Conference: Comparative Perspectives and Russo-Kurdish Approaches (

Dates of Conference: June 5-6, 2018

Workshop on Tribes and Imperial Policies
Comparative Perspectives and Russo-Kurdish Approaches

‘’Tribes’’ – both as a concept and a highly diverse reality – loomed large in the policies of the empires and imperial assemblages that shaped world politics in the last two centuries. Across Africa, the Middle East and Eurasia, they became a key element in imperial, notably colonial, strategies of domination. From the Maghreb to India, they were used for their ‘’martial’’ qualities, but also served the ‘’management of difference’’ so central to the imperial mind. Yet, imperial attention to the tribal question was in itself indicative of modern evolutionary conceptions, which ranked socio-political structures in time and space.

As part of new project on the place of the Kurds in Russian imperial strategies in Eurasia (hosted by the EHESS), this workshop aims at providing critical insights into the historiography of relations between empires and tribes (5 June), before exploring the specificities of the Russo-Kurdish nexus (6 June). Historically focused, this workshop will draw on scholarship from disciplines such as ethnology, anthropology, historical sociology and imperial history in order to understand the features of these relations. The very concept of tribe and its numerous derivatives (clans, confederacies, nomads, etc.) will be discussed from the point of view of concrete imperial strategies.

More specifically, in a time when Russia’s presence in the Middle East has been the focus of much international attention, the second day of this workshop will explore Russo-Kurdish relations as a test case for the relevance of tribal perspectives on imperial role. Through an examination of their evolution across two centuries, it will set out potential directions for further research.