Fragile Energy: Power, Nature, And The Politics Of Infrastructure In The ‘New Turkey’

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Fragile Energy: Power, Nature, And The Politics Of Infrastructure In The ‘New Turkey’

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This dissertation provides a reading of political power in twenty-first century Turkey through the lens of (energy) infrastructures. By tracing the country’s bourgeoning energy infrastructures along their material, legal and financial dimensions, I examine energy’s ability to do political work and securing societal consent in Turkey, at a time when the idea of development is being privatized and the challenge of climate change encounters the country’s growing energy deficit. Relying on ethnographic and other qualitative methods collected along the path of energy infrastructures—including corridors of the bureaucracy, investment banks, construction sites, ribbon-cutting ceremonies, energy expos, local courthouses as well as electricity grids and hydropower penstocks—I argue that energy has played an under-recognized yet influential role in the establishment and sustenance of an authoritarian neoliberal experience, what is being dubbed by its founders, the ‘new Turkey’. Rather than collapsing the power harnessed from energy resources with political power, I introduce energy as a form of governmental rationality in the new Turkey that seeps into other realms of government from urban governance to counter-terrorism. The prowess of this emergent rationality, which I name as energorationality, stems from energy’s unique qualities in bringing center and periphery, urban and countryside, capital and commons together, from its ability to suture a variety of unlikely actors, policies, and ideas to each other. By examining grassroots mobilizations struggling against energy infrastructures in Turkey’s rural Eastern Black Sea Region (EBSR), I also discuss the fragility of energorationality. Mining disasters, unexpected droughts, unreliable projections, unruly villagers and urban riots, put delicate project cycles into disarray. I illustrate throughout the dissertation how energy infrastructures—small hydropower plants (small hydro, or SHP) in particular—, cause unexpected cracks as well as powerful sociopolitical alliances while converting uncharted rural and environmental settings into energy landscapes.


University of Minnesota Ph.D. dissertation. August 2016. Major: Sociology. Advisor: Michael Goldman. 1 computer file (PDF); ix, 216 pages.

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Erensü, Sinan. (2016). Fragile Energy: Power, Nature, And The Politics Of Infrastructure In The ‘New Turkey’. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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