State-endorsed violence, infrastructure, and activist-expertise in Turkey's Kurdistan

Authors: ERAY ÇAYLI*, London School of Economics
Topics: Human-Environment Geography, Cultural and Political Ecology, Middle East
Keywords: Turkey, infrastructure, extraction, violence, activism
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/7/2021
Start / End Time: 11:10 AM / 12:25 PM
Room: Virtual 31
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Through a focus on ecological activism in the upper Tigris valley, in this paper I discuss the ways in which histories of state-endorsed violence in Amed (officially: Diyarbakır; Turkey's largest predominantly Kurdish-inhabited city) permeate notions and practices of technopolitical expertise in relation to those of localism and indigeneity. Specifically, I think with a group of individuals I call “activist-experts” and with their work against government-endorsed crony-capitalist extractivism that has not only reorganized agriculture and irrigation but also enabled various other extractivist activities such as sand mining along the river (as areas within a certain stretch of the dams are left exposed to further physical intervention) and fracking (as this activity requires large amounts of pressurized water). Drawing on the activist-experts’ recent responses to dams and dam failures, I trace a marked shift in pro-Kurdish attitudes to state-built infrastructures of extractivism such as dams. Whereas pro-Kurdish politics has long seen dams as instruments of war, the activist-experts discussed here approach these infrastructures as manifestations of the extent to which statecraft lives up to its own promise of expertise and standardization. What might this shift from antagonizing expertise to holding it answerable to its own promise mean for the ways in which to contend in both academia and elsewhere with the infrastructural and environmental workings of state-endorsed violence? How might both draw on and inform contemporary mobilizations of localism and indigeneity in related contexts to rethink expertise’s historical role in the violent entanglements between the projects of nation-state-building, colonialism, imperialism, and globalization?

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