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Abstract

Starting with the study of Orientalism in the interwar period, this paper focuses on when, why and how the Kurdish elite was engaged in constructing a viable concept of Kurdish identity. Because of the developments in the Middle East, this task of construction of an ‘imagined community’ – addressing the kurmanji speakers – took place under the influence of France, which became a mandatory power in Syria. The collaboration between French agents and Kurdish intellectuals brought about textual representations which could at best both inspire an inner Kurdish identification and enhance the image of Kurds as they were perceived in the West. However, this making of Kurdish identity, marked by an extreme process of social closure, had a significant consequence : the‘Westernizing Kurdish elites’ had to come to inhabit a social and symbolic community that differed dramatically from the community inhabited by traditional elites (sheikhs and tribal chieftains) and non-elites.

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