Skip to main content


  • Hande Özkan (a1)

This article analyzes Turkish forestry as a site of nation building. To understand the ways in which forestry shaped ideas of the state and citizenship, I explore the history and memories of the forestry enterprise, Zingal, from the early 20th century to the present. I argue that the conflicting narratives around Zingal in archives and memory are symptoms of the contradictions inherent to nationalist modernity. I also reveal the continuation of similar contradictions in the 21st century by showing how citizens’ discourse of resentment over deindustrialization can coexist with their objection to a potential nuclear industry.

Hide All


Author's note: Special thanks to Samuel Liebhaber, Robert Greeley, Chris Gratien, and Graham Pitts from the “Working Papers on the Environment and Society in the Middle East” workshop at Middlebury College, as well as Jamie Vescio, Brian Rich, Christopher Zollo, Fulya Özkan, Ayşegül Okan, and the peer reviewers. This research was funded in part by the MacMillan Center at Yale University and the Jones Grant at Transylvania University.

1 “Zingal Şirketine El Kondu,” Ormancı Postası, 26 March 1945.

2 For a similar study, see Grodzins, Ann and Gukar, Bhoju Ram, In the Time of Trees and Sorrows: Nature, Power, and Memory in Rajashtan (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2002).

3 Similar ethnographies of the nation include Abu-Lughod, Lila, Dramas of Nationhood: The Politics of Television in Egypt (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2005); El-Haj, Nadia Abu, Facts on the Ground: Archaeological Practice and Territorial Self-Fashioning in Israeli Society (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2002); Lutz, Catherine, Homefront: A Military City and the American Twentieth Century (Boston: Beacon Press, 2001); Silverblatt, Irene, Modern Inquisitons: Peru and the Colonial Origins of the Civilized World (Durham, N.C.: Duke University, 2004); and Sivaramakrishnan, Kalyanakrishnan, Modern Forests: Statemaking and Environmental Change in Colonial Eastern India (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 1999).

4 Parla, Taha and Davison, Andrew, Corporatist Ideology in Kemalist Turkey: Progress or Order? (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2004).

5 Yiğitoğlu, Ali Kemal, Türkiye İktisadiyatında Ormancılığın Yeri ve Ehemmiyeti (Ankara:Yüksek Ziraat Enstitüsü Matbaası, 1941); Oksal, Esad Muhlis, “Ormanların Ulusal Ekonomideki Vazifeleri,” Verim 1 (1935): 23.

6 İktisat Meclisi, Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Ali, Ali İktisat Meclisi Raporları: Ormanlarımızdan En İyi Surette İstifade Şekli Ne Olmalıdır? (Ankara: Başvekalet Matbaası, 1934).

7 English Oxford Living Dictionaries, s.v. “verdure,” accessed 11 February 2018,

8 Davis, Diana K and Burke, Edmund III, eds., Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa (Athens, Ohio: Ohio University Press, 2011).

9 Karaosmanoğlu, Yakup Kadri, Ankara (İstanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 1967), 30.

10 For the concept of the “abject,” see Kristeva, Julie, Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection, trans. Leon S. Roudiez (New York: Columbia University Press, 1982).

11 This contrast between desired natural landscapes and their abject counterparts was the motivation for swamp drainage and reforestation throughout the 20th century. See Evered, Kyle, “Draining an Anatolian Desert: Overcoming Water, Wetlands, and Malaria in Early Republican Ankara,” Cultural Geographies 21 (2014): 475–96; and Gratien, Chris, “The Ottoman Quagmire: Malaria, Swamps and Settlement in the Late Ottoman Mediterranean,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49 (2017): 583604.

12 Karaosmanoğlu, Yakup Kadri, Yaban (İstanbul: Remzi Kitabevi, 1942), 1314.

13 Ferry, Elizabeth Emma and Limbert, Mandana E., introduction to Timely Assets: The Politics of Resources and Their Temporalities, ed. Ferry, Elizabeth Emma and Limbert, Mandana E (Santa Fe, N. Mex.: School for Advanced Research Press, 2008).

14 Kutlutan, İbrahim, “Çorak ve Çıplak Topraklarımız,” İktisadi Yürüyüş 2 (16) (1940): 11.

15 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document 490.1.0.0-596.59.3.

16 Ferguson, James, The Anti-Politics Machine: “Development,” Depoliticization, and Bureaucratic Power in Lesotho (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1990).

17 Trumbull, George R. IV, “The Environmental Turn in Middle East History,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49 (2017): 173–80.

18 Evered, Kyle T., “Beyond Mahan and Mackinder: Situating Geography and Critical Geopolitics in Middle East Studies,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49 (2017): 335–39.

19 Arsel, Murat, “Environmental Studies in Turkey: Critical Perspectives in a Time of Neo-liberal Developmentalism,” The Arab World Geographer 15 (2012): 7281.

20 Davis and Burke, Environmental Imaginaries of the Middle East and North Africa.

21 The scholarship of Yücel Çağlar and forestry school faculty working on the history and politics of forestry is an exception. Their contributions are, nevertheless, limited to discipline-bound frameworks. In more recent years Selçuk Dursun and Alan Mikhail have produced significant work on Ottoman forestry.

22 Eisenstadt, S.N., “Multiple Modernities,” Daedalus 129 (2000): 129; Chatterjee, Partha, The Nation and Its Fragments (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2007). For a comprehensive overview of Turkish modernity, see Kasaba, Resat and Bozdogăn, Sibel, Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey (Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997). For an early example of the alternative modernity approach, see Göle, Nilüfer, The Forbidden Modern: Civilization and Veiling (Ann Arbor, Mich.: University of Michigan Press, 1996).

23 Sivaramakrishnan, Kalyanakrishnan and Agrawal, Arun, Regional Modernities: The Cultural Politics of Development in India (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2003); Harootunian, Harry D., Overcome by Modernity: History, Culture and Community in Interwar Japan (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2002).

24 Homi Bhabha, “Of Mimicry and Man: The Ambivalence of Colonial Discourse,” in “Discipleship: A Special Issue on Psychoanalysis,” special issue, October 28 (1984): 125–33; Thomas, Nicholas, Colonialism's Culture: Anthropology, Travel and Government (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 1994); Stoler, Ann Laura, Along the Archival Grain: Epistemic Anxieties and Colonial Common Sense (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009); Mueggler, Erik, “Reading, Glaciers, and Love in the Botanical Exploration of China's Borderlands,” Michigan Quarterly Review 44 (2005): 722–54.

25 Stoler, Ann L. and Cooper, Frederick, introduction to “Tensions of Empire: Colonial Control and Visions of Rule,” special issue, American Ethnologist 16 (1989): 609–21.

26 Stoler, , Along the Archival Grain.

27 Mitchell, Timothy, introduction to Questions of Modernity, ed. Mitchell, Timothy (Minneapolis, Minn.: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), xii–xiv.

28 Philip Abrams's call to regard the state as an idea, which was revived by Mitchell's poststructuralist critique, was followed by Scott's sketch of high-modernism; Abrams, Philip, “Notes on the Difficulty of Studying the State,” Journal of Historical Sociology 1 (1988): 5889; Mitchell, Timothy, “The Limits of the State: Beyond Statist Approaches and Their Critics,” The American Political Science Review 85 (1991): 7796; Scott, James C., Seeing Like a State: How Certain Schemes to Improve the Human Condition Have Failed (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1998). Recent examples include Turam, Berna, Between Islam and the State: The Politics of Engagement (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2007); Navarro-Yashin, Yael, Faces of the State: Secularism and Public Life in Turkey (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University, 2002); Thomas Blom, Hansen, Wages of Violence: Naming and Identity in Postcolonial Bombay (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2001); and White, Jenny, Islamist Mobilization in Turkey: A Study in Vernacular Politics (Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 2002). This newer approach to the state has also been welcomed by environmental anthropology. See Sivaramakrishnan, Modern Forests; Moore, Donald, Suffering for Territory: Race, Place, and Power in Zimbabwe (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005); Agrawal, Arun, Environmentality: Technologies of Government and the Making of Subjects (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2005); and Harris, Leila M., “States at the Limit: Tracing Contemporary State–Society Relations in the Borderlands of Southeastern Turkey,” Local Environment 14 (2009): 699720.

29 Makdisi, Ussama, “Ottoman Orientalism,” American Historical Review 107 (2002): 768–96. For Turkish Orientalism, see Ozkan, Hande, “Tek Parti Dönemi Coğrafya ve Mekan Anlayışları,” Toplum ve Bilim 94 (2002): 143–74.

30 Kasaba, Reşat, “Kemalist Certainties and Modern Ambiguities,” in Rethinking Modernity and National Identity in Turkey, ed. Kasaba, Reşat and Bozdoğan, Sibel (Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 1997).

31 Examples include Aslan, Senem, “Everyday Forms of State Power and the Kurds in the Early Turkish Republic,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43 (2011): 7593; Belge, Ceren, “State Building and the Limits of Legibility: Kinship Networks and Kurdish Resistance in Turkey,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43 (2011): 95114; and Yılmaz, Hale, “Learning to Read (Again): The Social Experiences of Turkey's 1928 Alphabet Reform,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43 (2011): 677–97. Murat Metinsoy's analysis of a “flexible authoritarian regime” comes closer to my argument; Metinsoy, , “Fragile Hegemony, Flexible Authoritarianism, and Governing from Below: Politicians’ Reports in Early Republican Turkey,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 43 (2011): 699719.

32 For examples, see note 26.

33 Nowack, Ernest, “Journeys in Northern Anatolia,” Geographical Review 21 (1) (1931): 7092.

34 Robinson, David M., “Ancient Sinope: First Part,” The American Journal of Philology 27 (1906): 125–53.

35 Tarkan, Hasan, Sinop Coğrafyası (İzmir: Marifet Matbaası, 1941), 20.

36 Donovan, Owen P., Sinop Landscapes: Exploring Connection in a Black Sea Hinterland (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, 2004); Faroqhi, Suraiya, Towns and Townsmen of Ottoman Anatolia: Trade, Crafts and Food Production in an Urban Setting, 1520–1650 (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1984).

37 Ökçün, Gündüz, 1920–1930 Yılları Arasında Kurulan Türk Aonim Şirketlerinde Yabancı Sermaye (Ankara: Sevinç Matbaası, 1971), 89.

38 Boratav, Korkut, “Kemalist Economic Policies and Etatism,” in Atatürk: Founder of a Modern State, ed. Kazancıgil, Ali and Özbudun, Ergun (Hamden, Conn.: Archon Books, 1981).

39 Two of these were inherited from the Ottoman state.

40 Günay, Turhan, Ormancılığımızın Tarihçesine Kısa Bir Bakış (Ankara: Tarım-Orman Sen, 2003), 88.

41 Tekeli, İlhan and İlkin, Selim, Para ve Kredi Sisteminin Oluşumunda bir Aşama: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Merkez Bankası (Ankara: Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Merkez Bankası, 1997). The name of this company was later changed to Société Générale Allumettière et Foréstière.

42 The twenty-five-year contract granted to the company was ratified in the National Assembly in 1924 (Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document It was tasked with forming a new company half of whose capital and board members would be Turkish, and with building a match factory in Sinop that would use domestic wood from Zindan and Çangal forests (Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document S.A. Usines Allumtière de Flandres started operating in 1925, but it was short-lived. While some blame its fall on the location chosen for the factory, economic rivalry between the Match Monopoly and the Swedish Match Company, which eventually led to the transfer of the match industry to the Turkish state (1946), was the more likely culprit. Founded in 1927 by Ivar Kreuger (known as the father of financial scams), the Swedish Match Company was the world's biggest match producer. As the competition escalated, Kreuger bought some of the Belgians’ share in the Turkish Match Monopoly (Tekeli and İlkin, Para ve Kredi Sisteminin Oluşumunda Bir Asama [Ankara: Türkiye Cumhuriyet Merkez Bankası, 1981]). When he decided to buy the rest in 1928, the government annulled the contract, arguing that the requirements of the 1925 contract had not been met. In 1930, after a legal battle, the Swedish Match Company, renamed as the American-Turkish Investment, reacquired the monopoly (Patnoy, Frank, The Match King: Ivar Kreuger, The Financial Genius Behind a Century of Wall Street Scandals [New York: Public Affairs, 2009]). With Kreuger's death and the Swedish Company's bankruptcy in 1946, the state took over match production.

43 İş Bankası, Turkey's first national public bank, opened in 1924 under the guidance of Atatürk, who, like other politicians, held shares in the bank. It has close ties to Turkey's founding Republican People's Party and was instrumental in the creation of a national economy through a wide range of investments.

44 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

45 İbrahim Kutlutan, “Zingal Ormanlarında ve Kereste Fabrikasında Tetkikler,” Orman ve Av 11–12 (1938): 240–73.

46 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

47 Şirketi, Zindan ve Çangal Ormanları Türk Anonim, 1941 Hesab Yılı Idare Meclisi ve Murakıb Raporu (Istanbul: L.Murkides Basımevi, 1942).

48 Kantay, Ramazan, “Parkelik Ağaç Malzemenin Kurutulması,” İstanbul Üniversitesi Orman Fakültesi Dergisi 36 (3) (1986): 5369.

49 Şirketi, Zindan ve Çangal Ormanları Türk Anonim, 1942 Hesab Yılı Idare Meclisi ve Murakıb Raporu (Istanbul: L. Murkides Basımevi, 1943); Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

50 Kutlutan, “Zingal Ormanlarında ve Kereste Fabrikasında Tetkikler.”

51 This is confirmed by the statements of Zingal officials and by the Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

52 Mimar Sedar Emin ve Suat Nazım, “1933 Yerli Mallar Sergisinde Zingal Pavyonu ve Evi,” Mimar 9–10 (1933): 278–82.

53 “Zingal Şirketi Selanik Panayırında Büyük Muvaffakiyet Kazandı,” Sinop Gazetesi, 28 November 1935.

54 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document and 030-0-018-001-002-110-22-9.

55 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

56 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

57 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

58 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document; Hıfzı Veldet Velidedeoğlu, Türkiye'de Üç Devir, İkinci Cilt (İstanbul: Sinan Yayınları, 1973).

59 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document and

60 Tarkan, Sinop Coğrafyası, 33.

61 On the state's support for Zingal, see Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

62 Tahsin Tokmanoğlu, Yeşil Elmas (Ankara: T.C. Orman Bakanlığı Yayın Dairesi Başkanlığı, 1996), 11.

63 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

64 See the journal Verim, 5 August 1935.

65 M.H.R., “Bizde Amenajman İşleri”; “Talebemiz Almanya'ya Gitmelidir,” Orman ve Av 34 (1931): 6–8, 4–5.

66 Amca, Turkish for “uncle,” is also used as a respectful way to address older men.

67 Bourdieu, Pierre and Wacquant, Loïc, “Symbolic Violence,” in Violence in War and Peace: An Anthology, ed. Scheper-Hughes, Nancy and Bourgois, Philippe (Malden, Mass.: Blackwell Publishing, 2004), 272–75.

68 It is likely that Surkis's imminent prosecution upon returning to Europe must have been a factor in the extension.

69 While the Persian word gāvur refers in its original sense to those who do not adhere to a monotheistic religion, in the Ottoman and Turkish context it has been used as a slur to define non-Muslim and non-Turkish groups. It is obvious that in my informant's usage the term also connotes modernity—thus, the reference to “Muslim infidels.”

70 Bois, W. E. B. Du, The Souls of Black Folk (William Edward Burghardt, 2006), Kindle edition, 6768.

71 Fanon, Frantz, The Wretched of the Earth (New York: Grove Press, 1964), Kindle edition, xxxvii–xxxviii.

72 “Görüşler,” Orman ve Av 37 (1931): 15–16.

73 “Dr. Şerafettin Ayancık Halkevi Başkanlığına Seçildi,” Sinop Gazetesi, 26 November 1936.

74 For a similar discussion, see Quataert, Donald and Duman, Yüksel, eds., “A Coal Miner's Life during the Late Ottoman Empire,” International Labor and Working-Class History 60 (2001): 153–79.

75 Following the 1980 military coup, an open-market economy gradually replaced five decades of state capitalism, paving the way for a series of privatizations.

76 Tchangal, Société Anonyme Turque des Forêts de Zindan et, “ZINGAL,” Rapports du Conseil d'Administration et du Contrôleur (Istanbul: Imprimerie EGE, 1938), 4.

77 Coronil, Fernando, The Magical State: Nature, Money, and Modernity in Venezuela (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1997), 3.

78 I shared this misconception until the archival material revealed the overlaps between the Match Monopoly and Zingal.

79 Williams, Raymond, Marxism and Literature (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1977), 132.

80 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

81 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

82 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

83 The rapid growth of state forestry enterprises between 1938 and 1940 was followed by a lag due to the war. By 1943 one-third of forests were managed by twenty-one state forest enterprises and later an additional eighteen were established. Thirteen new enterprises opened in December 1943. “Devlet Orman İşletmelerinde Altı Yeni Revir Açıldı,” Ziraat Dergisi 38 (1943): 45–46; “Devlet Orman İşletmeleri,” Ormancı Postası, 29 October 1943; “Devlet Orman İşletmelerinde Yeniden On Üç Revir Açıldı,” Ormancı Postası, 15 December 1943; “Devlet Orman İşletmelerinde Altı Yeni Revir Açıldı,” Ziraat Dergisi 38 (1943): 45–46; “Zingal Şirketine El Kondu,” Ziraat Dergisi 68 (1946).

84 Prime Ministry Republican Archives, Document

85 Sivaramakrishnan, K. and Cederlöf, Gunnel, Ecological Nationalisms: Nature, Livelihoods, and Identities in South Asia (Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 2006), 6, 223.

86 A third locomotive is at the Rahmi M. Koç Museum in Istanbul.

87 For a similar discussion, see Han, Clara, Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2014).

88 Öztürkmen, Arzu, “Remembering through Material Culture: Local Knowledge of Past Communities in a Turkish Black Sea Town,” Middle Eastern Studies 39 (2003): 179–93; Boym, Svetlana, The Future of Nostalgia (New York: Basic Books, 2001); Confino, Alon and Fritzsche, Peter, eds., The Work of Memory: New Directions in the Study of German Society and Culture (Urbana, Ill.: University of Illinois Press, 2002); Özyürek, Esra, Nostalgia for the Modern: State Secularism and Everyday Politics in Turkey (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2006); and Mueggler, Erik, The Age of Wild Ghosts: Memory, Violence, and Place in Southwest China (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2001).

89 Stoler, Ann, “Imperial Debris: Reflections on Ruins and Ruination,” Cultural Anthropology 23 (2008): 191219.

90 That the people are rejecting development, improvement, and a better life by opposing projects such as the nuclear power plant is a common line of thought that the government has expressed often over the last decade.

91 Chua, Jocelyn Lim, In Pursuit of the Good Life: Aspiration and Suicide in Globalizing South India (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2014); Berlant, Laurent, Cruel Optimism (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011).

92 Fischer, Edward, The Good Life: Aspiration, Dignity, and the Anthropology of Wellbeing (Stanford, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2014), xi.

93 Benjamin, Walter, Illuminations (New York: Schocken Books, 1977), 255.

Recommend this journal

Email your librarian or administrator to recommend adding this journal to your organisation's collection.

International Journal of Middle East Studies
  • ISSN: 0020-7438
  • EISSN: 1471-6380
  • URL: /core/journals/international-journal-of-middle-east-studies
Please enter your name
Please enter a valid email address
Who would you like to send this to? *



Full text views

Total number of HTML views: 0
Total number of PDF views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

Abstract views

Total abstract views: 0 *
Loading metrics...

* Views captured on Cambridge Core between <date>. This data will be updated every 24 hours.

Usage data cannot currently be displayed