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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 governmental tool, the state attempts to domesticate Kurdish nationalist discourses 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.


This work was originally published in Critical Multilingualism Studies.



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