Friday, September 30, 2016

Kurdistan and Coloniality

Iraqi Kurdistan is in a strange transition stage between internal colonialism and post-colonialism. Arguably other areas of Kurdistan are still internal colonies. Like Central Asia, however, there are two separate eras of coloniality. The first is the Ottoman Empire and the second is Iraq before the formation of the KRG, but particularly under Saddam Hussein. The Ottoman historical legacy isn't discussed publicly much here as far as I can see. However, it seems crucial to me for understanding the current situation. The Ottoman legacy is undoubtedly much more important than that of the ancient Medes regarding the recent political history of Kurdistan even if all the public discourse focuses on the latter to the exclusion of the former. The submerged influence of Ottoman rule is of course overlaid with a much more public confrontation of the history of the Kurds under the Baath Party. Here the negative and long lasting impact on Kurdish society seems comparable to a number of post-colonial and post-socialist societies in Africa and Eurasia.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


Pan-Arabism and Pan-Africanism are pretty much dead ideologies at this point. But, Pan-Kurdism seems to still have a fair amount of support at least in Iraqi Kurdistan. Tunisia and Lebanon are never going to be part of the same state. Neither are Ghana and Mozambique. But, it is conceivable that sometime in the future that the Kurdish parts of Iraq and Syria could be joined in some sort of political union.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The Importance of History

One very evident problem of Kurdistan's division across multiple states and its historic failure to develop its own state is that there is not a single generally agreed upon historical narrative of the Kurdish people actually controlled by the Kurdish people. It is also one of the primary reasons for this continued division and lack of independent statehood. Solving this problem is far more important than training more oil engineers.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

Another Epiphany

Yesterday, I had another epiphany. It was in response to a statement by a friend of mine that every American here has something odd about him and that is why he is here. My epiphany is that my teaching means a lot more in places like Kurdistan, Ghana, and Kyrgyzstan than it would at someplace in the US. God in his infinite wisdom has thus sent me to these places. He wasn't punishing me. He was rewarding me.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

Food in Kurdistan

I like Kurdish food a lot. But, there are other options here. Last night I had Chinese food and this afternoon a hamburger. Although to be honest a hamburger isn't all that different from a Kurdish kabob put on a bun with some vegetables. Then of course there are neighboring cuisines like Turkish and Arabic. I haven't found any Persian places to eat at yet, but the grocery store has a lot of Iranian products. In particular I have found a lot of dairy products from Iran. I have taken to drinking a lot of doogh. I like it better than ayran due to the mint flavor.

Sunday, September 11, 2016

More on Kurdish History

At one time I thought the history of the Caucasus was complicated. Then I encountered the history of northern Ghana. Now, I am trying to sort out the recent history of Kurdistan. It is not as ethnically complex as the Caucasus let alone Ghana. But, it is politically much more complex. The fact that the territory is divided across four major states is a major contributing factor to this complexity. This has tied support for various Kurdish factions by outside powers to the political alliances of Turkey, Iraq, Iran, and Syria. To just give one example the KDP (Kurdish Democratic Party) in Iraq has since the 1940s been variously supported by the USSR, US, Iran, and Israel. It has also had its assistance from all those states completely cut off at various times. In the mid-1940s the Soviets saw support of the Kurds as a way to further their interests in Iran. During the 1960s and early 1970s the US, Iran, and Israel saw support of the Kurds as a way to weaken Iraq. In the 1980s Syria saw support of the Kurds as a way to counter pressure from Turkey. The shifting support of various Kurdish factions during the Cold War is difficult enough to follow. After the collapse of the USSR and the removal of the Baath Party from power in Iraq the situation become much more fragmented. The current war in Syria has further greatly complicated matters. So at this point since I am a 20th century historian I am going to try and figure out the basic narrative from 1914 to 1991.

Thursday, September 08, 2016

Eid Break

I finished my first week of teaching in Kurdistan today. I spent today covering the Ottoman Empire before the Tanzimat reforms. Now we have a week off for Eid.

First Classes

Yesterday I finished up the first week of Civ 101 classes. I had three 1.5 hour sections of it to teach on Monday and then again on Wednesday. So now we have actually got up to the start of civilization. Next week we have off for the Eid holiday.

Monday, September 05, 2016

Kurdish Fast Food

There is a fast food joint across the street that has really good and extremely cheap food. The 1000 Dinar falafel roll might be the best deal in town. The chicken kabobs for 3000 Dinars are not bad either.

Sunday, September 04, 2016

First Class in the Middle East

Today I taught my first class in the Middle East. Appropriately enough the class was on the history of the Middle East.

Saturday, September 03, 2016

"Is there a Black Eurasia?"

I put my chapter, "Is there a Black Eurasia?: Ghanaian and other Diasporic African Populations in the USSR in Comparative Perspective" up on a little while ago. But, did not have time to announce it here on the blog until now. It is from the book Replenishing History. The cover is pictured over on the right. It was one of a couple of pieces that I wrote while in Ghana that attempted to incorporate African themes in a comparative manner. Now that I am in Kurdistan I am going to try and write some pieces that deal with Kurds. The material in English on Kurds in the USSR seems to be greatly underdeveloped.

Friday, September 02, 2016

Kurds in the USSR

In addition to teaching CIV 101 this semester I have one more advanced class on the History of the Middle East. Since I am in Kurdistan I have some stuff on Kurds on the syllabus including a week on Kurds in the USSR which is the segment of the population I know the most about. I am not sure if it will get approved, but I figured I would at least try.


I live quite close to a modern mall with a big grocery store in the basement and a food court on the second floor. The mall has the simple name of City Center. It unfortunately has no book store. At orientation we were told that Kurdistan was a predominantly oral culture and that reading books is not an activity many people here do for fun. That means finding books in Kurdish or Arabic is difficult, not to mention English. The only books I have seen here so far have been at the university. I was also under the initial impression that everybody here could read. But, I have been told that many people, especially older people in rural areas are in fact illiterate. This is very different from former Soviet states like Kyrgyzstan where Moscow made sure that everybody could read in both their native language and Russian.

Another Semester Begins. This Time in another Country.

I have now finished typing up my syllabi for this semester. My first class is this Sunday afternoon. In putting together my syllabus for Middle Eastern History I seem to have acquired a free book on the Armenian genocide. It will take a while to make it here to Kurdistan, but given the paucity of physical books in English here any additions are most welcome. So now I have the rest of Friday and Saturday free. I would have finished the syllabi earlier, but orientation on Wednesday and Thursday wiped me out.