Connor Hayes speaks with Dr. Nazan Üstündağ, a fellow with the Gerda Henkel Stiftung Patrimonies Program, about the concept and practice of social self-defense, in particular as developed by Abdullah Öcalan, and how it relates to questions of autonomy, violence, women, and self-determination.

Nazan received her PhD in 2005 from the Department of Sociology at Indiana University Bloomington. From 2005 to 2018, she worked as an assistant professor at Boğaziçi University Istanbul, Department of Sociology. Currently, she is a fellow with the Gerda Henkel Stiftung Patrimonies Program. Nazan has written extensively on social policy, gendered subjectivities, and state violence in Kurdistan. She has also worked as a columnist for the journal Nokta and the newspaper Özgür Gündem, and her opinion pieces have appeared in Internet sites such as Bianet, T24, Roar Magazine, and Jadaliyya. Nazan is a member of both Women for Peace and Academics for Peace. She was a contributor to the book Building Free Life: Dialogues with Abdullah Ocalan, published by PM press in 2020, and is currently finishing up a book with the working title Mother, Politician, and Guerilla: The Emergence of a New Political Cosmology in Kurdistan through Women’s Bodies and Speech.

Connor Hayes is an activist, researcher, and a student of philosophy. He was a member of the 2019 International Peace Delegation to Imrali.

For more information, please see the following resources:

Üstündağ, Nazan. (2016). “Self-Defense as a Revolutionary Practice in Rojava, or How to Unmake the State.” South Atlantic Quarterly; Vol. 115, no. 1, pp. 197–210. PDF available here:

This interview is sponsored by the Peace in Kurdistan Campaign.

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