In 2008, kind friends and the anthropology program at CIIS, sponsored my research trip to Dersim (Tunceli on today’s maps) of Eastern Turkey. I was lucky enough to visit diaspora in Europe, as well as in Istanbul and Ankara, and to visit Dersim/Tunceli proper, as well as to a village in the Ovacik district of Tunceli. Each district of Tunceli is distinct in geography. There is a ‘Dersim-ness’ in the predominantly Alevi worldviews and Kirmanc (Zaza) and Kurmanji (Kurdish) language and cultural histories, but many of the inhabitants are now Turkish and Kurdish urban people who have been sent there to live, in order to Sunni-fy (Islam) and Turkify the area, even though it is still dominated by Marxist brands of activism, primarily the Maoist type, with Turkish and Kurdish activists. Many of the families that are originally from the area had been displaced since the late 19th century and continues today, with many of the locals visiting their elder family members or have summer village homes. Their families live mostly in Europe and the Americas and visit their former homes in the summers.
I had part-time translators and I was able to get snapshots of stories and thoughts from the locals and the young diaspora.
It was an unforgettable experience.