Accepted Paper:

Matters of conspiracy: oil prospects, geological knowledge, and temporality in Turkey  


Zeynep Oguz (Northwestern University)

Paper short abstract:

Tracing the material and symbolic life of abandoned oil wells, geological knowledge, and state practices, this paper examines the political futures and pasts about national sovereignty that conspiracy theories around oil discovery and abundance generate in Turkey today.

Paper long abstract:

Following the material and symbolic life of abandoned oil wells in southeast Turkey, this paper examines the ways in which prospects and/or failures of economic oil discovery generate new speculative pasts and futures. According to a widespread conspiracy theory today, in the year 2023 - the centenary of the founding of the Republic of Turkey -, the Treaty of Lausanne that internationally recognized the establishment of Turkey in 1923 will expire and Turkey's modern borders become obsolete. Those who believe in the theory claim that the Treaty of Lausanne included secret clauses that up to this day, prevented the Turkish state from having full sovereignty over its underground resources and thereby extracting its abundant oil reserves. In this paper, I trace the political projects attached to the year 2023, which is both the alleged expiration day of Lausanne and a highly significant date for the ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP). The AKP has set 2023 as the year in which a set of ambitious economic goals will come to fruition and Turkey will become an economic powerhouse, simultaneously mobilizing it as a temporal device of historical revisionism. This paper examines the ways that geological knowledge and non-knowledge about the underground fuel these sovereign futures and pasts in Turkey today. In doing so, this paper not only shifts attention towards the materiality of conspiracy theories, but also highlights the ways in which state power and politics of temporality are increasingly imbued with earthly matters in our political present.

Panel Time02
Resource temporalities: anticipations, retentions and afterlives