Ontological insecurity in asymmetric conflicts: reflections on agonistic peace in Turkey's Kurdish issue
Rumelili, Bahar and Çelik, Ayşe Betül (2017) Ontological insecurity in asymmetric conflicts: reflections on agonistic peace in Turkey's Kurdish issue. Security Dialogue, 48 (4). pp. 279-296. ISSN 0967-0106 (Print) 1460-3640 (Online)
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Official URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/0967010617695715
This article contributes to the recent literature on ontological security in conflict studies by empirically investigating, through a case study of Turkey’s Kurdish issue, how ontological asymmetry complicates peace processes. Over time, all conflicts become embroiled in a set of self-conceptions and narratives vis-à-vis the Other, the maintenance of which becomes critical for ontological security. In ethnic conflicts, however, these conceptions and narratives also intersect with a fundamental ontological asymmetry, because such conflicts often pit state parties with secure existence against ethnic groups with contested status and illegitimate standing. We argue that peace processes are easier to initiate but harder to conclude in ontologically asymmetric conflicts. Accordingly, we find that during the 2009–2015 peace process in Turkey, ontological (in)security-induced dynamics presented themselves in cyclical patterns of ambitious peace initiatives receiving greater support among the Kurdish public but giving way, at the first sign of crisis, to a rapid and dramatic return to violence, which neither side acted to stem. Moreover, we underscore that ontologically asymmetric conflicts, such as Turkey’s Kurdish issue, are often characterized by a societal security dilemma, where the conditions of ontological security for one party undermine those of the other. Therefore, building consensus around a new shared peace narrative may not be possible or desirable, and a lasting solution to Turkey’s Kurdish issue depends on the development of an agonistic peace around coexisting, multiple and contestatory narratives.
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