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Theses Doctoral

Islam and Competing Nationalisms: The Kurds and the Turks in the late Ottoman Era

Soleimani, Kamal

Islam and Competing Nationalisms: The Kurds and the Turks in the late Ottoman Era is a work, which traces how religion was intimately intertwined with nationalism during the crucial period of the late nineteenth century in the Modern Middle East. In this approach, I call into question the extent to which the principle of secularism and ethnicity serve as the only foundations of the modern nation state. Within the context of the late Ottoman Empire, my research foregrounds the differences between interpretations of Islam at the center and the myriad understandings of Islam adopted by those on the margins. I demonstrate how diverse Muslim communities (Arabs, Kurds and Turks) have linked their interpretations of 'authentic' religion to claims of 'ethnic superiority' during the process of nation building. I contend that this tension between the normative State interpretation of Islam and alternative visions was critical in shaping modern nationalism in the Middle East. This is significant for establishing how nationalism can in turn affect the range of religious interpretations. My work thus provides a new historically grounded theoretical foundation for recent debates on nationalism that have emerged in recent decades. My dissertation is based on a close examination of British archival records, Ottoman state records, Ottoman journals and other primary sources in Arabic, Kurdish (both Kurmanci and Sorani dialects), Persian and modern Turkish -- most of which I obtained during my yearlong field research as a Fulbright scholar.

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Academic Units
Middle Eastern, South Asian, and African Studies
Thesis Advisors
Anidjar, Gil
Degree
Ph.D., Columbia University
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