Gender, Body and Agency in the Struggles against Hydropower: The Case of Turkey’s East Black Sea region

Authors: Özge Yaka*, University of Potsdam
Topics: Gender, Energy, Human-Environment Geography
Keywords: gender, hydropower, body, Turkey, environmental movements
Session Type: Virtual Paper
Day: 4/8/2021
Start / End Time: 8:00 AM / 9:15 AM
Room: Virtual 58
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Turkey has witnessed a boom in energy and construction sectors in the last two decades. Hydropower has been central to the ‘national energy’ policies of the Erdogan government. The rush to build thousands of private, run-of-river hydropower plants (HEPP), however, evoked a large and heterogeneous opposition in the form of multiple local community struggles in different regions of Turkey. Based on an extensive ethnographical study, this paper explores how gendered division of labour as well as gendered organisation of everyday practices and ways of relating to immediate environments shape motivations, discourses and actions of local men and women in opposing HEPP projects in the East Black Sea region. After a brief discussion on feminist research practice in the specific context of rural Anatolia, it continues to present research output. One of the primary findings of the study is that women’s anti-HEPP activism is not driven by the immediate use of water in agriculture and domestic life. Their narratives instead frame their embodied, sensory and affective connections with the river waters as a main motivation. These embodied connections also shape their sense of place, their memories and personal histories, which motivates their activism. Drawing on empirical data and feminist, relational and critical phenomenological perspectives, this paper aims to introduce a novel approach to study women’s environmental activism in the context of anti-hydropower struggles in Turkey, by shifting the focus to the lived bodies of women and their connection to the living environments, without falling back into essentialist conceptions of gender.

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