Kurdish borderland conflict research begins at Aberystwyth University

Dr Dilan Okcuoglu

Dr Dilan Okcuoglu

08 November 2023

The impact of the conflict in the Kurdish borderlands of Turkey will be the focus of new research at Aberystwyth University following the awarding of a prestigious fellowship.

Over the next two years, Dr Dilan Okcuoglu will study state-building and control in the war-torn region in the south-east of the Turkish state.

Hosted by the Department of International Politics in Aberystwyth, Dr Okcuoglu’s research is financed through the UK Guarantee funding for Horizon Europe Marie Skłodowska-Curie Actions Postdoctoral Fellowships.

Speaking about her project, Dr Okcuoglu said:

“My research examines the everyday lived experiences of people in the remote and mountainous Kurdish borderlands of Turkey, where decades of conflict between the Turkish government and Kurdish insurgents have imbued everyday life with a constant sense of threat.

“By gathering and analysing narratives gained through qualitative interviews with villagers, internally displaced people, activists, lawyers, and state officials in Turkey’s Kurdish borderlands with Iraq, Iran, and Syria, I hope to deepen our understanding of the complex formal and informal mechanisms that the state uses to control people and territories in these contested regions.”

“My research will shed light on how the Turkish state’s authority and legitimacy in its borderlands is shaped by the complex relationships between territorial control measures, competing claims over authority by different groups, and people’s everyday experiences. I also intend to map the gendered dynamics of the relationship between the state, people, and land, filling an important gap in the existing literature.”

The outcome of Dr Okcuoglu’s research will be of interest to policymakers, scholars, and practitioners committed to peace and conflict studies.

During her two-year Fellowship, Dr Okcuoglu will work under the mentorship of Berit Bliesemann de Guevara, Professor of International Politics at Aberystwyth University.  Okcuoglu will also be seconded to the Global (In)Security Centre and the Centre for Advanced International Relations Theory at the University of Sussex.

Dr Dilan Okcuoglu

Dr Dilan Okcuoglu has an interdisciplinary background in politics, economics and philosophy.  She received her PhD and MA in political studies from Queen’s University in Canada. She also has another MA degree from Central European University, and an undergraduate degree in economics from Bogazici University.

She is currently a non-resident visiting fellow at the CUNY Middle East and Middle Eastern American Centre in New York. She is also a project-based consultant for the Council on Strategic Risks in Washington, DC.

Prior to joining Aberystwyth University as a postdoctoral fellow, she was a postdoctoral fellow in Global Kurdish Studies at the American University, School of International Service in Washington, DC (2019-22) and a visiting scholar at Cornell University, M. Einaudi Center for International Studies (2019). In the first half of 2023, she has also done project-based consultancy for the The Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks on the issues of climate change, security and conflict in the Middle East (see: https://storymaps.arcgis.com/stories/5ee50271b81644419c7cd5902300ed8c)

She has also been affiliated with the Interdisciplinary Research Center on Democracy and Diversity at the Université du Québec à Montréal since 2018.

Her teaching and research interests primarily lie in the politics of the Middle East and North African region, conflict and peace studies, qualitative research methods, comparative territorial and border politics, democratisation, global justice, ethnic politics, and nationalism, as well as state-minority relations in conflict zones.

Okcuoglu’s has published articles and book chapters in The Oxford Handbook of Turkish Politics, Democratic Representation in Plurinational States: The Kurds in Turkey (in part of the book seriesComparative Territorial Politics); policy briefs on security and conflict in theJournal of Middle Eastern Politics and Policy, and Peace Insight; as well as op-eds in The Conversation, Jerusalem Post, Daily News, and National Post. She is currently working on article manuscripts and a book proposal on informal control, and delivering talks on her work.

(See also: www.dilanokcuoglu.net).