behind these state-sponsored translations and examining how acts of translation are also efforts to regulate, translate, and erase Kurdish subjectivities. I argue that the state instrumentalizes Mem û Zîn’s potent nationalist currency in order to disarm present and future claims of Kurdish national autonomy. Using translation as a counterinsurgent governmentality, the state attempts to domesticate Kurdish nationalist discourse even as it reproduces them, thereby transforming Kurdish nationalism into a specter of itself. Attending to this specter, however, allows us to see how these texts resist domestication: conjured by the state’s technologies of counterinsurgency, the specter circulates as an inassimilable insurgent, an affect of resistance, the kernel of alternative social imaginings.

Author Biography

Nicholas Glastonbury

Glastonbury is a translator and doctoral student in comparative literature at the Pennsylvania State University. He previously worked for the Center for Truth, Justice, and Memory, a Kurdish-rights organization in Istanbul.