SOCIOLOGY TALKS: Powered by Rumor: Energy Politics and Conspiracies in the Making of a New Turkey by Sinan Erensu 17 April (Wednesday), 12:00-13:30

Author: CSSH


17 April (Wednesday), 12:00-13:30 

Room: CASE 127


Powered by Rumor: Energy Politics and Conspiracies in the Making of a New Turkey


Turkey's energy industry has undergone an extraordinary transformation upon its liberalization in the early 2000s. Attracting $5 billion investment annually, the industry became one of the world’s fastest growing energy markets, doubling the nation’s electricity production capacity in a decade and serving as the government’s badge of honor. As energy infrastructures spread across the country, however, it became clear that they produce not only power, hope, and spectacle but also risk, uncertainty, and fear as they trigger a new waves of dispossession and displacement. Against the backdrop of rapid change and instability shaking the new energy landscapes, rumors and conspiracy theories play an influential role in how energy projects have been developed, promoted and contested. 

Rather than seeing conspiracies as irrational impulses and wondering why people believe in them, this paper focuses on what conspiracies accomplish (or not) for their narrators socially and politically. Drawing on an ethnographic fieldwork on energy disputes and environmental activism in Turkish Black Sea, interviews with bureaucrats, business people and engineers the paper shows how conspiratorial performances, which may simultaneously be seen as everyday engagements with geopolitics, shape the political tone of the resistance and help its participants to perform a certain politics. Conspiracy theories embedded in these discussions, the paper argues, empower both the narrator and the audience by creating a community of informed skeptics who not only complain and document that they have been wronged but also know and articulate the mechanisms of the wrong doing and point to who the culprit is. In dialogue in social studies of energy infrastructures, while the paper argues for a co-constitutive link between competing cultures of energy and political power, it also points at the potential and limits of political communities formed by conspiracy theories. 


Sinan Erensü has recently completed a Keyman Postdoctoral Fellowship at the Buffett Institute for Global Studies at Northwestern University. He earned his Ph.D. degree in sociology at the University of Minnesota in 2016, his M.Phil degree in sociology at Cambridge University in 2006. Titled as Fragile Energy: Power, Nature and Politics of Infrastructure in the “New Turkey” his dissertation explores the political work energy infrastructures do in the twenty-first century Turkey. He is one of the co-editors of Türkiye’de Neoliberal Su-Enerji Politikaları ve Direnişleri (İletişim, 2016), and Isyanın ve Umudun Dip Dalgası: Günümüz Türkiyesi'nden Politik Ekoloji Tartışmaları (Tekin, 2016). He is currently working on a book manuscript, Authority in Concrete: Infrastructural Politics of Dispossession, addressing the growing sense of urgency surrounding the adequacy, appeal, and equity of public infrastructures. His research and teaching interests include political ecology and sociology, urban and rural studies, international development, social movements, and politics of dispossession. He is currently acting as Head of Research at Mekanda Adalet Derneği (MAD, Center for Spatial Justice). His work could be viewed atü.