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Prof. Dr. Jürgen Mackert

Funded by: Alexander von Humboldt Foundation

Granted project volume: 104.000,00 €

Run-time: 01.10.2018 – 30.09.2020

Fighting for the River: Gender, Body and Agency in the Struggles against Hydropower (tentative title) is under contract with the University of California Press to be published in 2023.

The book is about local community struggles against private and small-scale hydroelectric power plants (HEPPs) in Turkey. Building on extensive ethnographic research, it develops a body-centred approach to women’s environmental activism and combines it with a relational ontological perspective to discuss how non-human entities become a part of our more-than-human lifeworld (by framing lebenswelt as inclusive of umwelt) through our everyday experience of and corporeal connection to them. Fighting for the River employs the body as a starting point not just to study lived experience but to reveal the ways in which lived experience connects us to non-human natures and environments. Drawing on the anti-HEPP struggles, especially in the East Black Sea Region, where river waters are not used for immediate economic purposes, one could state that the position of an environmental entity within the lifeworld of an individual or a community is crucial to the formation of political agency to protect that entity. What shapes women’s radical political agency in this particular case is the centrality of rivers to the sensory, affective, and emotional world of experience and to the making of places, histories, memories, and heritage. Hence, through the empirical case of the East Black Sea, the book maintains that our situatedness in socio-ecological relations is central to the processes of subjectivation.

Conceiving of environmental entities, like rivers, not only as “resources” but as constitutive parts of the lifeworld resists the subordination of environmental entities/commons, and the social-affective relations established with and around them to mere commodities. Understanding local environmental movements, and their claims for justice, beyond the framework of “resource struggles” and acknowledging the intercorporeal and more-than-human character of the lifeworld requires rethinking our conceptions of agency, sociality and social justice. This book responds to this challenge by framing human-non-human relationality as a matter of justice and hence, by developing the notion of socio-ecological justice. Socio-ecological justice speaks for the experience of living with non-human entities reflected in the justice claims of grassroots movements, and relates these claims to indigenous relational ontologies and ethics of coexistence. Overall, Fighting for the River contributes to an ecological conception of lifeworld, sociality, justice and subjectivity by incorporating the empirical potentials of an ethnographic case study and the conceptual promises of a vigorous transdisciplinary approach.