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Ideology in Action: Symbolic Localization of Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey

Revolutionary ideologies such as Marxism and Islamism often aim to transform
dominant local structures, leading their proponents to find themselves torn between global
ideologies and local politics. A critical question arises: What does happen when a
revolutionary movement’s ideology drastically contradicts with the movement’s local
pragmatic purposes? Analyzing Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in Turkey, this article
explores the complex process of ideological transformation under the forces of local
competition. Drawing on Mikhail Bakhtin’s dialogic approach, I introduce the concept
of symbolic localization to understand how revolutionary ideologies evolve through
pragmatic concerns. Symbolic localization refers to a discursive process of collective
reputation work in which social movement activists blend local cultural repertoires and
their “we” identity in order to build recognition, legitimacy, and prestige in the eyes of
local population. Three major mechanisms of the symbolic localization process are identified:
moral authority building, public symbolism, and memory work. Symbolic localization
suggests analyzing movement ideology as a discursive process and illuminates how
political activists are shaped by relational local engagements.

*Relational local engaement shown in tweets

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