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Doctoral defense: 'Pipe dreams on a “half-island”: Water, belonging, authority in northern Cyprus' by Ezgican Ozdemir

CEU Vienna
Tuesday, June 20, 2023, 2:00 pm – 4:00 pm

Chair: Professor Brett Wilson, Department of History, CEU;

Main supervisor: Dorit Geva, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU;

Internal Examiner: Prem Kumar Rajaram, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU;

External Examiner: Sarah Green, University of Helsinki.

This doctoral dissertation is an anthropological study of water infrastructure and its privatized management in northern Cyprus. Specifically, it traces the historical, political, economic, and social background, connotations, and impacts of an infrastructural upgrade, namely the Turkey-northern Cyprus undersea water pipeline project. Transferring 75 million m3 clean water annually from the southern region of Turkey to the northern territories of Cyprus, the water pipeline materializes Turkish domination by occupation in northern Cyprus, consolidates the Turkish state-dependent de-facto regime of Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC), and unsettles historically established ethnic affinities of a hierarchical relationship between Turkish state and communities who live in northern Cyprus.

By historically situating water, infrastructure, and natural resource management throughout a series of shifting power relations and structures over the island, I show genealogically how local knowledges of water resources, in their material attributes as well as their symbolic significance, are constituted through competing hegemonic structures as they navigate over the island’s terrain and resurces for legitimizing their rule over the territories and its people. As imperial and colonial domination came and went, the island still remains as a contested land as it is divided into two with a breakaway and illegal state of TRNC in the north and an EU member state of Republic of Cyprus.

By taking the water pipeline megaproject to the center of this research, I probe into geopolitical questions of sovereignty, recognition, de-facto statehood, and territorialization ethnographically and highlight how the people of northern Cyprus reckon with non-recognition, dependency, and Turkish domination. I situate the megaproject within the context of Turkey and how political economic shifts in Turkey have reflected and still does, on northern Cyprus. Water infrastructure, as it takes up a plethora of meanings and material and symbolic significance, became a site where communities of northern Cyprus look for answers to who they are, where they belong, and who they look up to. Northern Cyprus for them, is a “half-island” where exceptionality is the rule; inferiority over “motherland” Turkey, or as I call it their “internalized dispossession” is the condition through which they maneuver between the powers that have a strong hold over them and the powers to act upon their own world.


Non-CEU participants who attend in person, or anyone on zoom, please register here