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Accepted Paper:

An Airport Project Undone: Narratives of Worth, Economy and Development in a ‘Left-Behind’ Anatolian Province  
Ceren Deniz

Paper short abstract:

In Turkey, beyond major cities, 'province' oversimplifies diverse regions. Despite industrial progress, narratives of being left behind persist in places like Çorum, revealing evolving class dynamics due to global integration, while polarized discourses conceal this transformation.

Paper long abstract:

In Turkey, beyond a handful of major cities, all other areas are commonly labeled as 'taşra' or 'province.' This term, used in the singular, oversimplifies the vast cultural and religious diversity spanning Anatolia and the Thrace region within Turkey's borders. The prevailing perception characterizes provinces as stagnant, resistant to social change, devoid of social stratification, and generally unappealing. Since the 1950s, internal migration to urban centers has spurred industrialization, development, and societal transformations primarily in metropolises, leaving provinces marginalized in both population and regional policies. However, the left behind perception of the province has slightly shifted since the 1990s, with some Anatolian provinces joining global production chains through industrialization, notably central Anatolia becoming the political stronghold of the ruling party for the past 22 years.

Çorum, where I conducted ethnographic research from 2015-2016, is a taşra city in Anatolia. Despite advancements in the machinery sector and export revenues in the last two decades, these narratives persist about being left behind particularly in relation to worth of Çorum and its people. In this talk, I explore public discussions in Çorum, focusing on the long-planned but unfinished airport project spanning 30 years. I delve into how the absence of an airport is perceived, experienced, and negotiated by locals, revealing nuanced narratives of worth in relation to perceived left-behindness. Ultimately, I argue that narratives depicting worthlessness reflect the evolving class dynamics resulting from the city's integration into the global production chain, while polarized discourses of worth aim to obfuscate these transformations.

Panel P047
Living, leaving and undoing ‘left behindness’
  Session 1