This article argues for a new approach to understanding statelessness. It explores the limits of international laws on statelessness and the relationships between statelessness, diaspora and nationalism. It discusses how the condition of statelessness has affected Kurds, and how statelessness has been constructed and experienced at an individual and collective level in the diaspora. It argues for an expanded definition of the international laws of ‘stateless’ person: adding to the accepted de jure and highly contested de facto definitions, by also suggesting a third, new, category of ‘socially stateless’ people. The article examines the concept of diaspora itself from the perspective of Kurdish interviewees and explores how, for stateless groups like Kurds, ‘living in diaspora’ can mean more than one place, including their land of origin. It will suggest the concept of ‘double’ or ‘multiple’ diasporas, where stateless people do not feel that they belong either to their country of origin or to the country in which they now live. This article discusses that when an ethnic community is stateless, then even those individuals who have an official nationality, citizenship or passport, may often describe themselves as stateless. The relationship between statelessness, diaspora and nationalism is highlighted; and the impact of this on diaspora involvement in homeland politics, conflict and peace is explored. The article also argues that the lack of protection which international law(s) offer around statelessness paradoxically create new forms of nationalism.
Dr. Latif Tas is a Research Associate in the School of Law, SOAS, University of London, and a Visiting Scholar at the Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology.