By Nazan Üstündağ

Published: (2016), South Atlantic Quarterly; Vol. 115, no. 1, pp. 197–210.


This intervention concerns the ways in which law and violence are being reorganized in Rojava. Based on observations and interviews I conducted in the Jazira canton of Rojava, I argue that, through democratic autonomy, the Rojava revolution poses a challenge to the politics of sovereignty and biopolitics. While democratic autonomy involves the institutionalization of radical democracy, radical democracy needs to be defended against attacks of capital, state, and patriarchy. The question of how such defense can be organized without reproducing the “magic” of the state and law at an everyday level is crucial for the revolution. I address the debates and practices in Rojava developing around this question and conclude that, rather than speaking about a model in Rojava, we should speak of a movement residing in the dialectic between state-ness and society.

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Self-Defense as a Revolutionary Practice in Rojava - Nazan Ustundag