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Contemporary art and the geopolitics of extractivism in Turkey’s Kurdistan

Cayli, Eray ORCID: 0000-0001-8113-0349 (2021) Contemporary art and the geopolitics of extractivism in Turkey’s Kurdistan. Transactions of the Institute of British Geographers, 46 (4). 929 - 943. ISSN 1475-5661

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Identification Number: 10.1111/tran.12465


Discussing a body of artwork made in Turkey's Kurdistan, I explore contemporary art's potential to facilitate critical insight into the (geo)politics of ecology today. A significant strand of the growing geographical literature on art's critical potential focuses on issues of ecological import such as climate change, locating critique in problematisation of Eurocentric aesthetics for its links with colonialism and racialised humanism. Still another strand focuses on neoliberal geopolitics, appraising contemporary art's critical potential against post-political approaches to democracy, peace, and prosperity. I bring together these two strands, both methodologically and empirically, as I consider the politics of ecology in Turkey's Kurdistan, inextricably intertwined with both state-endorsed racial violence in the 20th century and neoliberal democratisation and peace-making in the 21st century. Methodologically, I develop and operationalise the concept of extractivism in conversation with recent critics of the Anthropocene thesis who foreground racial capitalism rather than humanity as the geopolitical – geological and geographical – force afflicting ecology. Empirically, I draw on the artworks under discussion to unpack how extractivism in Turkey's Kurdistan has not only continued unabated throughout the neoliberal-democratic transition from “war” to “peace” but has also structured the latter paradigm on the former, influencing realms beyond resource extraction. The resulting argument is the following. Challenging the Eurocentrism of aesthetics and/or the neoliberal post-political paradigm remain important indicators of art's critical (geo)political potential. However, a fuller appraisal of this potential also requires asking if and to what extent such challenges redistribute agency vis-à-vis power relations formed by and formative of extractivism as a set of racialised practices operating not only through industries of extraction proper, like mining, agriculture, and construction, but also through cultural ones like art.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2021 The Author
Divisions: European Institute
Subjects: G Geography. Anthropology. Recreation > GF Human ecology. Anthropogeography
H Social Sciences > HN Social history and conditions. Social problems. Social reform
N Fine Arts > N Visual arts (General) For photography, see TR
Date Deposited: 04 May 2021 16:21
Last Modified: 10 Dec 2021 08:24

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