Tectonics of Development: The Cold War Politics of Spatial Expertise in Turkey

By Secil Binboga
Submitted to Session P4788 (Histories of Place Making in the Middle East, 2017 Annual Meeting
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In 1949, the IBRD (International Bank for Reconstruction and Development) accepted three of the loan projects submitted by the Turkish government. These projects, namely ‘the Toprak [soil], the Seyhan River and the Port’ constituted the three major areas of intervention for ‘the US mission to Turkey’ in the following decades of the Cold War period. Each of these projects seemed distinctive in terms of the nature and scale of expertise that it necessarily entailed. In this paper, however, I will look at them as orchestrated efforts to construct a regional enterprise, namely ‘the Çukurova region’, in accordance with the social scientific theories of an international project of modernization and development. In particular, I focus on the notion of ‘regional development’ and how it arose out of the policies initially enforced by the Marshall Plan (1948-1952).

Land was already commercialized in Çukurova as early as 1850s. And yet it was in the middle of the twentieth century when it became the very material and symbolic site of a 'scalar leap in extractive capacity' (Stiner et al. 2011) by means of infrastructural investments like the ‘Seyhan River Basin Development Project’ (1949-1956). Considering this scalar leap as an entry point to interfere with the history of spatial sciences and technologies in Turkey, this paper will explore how ‘the rural’ was envisioned as the prime site of experimentation for cultivating the technics of capitalist planning. I ask: what were the tools and terms by which ‘toprak’ was measured, calculated, and represented in the national planning rhetoric? How was the rural reconceptualized materially, politically and symbolically along with the rescaling of ‘toprak’?

Following these questions through the spatial rhetoric of regional planning as reflected in the expertise reports and correspondences of the Turkish planning institutions and international agencies of development, I examine the ways in which ‘toprak’ transformed into a laboratory for an emerging science of the rural. Locating the Çukurova region of Turkey in the broad epistemological framework of the historical geography of the Cold War (Farish 2010), this paper will be an attempt to contribute to the intersecting histories of regional planning, agro-industrial development, and spatial technology.

Farish, Matthew. The Contours of America's Cold War. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2010.
Stiner, Mary et al. “Scale,” in Shryock, Andrew, and Daniel Smail Deep History: The Architecture of Past and Present. University of California Press, Berkeley, 2012. 242-273.