Kurdish Art and Identity
Foreword 'Kurdish Studies' is a relatively new subject that is managing, slowly but surely, to establish itself and to develop in an academic climate that is generally none too welcoming to the Humanities. It would be good, though perhaps utopian, to think that this gradual acceptance of Kurdish Studies is due to a public awareness of the invaluable services rendered to Western culture and politics by the academic study of other non-Western cultures. If governments, diplomats, journalists,
... , journalists, businesspeople or academics need information about-or a better understanding of-the culture and history of Morocco, Thailand or Iran, that knowledge is readily available, largely because of the unremitting work of regional specialists. How valuable this is can be illustrated by comparing the wealth of our information on many non-Western cultures to the little that is currently known about the Kurds and the impulses and channels determining the politics of the (geopolitically vital) regions where they live. In other words, a glaring and perilous lacuna exists in the study of Near and Middle Eastern cultures as long as the Kurds are not recognized as deserving as much academic attention as other major ethnic groups of the region. Admittedly, progress has been made in the field of Kurdish Studies since the final decades of the 20th century. In many Universities there is now at least an awareness of the subject, and academic output has increased in both quantity and quality. A few aspects of Kurdish cultural identity can now perhaps be said to be adequately covered. Nevertheless, an enormous amount of factual information still needs to be collected before the next stages-the development of adequate theoretical approaches and the growth of a reliable body of knowledge-can prosper, and the general public will be able to acquire a realistic understanding of the Kurds and their view(s) of the world. The current status of Kurdish Studies as a young academic pursuit with a firm toehold in Academia offers both challenges and opportunities. Whilst older and more established branches of non-Western Studies are currently grappling with the paradigm-change that was initiated by the publication of Edward Said's Orientalism (1978), Kurdish Studies can, so to speak, start with a clean slate. By the same token, however, it must find its own methodological approaches without the benefit of a tried and tested academic tradition. A branch of Kurdish Studies that is perhaps particularly affected by the problem of finding new and appropriate methods, is the study of Kurdish Literature.