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  • Zazalar: Tarih, Kültür ve Kimlik by Ercan Çağlayan
  • Gül Hür
Ercan Çağlayan. Zazalar: Tarih, Kültür ve Kimlik Istanbul: İstanbul Bilgi Üniversitesi Yayınları, 2016. x + 234 pp. 25 TL. ISBN: 978-6053994350.

Since the early 1990s, one can observe the gradual increase of research on both Zazas and the language spoken by them, Zazaki. A similar rise can also be seen in the periodicals published in Zazaki which mostly are based in Europe, such as Raştiye [Truth] (France and Germany, 1991–95), Ware [Highland Plateau] (Germany, 1992–2003), and Vate [Word] (Sweden, 1997–ongoing). Both academic and non-academic research has been built usually on the question of whether the language spoken by Zazas is an independent language or a dialect of Kurdish. The language versus dialect debate, however, has gradually created a controversial field for those who study the Zazas or Zazaki. Although most of the works on Zazas written in Republican Turkey are driven by ideological motivations to claim that Zazas are Turks,1 there are very few studies based on ethnographic fieldwork.2

Ercan Çağlayan's recent book aims to contribute to the growing scholarship on Zazas. Çağlayan points out that there has been quite a lot of misinformation on Zazas and complains about the disconnected context constructed by non-academic actors of the field and lack of historical context. The book is composed of four chapters. In the first chapter, the author provides basic descriptions of the name Zaza, geography, economy, and demography. Çağlayan starts with the etic and emic denomination of Zazaki-speaking people by explaining the following names: Zaza, Dımili, Kırd, and Kırmanc.

In the second chapter, he uses various Arab-Islamic, Ottoman, Turkish Republican, and Western sources, which include some information about Zazas, to provide a detailed account of the social life of Zazas. He draws particular attention to religion, culture, and communal life, by which the author intends to detail all dimensions of daily life among Zazas. In the final chapter of the book, he goes into a comprehensive discussion on the advocates of the language versus dialect debate. One can easily see how deeply rooted political motivations are in play over the question of whether Zazaki is an independent language or a dialect of the Kurdish language. On the other hand, the author relies on the following set of concepts as his conceptual framework: identity, globalization, post-modernism, and multiculturalism. Moreover, he [End Page 211] deploys language, religion, history, territory, and culture as reference points. In Çağlayan's work, it can be seen that the author rigorously follows the framework, concepts, and theory of Anthony Smith in the analysis of the nations (p. 9).

Broadly speaking, Çağlayan provides a picture of the state of the field on Zazas and contributes to the existing body of scholarship with his valuable work. Alongside his extensive bibliography, one can highly benefit from the way he presents the current debates on the topic. He also explains how he has developed his motivation and the need for further research on the topic despite the absence of research based on Islamic and Ottoman archival sources (p. 63). In this context, the author argues that both academic and non-academic researchers conduct research without paying enough attention to the connection between pre-Islamic and present sources. This point leads one to criticize the studies that are detached from their immediate historical context. As the author himself claims at the very beginning of his work, his contribution to the field is the utilization of archival documents, which provides a historically contextualized approach.

While this work is a notable attempt to present an overview on Zazas from an historical perspective, the analytical discussion appears to be rather limited. In other words, the way the author uses the conceptual framework, which the discussion is built on, seems far from critically engaged. For example, Çağlayan examines the heterogeneous structure of tribal living among Zazas before he starts to provide details on Zaza tribes (p. 130). Thenceforth, he uses the definition of tribe from various scholars, such as Suavi Aydın-Selahattin Erhan...


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pp. 211-213
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