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Bulldozer Capitalism: Dispossession and Agency along the Coruh River, Turkey

Dr. Erdem Evren

This project, tentatively titled 'Fluid Destinies of Coruh' looks at the hydro-power projects initiated in the Eastern Black Sea region of Turkey. With a dozen of small-scale hydropower stations and ten big dams that it is going to bring to life in the near future, the Çoruh River that lies on the north-eastern part of the country has particularly become the jewel of a new regime of water and energy governance, as much as the microcosm of the social and environmental changes that this regime precipitates. The Çoruh Basin Development Plan constitutes a prime example of the coupling of the hyper-developmentalist discourse with a neoliberal understanding of resource management in the context of hydropower projects. Its effects are most urgently felt and debated by the local livelihoods on the middle and upper parts of the river where the anticipated construction of the Yusufeli Dam, along with several run-of-the-river type power stations, will lead to the loss of water, the degradation of environment and the relocation of 15,000 people. For several inhabitants, these projects are perceived to be the death bell that tolls over the activities of agriculture and eco-tourism. Yet, for many others, it marks the emergence of new opportunities and benefits offered by the changing economic and political conditons.
Based on an ethnographic research in the town of Yusufeli, Artvin and the surrounding villages, this project will seek to understand how the de-regulated and partly indeterminate techno-capitalist planning and imagining of the future is presently contested and celebrated by a variety of local and translocal actors in reference to the ideas of progress, environmentalism and religion. Based on an ethnographic research that I hope to begin in July 2012, I aim to explore the promises, hopes and fears that the developmental state delivers in its current phase of neoliberalization. I will also critically scrutinize the political and economic subjectivities that the new amalgamations of public and private, and legal and informal elicit, focusing on the issues of compensation, temporality and the remaking of political identities. 

Trenner