The Revolution of the Hopeless Ones: Rojava's Cosmopolitan Appeal

April 09, 2018

Saladdin Ahmed 

Monday, April 9, 6:00PM–8:00PM, Room 7000, SFU Harbour Centre

Sponsored by SFU's Institute for the Humanities

In a margin of the margins, a new revolutionary subject and space have been born. Just when all hope for an all-encompassing cosmopolitan revolution had seemed to fade away, the Rojava revolution emerged in the face of sweeping fanatic movements in the Middle East. It has defied not only the hegemony of neoliberal culturalism, but also the typical image of the Oriental Other in contrast to the 20th century European revolutionary subject. While continually fighting off invading fundamentalist forces since the beginning of the Syrian civil war, the Rojava movement has simultaneously created an innovative space of freedom and equality without precedent in its inclusiveness. Given the genocidal campaign the people of Rojava are facing and the international dismissal of their plight, the revolution may not last.

However, I argue that the world has a lot to learn from Rojava. If there is one place where intersectionality has been given a revolutionary force, it is there. The same women and men who fight aggressors to defend their democratic confederations systematically educate themselves on feminism, social ecology, and collectivist economics. Social hierarchy in all its complex forms is being subverted in Rojava, and this is indicative of the philosophical and political significance of this new revolutionary subject. I will explain the cosmopolitan appeal of the movement as well as its genuine responsiveness to forms of oppression against all marginalized groups. In that context, I will focus on the historical significance of this new revolutionary subject and the universalist, post-national, post-culturalist promise of the created revolutionary space.    


Saladdin Ahmed is the O'Donnell Visiting Assistant Professor of Race & Ethnic Studies and Politics at Whitman College. His research centres on critical theory and post-nihilist philosophy, with a particular focus on social space and political movements. In his forthcoming book, Totalitarian Space and the Destruction of Aura (SUNY Press), he makes the case for a renewed critical philosophy of space, diagnosing contemporary social space as increasingly totalitarian and “auraless”. His recent academic work has been published in Theory in Action, Critique: Journal of Socialist Theory, and Critical Race and Whiteness Studies. Additionally, he has published political commentaries and opinion pieces in various media outlets, including openDemocracy, The Huffington Post (German Edition), Critical Legal Thinking, and CounterPunch.