Nationhood as a Social Representation: Making Sense of the Kurdish Opening in Turkey

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Abstract

Nationhood is a dynamic and complex phenomenon, influenced by both top-down political and bottom-up social processes. Social representations theory allows us to address the in-between space where nationhood can be conceptualized as a shared political psychological phenomenon. In this study, the authors explore various constructions of Turkish nationhood in relation to the Kurdish issue of Turkey. Turkey’s conflict with Kurds has been perceived from different identity or ideological positions. These perceptions are useful in tracking the dynamic constructions of Turkish nationhood. The Kurdish opening, introduced by the government in Turkey, was an official process of tackling the country’s most important internal conflict through a series of reforms and policies. To understand the relationship between representations of nationhood and the way the Kurdish opening was received, 17 semistructured interviews were carried out in Turkey (in Istanbul, Ankara and Antakya) between March and August 2011. The findings highlight three main themes: Turkish issue, cultural dissonance, and narrative empathy. The authors emphasize the need to conceptualize nationhood as a consensually elaborated and shared social representation.

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