International Order and Limits of an Alternative: A study on the limits of democratic confedralism in Rojava

sara kermanian


Taking Rojava resistance -the resistance of Kurds in the north of Syria- as its focal point, this paper argues how the Kantian logic of the imposition of peace accords that dominates international relations confines the horizons of the possibility of the alternative modes of politics through the dissolution of their structural particularities to material differences that fit into the all-encompassing capitalist and nation-state based structure of the world. It also contends how in theories of Abdullah Öcalan, the theoretical leader of Rojava resistance, the moment of the encounter of the horizons of possibilities of Rojava with the boundaries of the international orders limits the potentials of the resistance; and how these confinements can be overcome through the reconceptualization of boundaries of local and global and the development of a parallel structure instead of struggling with the current one.

To do so, I will argue that local and alternative modes of governance are trapped in a Kantian dilemma: a structure in which self-determination only illusively comes from within but actually gets its recognition from without. This dependency of self-determination on external recognition is best exemplified in the moment of the imposition of peace accords in which the territorial borders of a newly born political entity is being legitimized mostly to the expense of the assimilation of its alternative mode of politics to international norms. That is why the question of alternatives must be posited not on the modes of governance but on the boundaries and the moment of the connection of the entity with the international order; which is the case in Rojava and Ocallan's political theory. Thus, my objective is to show in what ways the international order limits the alternative mode of politics Rojava struggles for and how the theoretical framework that underpins Rojava has responded to these limits.

democratic confedralism - resistance - alternative politics - international order - Kant - critical international relations theory - Rojava