Moral Economy As Political Integration? the Case of Kurds in Turkey

Friday, June 24, 2016: 2:30 PM-4:00 PM
205 Dwinelle (Dwinelle Hall)
Azer Kilic, Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey; Koc University, Istanbul, Turkey
This talk discusses the roles played by moral economy in a context where the state is being contested from below, with a case study of the Kurdish conflict in southeastern Turkey. The case presents a situation of dual sovereignty and dual economy. By dual sovereignty, I refer to the existence of two competiting claims to authority, drawing on alternative institutions and sources of legitimacy; i.e. the Turkish government and the Kurdish movement led by the guerilla organization PKK (Partiya Karkerên Kürdistan – Kurdistan Workers Party). As for dual economy, I refer to the existence of two economic systems and moral codes; i.e. the market economy across the country and the moral economy at the local level. The moral economy here can be seen as a by-product of the political struggles against the background of a history of state oppression of a minority ethnic group. Drawing on “patriotism” and “sacrifice” as sources of legitimacy, it provides bonds for intra-group solidarity and defines the rules of conduct between the Kurdish movement and the local population; hence, it serves political integration. The talk examines the emergence and socio-economic manifestations of this moral economy; the Turkish government's efforts to counterbalance it in its rivalry with the Kurdish movement, particularly by encouraging the rational pursuit of self-interest; and the re-negotiation of the moral economy between the movement and the local organized actors – business and labor – in this process. As a broader goal, the talk discusses the notion of moral economy in relation with processes of state formation and transformation, following an inspiring work by Ariel Salzman (2010). The case analysis focuses on the 2000s, a period of diffused armed clashes and negotiation for conflict resolution. It draws on archival research and a four-month field work visit in 2011 to Diyarbakir, the de facto Kurdish capital, and Ankara, the national capital, where the author carried out about 80 semi-structured interviews with past and present leaders and members of organized interest groups as well as politicians, among others.


Salzmann, A. (2010) 'Is There a Moral Economy of State Formation? Religious Minorities and Repertoires of Regime Integration in the Middle East and Western Europe, 600–1614', Theory and Society, 39, 299-313.