Natural Disasters Discourse As a Profit-Making Mechanism of the Turkish State: A Case Study in the Karapınar Regeneration Project in Eskişehir

Saturday, July 19, 2014: 9:30 AM
Room: 313+314
Oral Presentation
Cansu CIVELEK , Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria
Serious worldwide natural catastrophes lead scientists, governments, and civil society to intensify the research on prevention of disaster risks and provision of disaster reliefs. On the other hand, in the era of neoliberalism, natural catastrophes might provide political authorities to create a discourse on their forthcoming “fatal” “risks” in order to push profitable urban strategies which result in state expropriation, displacement of local populations, and applying large scale urban projects. In the last years in Turkey there has been a broad and fashionable campaign to regenerate 40% of the Turkish cities against the destructive effects of natural disasters. Especially after the Van earthquakes, killing 644 people in 2011, the government and its supporters found the justification for urban regeneration activities which they present as the “salvation” of the country, whereas, the lack of government’s earthquake relief supplies and recent hunger strike of the earthquake victims, who were forced to leave their container houses, created large public debates.

Similarly, the Karapınar regeneration project in Eskişehir, which is applied by the public-private partnerships under the same campaign, is claimed to be the “remedy” for poor housing qualities of the quarter that is located under the “zone of risk”. Yet, my ethnographic research reveals the enormous economic profits of the partners which they gain through the construction of luxury villas, a five star hotel, commerce and shopping centers, while forcing locals to move in new 10-11 storey buildings which will be given in return of monthly payments depending on the size and legality of their previous houses. However, the locals are already worried about the payments and the new living conditions in the multi-storey buildings next to rich newcomers while some have already decided to move elsewhere at the outskirts of the city.