Accepted paper:

Lithospheric beings: elemental politics in Turkey


Zeynep Oguz (Northwestern University)

Paper short abstract:

Taking the lithosphere as an elemental formation, this paper examines the tectonic evolution of Anatolia and the consequences of lithospheric plate movements, analyzing how geological processes are entangled with political and social worlds, imaginaries, and conflicts in Southeastern Anatolia.

Paper long abstract:

Earth's lithosphere has been in a slow and constant motion for more than 3 billion years, causing an array of geological formations and events —mountains, seismic and volcanic activitY— around its plate boundaries. In this paper, I trace the ways in which lithospheric plate movements are entangled with political and social formations in Southeastern Anatolia, which is located in an ongoing continental collision zone: The Arabian Plate has been colliding with the Eurasian Plate and, squeezing the Anatolian Plate for the past 30 million years, elevating and fracturing crust and forming mountains. Tracing the tectonic evolution of the region and geodynamic mechanisms of Anatolia, I focus on lithospheric processes that have formed these volcanic mountains and lakes in the region: subduction, where one plate moves under another and is forced to sink due to gravity into the mantle and continental collision, which occurs at convergent boundaries and involves tens of million years of faulting and folding of the crust and upper mantle. I then show how these geodynamic mechanisms and formations — Lake Van, Mount Nemrut, and Mount Ararat, have been leaving their imprint on political and social worlds, imaginaries, and conflicts in the extractive, colonial, and violent geographies of Turkey's Kurdish-populated Southeastern Anatolia. In doing so, I take "the lithospheric" as an inhuman elemental register that deeply shapes and is shaped by the uneven, violent, and emergent modes of human political and social world-making.

panel P35
It's elemental: anthropologies of fundamental things