Announcements and Calls

Seminar on renewable energy infrastructure in Turkey, Weds, 18 Oct, 1-3pm

The University of Exeter Business School in Cornwall is delighted to invite you to a seminar on the political economy of Turkey’s renewable energy infrastructure investments and their social and environmental impacts.

In this two-hour seminar session, Dr. Laurent Dissard from the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London will present his research on the politics of infrastructural development in Turkey from the 1960s until today, focusing on the Keban Dam, which has been one of Turkey’s most important dams.

Following this, Prof. Steffen Böhm and PhD candidate Celal Cahit Agar from the University of Exeter Business School, Penryn, will present their paper on the contested geographies of Dersim, Turkish Kurdistan, examining labour and social movement geographies with regards to local dam development projects in the region.

Abstracts and biographical notes are below.

Please do not hesitate to share this invitation with other colleagues and PhD researchers.

Venue and date: Wednesday, 18 October 2017, 1-3 pm, The Collaboratory, SERSF, Penryn Campus. (Feel free to bring your lunch)



Building a Dam, Fixing a Nation: Turkey’s Politics of “Infrastructural Development”

Turkey’s post-war enthusiasm for hydropower reached a summit with the Keban Dam built on the Upper Euphrates in the early 1970s; its 207m high wall, Turkey’s tallest at the time, singlehandedly carrying the country into the era of mega-dams. Admired as a shining icon of progress, it was the pride of engineers participating, both literally and figuratively, in the construction of their nation. Financed by the World Bank and other international loaning institutions, designed by the New York-based industrial firm EBASCO Services Inc., built on site by an international and experienced team of technical experts, Keban constituted a learning experience for young Turkish engineers under the supervision of the relatively new DSI, as well as temporary work for more than 2,000 manual labor, Kurds for the most part recruited across Eastern Turkey. By using recently declassified World Bank archival documents on the Keban Dam, the talk first examines the way infrastructures became perceived as the key behind Turkey’s “modernization” and “development,” or, more critically, whether or not building mega-dams can really “fix” the Turkish nation?

Capital, Crisis and Constrained Grassroots Agency: The socio-spatial fix in Dersîm, Turkey

This paper explores the interplay between capital, socio-spatial structure and grassroots agency in the context of uneven geographical development. Based on field research conducted in Dersîm, Turkey, our analysis unfolds the constraining role of socio-spatial relations in a number of key dynamics behind the grassroots praxis of geography-making and crisis-resolution. Through the case study, we propound a concept of socio-spatial fix to explain how this praxis conjoins with and assists capital in both staving off its recurrent crises and reproducing its own logic of accumulation and circulation. Our analysis reveals that the socio-spatial fix in Dersîm, which arises from the social struggle against hydroelectric power plant projects, performs three functions. First, it facilitates the reproduction of existing social relations and spaces in Turkey; second, it strengthens and maintains the existing social order through temporally moderating the province’s chronic problems; and third, it provides legitimacy for the exploitation of nature, culture and histories. Our research contributes to the literatures on labor geography and displacement of crisis, providing new insights into how grassroots agency helps capital to survive via socio-spatial fixes from below.


Biographical notes

Laurent Dissard is a Research Fellow at the Institute of Advanced Studies at University College London. After completing his PhD in Near Eastern Studies at UC Berkeley, he held a Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Pennsylvania Humanities Forum. He is currently working on two book manuscripts. Submerged Stories (Stanford University Press) discusses the politics of the past in Eastern Turkey and asks, Whose past is worth rescuing and whose history remains submerged? A Nation Under Construction (MIT Press) takes the mega-dam built at Keban in the 1960s to examine the politics and poetics of infrastructural development in Turkey. It tells the interconnected stories of US scientists and European engineers, newly trained Turkish politicians and technical experts, anti-dam activists and human-rights NGOs, Kurdish and Alevi internally displaced families, who together construct and contest Turkey as a nation during and after the Cold War.

Steffen Böhm is Professor in Organisation & Sustainability and Director of the Sustainability & Circular Economy Research Cluster at University of Exeter Business School. He was previously Professor in Management and Sustainability and Director of the Essex Sustainability Institute at the University of Essex. He is a Visiting Professor in Renewable Energy Activism at Uppsala University, Sweden, and Visiting Professor at the Swedish University of Agricultural Sciences, Uppsala, Sweden. He holds a PhD from the University of Warwick. His research focuses on political economies and organization of the food-energy-water-environment nexus. He has a particular research interest in the role of business in society as well as grassroots organization models for sustainability. He was a co-founder of the open-access journal ephemera: theory & politics in organization, and is co-founder and co-editor of the new open-access publishing press MayFlyBooks as well as Interface: A Journal for and about Social Movements. He has published five books: Repositioning Organization Theory (Palgrave), Against Automobility (Blackwell), Upsetting the Offset: The Political Economy of Carbon Markets (Mayfly), The Atmosphere Business (Mayfly), and Ecocultures: Blueprints for Sustainable Communities (Routledge).

Celal Cahit Agar is a PhD candidate at the University of Exeter Business School. His research interests include political economy of management & organisation, contemporary class relations, social movements & civil resistances, minorities, discrimination & inequality, imperialism & dependency. Alongside his PhD project, he is currently working on two research papers examining the political economy of Turkey’s renewable energy investments and the role of the grassroots struggles’ in making the geography of capitalism.