Re-making Human Rights: Gender and Self-fashioning in the Political Imaginary of Rojava

Project Details


This project is led by Dr Hasret Cetinkaya, and is a Marie Sklodowska Curie Action, funded by the UK Research and Innovation (UKRI).

The project seeks to explore how female activists in the Autonomous Administration of North and East Syria (AANES), also known as Rojava, have played a key role in constituting a new society and the development of a human rights-framework as part of a pioneering experiment in democratic autonomy (democratic self-organisation without a state).

This project engages with alternative epistemologies of rights-making and rights-claiming, exploring the political culture of rights in the AANES and its visions for a more egalitarian and ecological society. By approaching human rights through the theoretical concept of the “vernacular” and from a position rooted in the standpoint of the “Global South”, this project seeks to uncover the dynamic relationship between local and transnational human rights, and the ways through which subjects of rights in the AANES come into being. The lessons emerging from Rojava are crucial in guiding the collective work of building a meaningful plural international normative order as it provides us with new vocabularies, institutions and alternative visions of human rights and freedom. Such heterodox conceptualisations of rights and freedom call into question the hegemonic and Eurocentric conceptions of law, justice and modernity. Consequently, this project contributes to contemporary discussions in post/decolonial theory about alternative discourses of rights-thinking that break with the unit of the nation-state and the legal status of citizenship. By bringing the local, the particular and the material into focus, this project will be attentive to the “active social life” of human rights, its plural articulations and the way they inform a transnational political imaginary that seeks to contest gendered power relations.