This article analyzes the transformation of the Kızılırmak Delta on the Black Sea coast of Turkey into a Turkish wetland. This production involved the transformation of international categories of wetlands into national imaginaries, as well as the material remaking of landscapes themselves. Population and agro-economic shifts concurrent to the formation of the Turkish nation-state transformed the delta into an agricultural landscape, and subsequently into a contested conservation area whose use is informed by changing Turkish and international notions of wetlands. I focus on the situated, local processes and practices through which wetlands are produced and become relevant to different social groups as subjects of scientific knowledge and environmental imaginations. These, I argue, have rendered the wetland an open-air laboratory and an object of care for environmental advocates, scientists, and residents.
Author's note: I am grateful to Benjamin Siegel, Chris Walley, Stefan Helmreich, Tessa Farmer, Jessica Barnes, members of the Middle East Environmental Worlds working group, and the anonymous peer reviewers for their help in refining my arguments. Earlier drafts were presented at the 2016 Rethinking Middle East Environment workshop, the 2016 Conservation workshop at the Center for Humanistic Inquiry, Amherst College, and the 2017 Ecological History in Asia conference at the Yale Council on East Asian Studies. I thank all of the workshop participants for their generous comments. Research was made possible thanks to grants from the Social Science Research Council, the Wenner Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and the National Science Foundation (1429914).
1 On the making of natural resources, see Richardson, Tanja and Weszkalnys, Gina, “Introduction: Resource Materialities,” Anthropological Quarterly 87 (2014): 5–30; and Robbins, Paul, Political Ecology: A Critical Introduction (West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).
2 Elsewhere, I have written on scientific sense making as embodied, and have connected such care practices to the notion of “livable natures” to point to the mutual constitutions of notions and practices of place, livelihood, and ecology. See Scaramelli, Caterina “Making Sense of Water Quality: Multispecies Encounters on the Mystic River,” Worldviews 17 (2013): 150–60; and Scaramelli, Swamps into Wetlands: Making Livable Nature in Turkey (PhD diss., Massachusetts Institute of Technology, 2016).
3 Ethnographic research was conducted in Turkish; all translations in this article are mine.
4 Dole, Christopher, Healing Secular Life: Loss and Devotion in Modern Turkey (Philadelphia, Pa.: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012); Önder, Sylvia Wing, We Have No Microbes Here: Healing Practices in a Turkish Black Sea Village (Durham, N.C.: Carolina Academic Press, 2007); Sanal, Aslıhan, New Organs within Us: Transplants and the Moral Economy (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011).
5 Buch, Elana D., “Anthropology of Aging and Care,” Annual Review of Anthropology 44 (2015): 277–93; Alber, Erdmute and Drotbohm, Heike, ed., Anthropological Perspectives on Care: Work, Kinship, and the Life-Course (New York: Palgrave Macmillan 2015); Mol, Annemarie, The Logic of Care: Health and the Problem of Patient Choice (New York: Routledge, 2008).
6 Tronto, Joan C., Moral Boundaries: A Political Argument for an Ethic of Care (London: Routledge, 1993), 103.
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8 Caring for an environment, like caring for any object or relationship, entails practices of knowing, organizing, classifying, and selecting; it is telling that to “care” and to “curate” are etymologically connected in English and in Romance languages. Curators always follow an imagined narrative, and address a particular audience.
9 de la Bellacasa, Maria Puig, “Matters of Care in Technoscience: Assembling Neglected Things,” Social Studies of Science 41 (2011): 85–106; Latour, Bruno, “Why Has Critique Run out of Steam? From Matters of Fact to Matters of Concern,” Critical Inquiry 30 (2004): 225–48.
10 Şekercioğlu, Çağan et al., “Turkey's Globally Important Biodiversity in Crisis,” Biological Conservation 144 (2011): 2752–69.
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17 Barnes, Jessica, Cultivating the Nile: The Everyday Politics of Water in Egypt (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2014); Knudsen, Ståle, Fishers and Scientists in Modern Turkey: The Management of Natural Resources, Knowledge and Identity on the Eastern Black Sea Coast (New York: Berghahn Books, 2009); Mikhail, Alan, ed., Water on Sand: Environmental Histories of the Middle East and North Africa (New York: Oxford University Press, 2013); Mikhail, Nature and Empire in Ottoman Egypt: An Environmental History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011); Mitchell, Timothy, Carbon Democracy: Political Power in the Age of Oil (London: Verso Books, 2011); White, Sam, The Climate of Rebellion in the Early Modern Ottoman Empire (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2011).
18 On institutional histories, see Erik Carp Directory of Wetlands of International Importance in the Western Palearctic (Gland, Switzerland: IUCN-UNEP, 1980); Matthews, G.V.T., The Ramsar Convention on Wetlands: Its History and Development (Gland, Switzerland: Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1993); and Peck, Dwight, Ramsar's Liquid Assets: 40 Years of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands (Gland, Switzerland: Ramsar Convention and IUCN, 2011). On categories, see deKlemm, Cyril, The Legal Development of the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands of International Importance especially as Waterfowl Habitat (2 February 1971) (Gland, Switzerland: Ramsar Convention Bureau, 1995); and Schiappa, Edward, “Towards a Pragmatic Approach to Definition: Wetlands and The Politics of Meaning,” in Environmental Pragmatism, ed. Light, Andrew and Katz, Erik (New York: Routledge, 1996), 209–30. On environmental histories, see Richardson, Tanya, “Where the Water Sheds: Disputed Deposits at the Ends of the Danube,” in Watersheds: The Poetics and Politics of the Danube River, ed. Bozovic, Marjieta and Miller, Matthew (Boston Mass.: Academic Press, 2016), 308–37; Yeh, Emily, “From Wasteland to Wetland? Nature and Nation in China's Tibet,” Environmental History 14 (2009): 103–37; and Wilson, Robert M., Seeking Refuge: Birds and Landscapes of the Pacific Flyway (Seattle, Wash.: University of Washington Press, 2011).
19 Strabo of Amaseia, Strabo: Complete Works (Hastings, East Sussex, UK: Delphi Classics, 2016), 965.
20 Yılmaz, Cevdet, Bafra Ovası’nın Beşeri ve İktisadi Coğrafyası (Ankara: Gündüz Eğitim Yayınları, 2002).
21 Uygar Özesmi, Conservation Strategies for Sustainable Resource Use in the Kızılırmak Delta in Turkey (PhD diss., University of Minnesota, 1999); Quataert, Donald, Consumption Studies and the History of the Ottoman Empire, 1550–1922 (Albany, N.Y.: SUNY Press, 2000); Quataert, Donald, Social Disintegration and Popular Resistance in the Ottoman Empire, 1881–1908: Reactions to European Economic Penetration (New York: New York University Press, 1983).
22 On the remaking of tobacco markets in contemporary Turkey, see Kayaalp, Ebru, Remaking Politics, Markets, and Citizens in Turkey: Governing through Smoke (London: Bloomsbury, 2014).
23 Clark, Bruce, Twice a Stranger: The Mass Expulsions that Forged Modern Greece and Turkey (Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press, 2006); Akçam, Taner, The Young Turks’ Crime against Humanity: The Armenian Genocide and Ethnic Cleansing in the Ottoman Empire (Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2012); Popov, Anton, Culture, Ethnicity and Migration after Communism: The Pontic Greeks (London: Routledge, 2016); Kirişçi, Kemal, “Migration and Turkey: The Dynamics of State, Society And Politics,” in The Cambridge History of Turkey, ed. Kasaba, Resat (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 177–98; Meichanetsidis, Vasileios, “The Genocide of the Greeks of the Ottoman Empire, 1913–1923: A Comprehensive Overview,” Genocide Studies International 9 (2015): 104–73.
24 See Neyzi, Leyla, “Remembering to Forget: Sabbateanism, National Identity, and Subjectivity in Turkey,” Comparative Studies in Society and History 44 (2002): 137–58; Neyzi, “Remembering Smyrna/Izmir: Shared History, Shared Trauma,” History and Memory: Studies in Representation of the Past 20 (2008): 106–27; and Ozyurek, Esra, ed., Politics of Public Memory in Turkey (Syracuse, N.Y.: Syracuse University Press, 2007).
25 Clark, Twice a Stranger; Ekmekcioglu, Lerna, Recovering Armenia: The Limits of Belonging in Post-Genocide Turkey (Palo Alto, Calif.: Stanford University Press, 2016); Gratien, Chris, “The Ottoman Quagmire: Malaria, Swamps, and Settlement in the Late Ottoman Mediterranean,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 49 (2018): 583–604; Kirişçi, Kemal, “Migration and Turkey: The Dynamics of State, Society And Politics,” in The Cambridge History of Turkey, ed. Kasaba, Resat (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 177–98; McCarthy, Justin, Muslims and Minorities: The Population of Ottoman Anatolia and the End of the Empire (New York: New York University Press, 1983); Popov, Anton, Culture, Ethnicity and Migration after Communism: The Pontic Greeks (London: Routledge, 2016); Prott, Volker, The Politics of Self-Determination: Remaking Territories and National Identities in Europe, 1917–1923 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016); Zurcher, Erik J., Turkey: A Modern History (London: I.B.Tauris, 1997).
26 Blackbourn, David, The Conquest of Nature: Water, Landscape, and the Making of Modern Germany (New York: W.W. Norton & Company, 2007); Colten, Craig E., An Unnatural Metropolis: Wresting New Orleans from Nature (Baton Rouge, La.: Louisiana State University Press, 2006); Mitchell, Timothy, “Can The Mosquito Speak?,” in Rule of Experts: Egypt, Techno-Politics, Modernity (Berkeley, Calif.: University of California Press, 2002), 19–53; Packard, Randall M., The Making of a Tropical Disease: A Short History of Malaria (Baltimore, Md.: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007); Snowden, Frank, The Conquest of Malaria: Italy, 1900–1962 (New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 2008); Sufian, Sandra, Healing the Land and the Nation: Malaria and the Zionist Project in Palestine, 1920–1947 (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008).
27 Sitma Mücadelesi Kanununa Bazı Mevad Tezili Hakkında (1/117) Numaralı Kanun Layihasi ve Sihhiye Ve Bütçe Encümenleri Mazbataları (Türkiye Cumhuriyeti Başvekalet Muamelat Müdüriyeti: 6/885, 1928), 23–26; Zafer Koylu and Nihal Doğan, “Birinci Dünya Savaşı Sırasında Osmanlı Devleti'nds Sıtma Mücedelesi ve Bu Amaçla Yapılan Yasal Düzenlemeler,” Türkiye Parazitoloji Dergisi 34 (2010): 209–15.
28 Evered, Kyle T., and Evered, Emine Ö., “Governing Population, Public Health and Malaria in the Early Turkish Republic,” Journal of Historical Geography 37 (2011): 470–82; Evered, Kyle T., “Draining an Anatolian Desert: Overcoming Water, Wetlands, and Malaria in Early Republican Ankara,” Cultural Geographies 21 (2013): 1–22; Günergun, Feza and Etker, Şeref, “From Quinaquina to ‘Quinine Law’: A Bitter Chapter in the Westernization of Turkish Medicine,” Osmanlı Bilim Araştırmaları 14 (2013): 41–68; Evered, Kyle T. and Evered, Emine Ö., “A Conquest of Rice: Agricultural Expansion, Impoverishment, and Malaria in Turkey,” Historia Agraria 68 (2016): 103–36.
29 These histories came up frequently in interviews I conducted with residents of delta villages between 2012 and 2015. See also Yılmaz, Bafra Ovası.
30 “Bataklıkların Kurutulmasi ve Bunlardan Elde Edilecek Topraklar Hakkinda Kanun,” Resmi Gazete 23.I:7413 (1950): 409–12.
31 Ayan, Ali Kemal, Kızılırmak Deltasında Doğal Kaynak Kullanımı (Samsun, Turkey: Ondokuz Mayıs Universitesi, 2007); Özesmi, Conservation Strategies; Yılmaz, Bafra Ovası; Can Yeniyürt et al., Kızılırmak Deltası Sulak Alan Yönetim Planı (Ankara: T.C. Çevre Bakanlığı, Doğa Koruma ve Milli Parklar Genel Müdürlüğü, Doğa Koruma Dairesi Başkanlığı, Sulak Alan Şube Müdürlüğü, 2008). See also Çeltik Ekimi Kanunu 2030 (1936).
32 On the Kızılırmak wetlands as valuable ecological as well as cultural sites, see Özgen, Can and Taş, Beyhan, “Ramsar Alanı Içinde Yer Alan Cernek Gölü Ve Sulak Alaninin (Kızılırmak Deltası, Samsun) Ekolojiv ve Sosyo-Ekonomik Önemi,” Tubav Bilim Dergisi 2 (2012): 1–11; and Kızılırmak Deltası Sulak Alan Yönetim Planı (Ankara: T.C. Çevre Bakanlığı, Doğa Koruma ve Milli Parklar Genel Müdürlüğü, Doğa Koruma Dairesi Başkanlığı, Sulak Alan Şube Müdürlüğü, 2008). On endangerment, see Timothy Choy, Ecologies of Comparison: An Ethnography of Endangerment in Hong Kong (Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2011); Heise, Ursula K., Imagining Extinction: The Cultural Meanings of Endangered Species (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2016); and Vidal, Fernando and Dias, Nélia, ed., Endangerment, Biodiversity and Culture (London: Routledge, 2015).
33 On the continuity between drainage projects and the establishment of nature conservation areas—institutional, technological, and ideological, in the United States, see Wilson, Seeking Refuge.
34 For a detailed account, see Scaramelli, Swamps into Wetlands.
35 IUCN, ICBP, and IWRB, Proceedings of a Technical Meeting on Wetland Conservation, Ankara-Bursa-Istanbul, 9 to 16 October 1967 (Morges, Switzerland: IUCN Publications, 1968).
36 IUCN, ICBP, and IWRB, Proceedings of a Technical Meeting, 52. On the collaboration between the DSI and other state departments, see Heper, Metin and Criss, Nur Bilge, Historical Dictionary of Turkey (Lanham, Md.: Scarecrow Press, 2009), 109. On political debates about land reform, see Karaömerlioglu, Asim M., “Elite Perceptions of Land Reform in Early Republican Turkey,” Journal of Peasant Studies 27 (2000): 115–41.
37 IUCN, ICBP, and IWRB, Proceedings of a Technical Meeting, 52.
38 Ibid., 51.
39 The Kızılırmak Delta (Ankara: General Directorate of Environmental Protection, Ministry of Environment, Republic of Turkey, 1998).
40 Özesmi, Conservation Strategies.
41 Kızılırmak Deltası (Ankara: Turkish Republic Ministry of Environment, 1998), 10.
42 McAfee, Kathleen, “Selling Nature to Save It? Biodiversity and Green Developmentalism,” Environment and Planning 17 (1999): 133–54.
43 No. 25818, revised on 17 May 2005, and in April 2014
44 The conferences took place in Bursa (2009), Kirşehir (2011), and Samsun (2013).
45 Yeniyürt et al., Kızılırmak Deltası.
46 The word longoz, meaning “swamp forest” in Turkish, is of Greek origins; Csató, Éva Ágnes, Isaksson, Bo, and Jahani, Carina, Linguistic Convergence and Areal Diffusion: Case Studies from Iranian, Semitic and Turkic (London: Routledge, 2005), 338. Its synonym, su basan, means, literally, “that which steps in water.”
47 Özesmi, Uygar, “The Ecological Economics of Harvesting Sharp-Pointed Rush (Juncus Acutus) in the Kizilirmak Delta, Turkey,” Human Ecology (2003): 645–55; Ayan, Kızılırmak Deltasında Doğal Kaynak Kullanımı.
48 See Yılmaz, Bafra Ovası.
49 Sancar, Barış et al., “Cernek: A New Bird Ringing Station in Turkey,” Ring 27 (2005): 113–20.
50 Kohler, Robert E., “Paul Errington, Aldo Leopold, and Wildlife Ecology: Residential Science,” Historical Studies in the Natural Sciences 41 (2011): 216–54.
51 For a detailed ethnographic account of the residents’ own practices and livable natures, see Scaramelli, Swamps into Wetlands.
52 For ethnographic analysis of the shortcomings of participatory approaches to environmental conservation, see Doane, Molly, Stealing Shining Rivers: Agrarian Conflict, Market Logic, and Conservation in a Mexican Forest (Tucson, Az.: University of Arizona Press, 2012); Lowe, Wild Profusion; Walley, Rough Waters; and West, Conservation Is Our Government Now.
53 Educators at the “wetland school” sought to instill in the students a sense of care embodied in place, as the basis for acquiring and transmitting knowledge of the delta. For a report and evaluation of a later edition of the school, see Ali Kemal Ayan, Yeliz Genç Bekiroğlu, and Ahmet Dürüst, eds., Kızılırmak Deltasında Bilim Işığında Doğa Okulu (Samsun, Turkey: 2016).
54 Anderson, Benedict, Imagined Communities: Reflections on the Origin and Spread of Nationalism (London: Verso, 1983); Lantis, Elizabeth, “Vernacular Culture,” American Anthropologist 62 (1960): 202–15.
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