Language, Religion, and Emplacement of Zazaki Speakers

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  • Sevda Arslan University of Notre Dame



Zazaki Speakers, Kurds, Alevis, Identity, Language, Minorities


Speakers of the Zazaki language present an ongoing and contested dilemma regarding their relationship and place within mainstream Kurdish identity. Academic scholarship on Zazaki speakers, and more specifically, their identity is not only scarce but often fails to provide a solid discussion on (ethnic) identification processes. The article gives an overview of scholarly research on identity in the context of ethnic membership affiliation and focuses on the case of the Zaza identity, language, religion to problematize the place and sense of belonging of its speakers. As language is the starting point, it is viewed as a key salient factor for the Zazaki identity. This article discusses the relationship between language and identity to examine the claims about whether Zazaki speakers belong to the ethnic category of “Kurd” or just “Zaza”. Faith (Alevism and Sunni Islam) is also identified as a potentially competing factor shaping and defining the Zazaki identity discussion. The article concludes by proposing that we move beyond the simplistic and opposing views of Zazaki speakers as Kurds or as a distinct ethnic group. Instead, the Zazaki case provides a unique opportunity to move beyond strict categorizations of identity influenced by rigid concepts of nationalism and nationhood to a more nuanced understanding on the fluidity of identity among ethno-cultural and/or linguistic minorities and migrant groups in general.


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Author Biography

Sevda Arslan, University of Notre Dame

PhD Candidate in Anthropology


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How to Cite

Arslan, S. (2019). Language, Religion, and Emplacement of Zazaki Speakers. Journal of Ethnic and Cultural Studies, 6(2), 11–22.
Received 2019-05-14
Accepted 2019-07-12
Published 2019-08-16