Bilgen, Arda: Demystifying the (post-)politics of Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) : An analysis of the what, why, and how of GAP and the operation of development in Turkey from a critical perspective. - Bonn, 2017. - Dissertation, Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn.
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author = {{Arda Bilgen}},
title = {Demystifying the (post-)politics of Southeastern Anatolia Project (GAP) : An analysis of the what, why, and how of GAP and the operation of development in Turkey from a critical perspective},
school = {Rheinische Friedrich-Wilhelms-Universität Bonn},
year = 2017,
month = jul,

note = {Turkey’s modernization process has been heavily influenced by the strong will and idealistic ambition of the Turkish state to ensure progress and development since the inception of the country in 1923, or even earlier, since the first modernization attempts of the Ottoman Empire in the 19th century. Elevating the whole nation to the level of “contemporary civilizations,” which was perceived as the level and standards of the West, and ensuring integration and homogenization in political, economic, social, and cultural spheres at the national level have been indispensable principles of this process. For this reason, dispersing the population and services throughout the country and reducing the long-standing disparities between inner and coastal as well as eastern and western regions have also been crucial for the state to fulfill its regional policy and modernization goals and objectives.
Even though a wide range of modernizing reforms and development policies were implemented and many development plans, programs, and projects were formulated to this end since the 1920s, arguably Southeastern Anatolia Project (Güneydoğu Anadolu Projesi, GAP) has been the most ambitious and sensational project in this regard. GAP was initiated in long “underdeveloped” Southeastern Anatolia Region–or GAP region–in the 1970s as a technical project primarily to produce energy and irrigate lands through constructing plenty of dams and hydroelectric power plants on Euphrates and Tigris. In time, however, the focus, scope, and character of GAP have undergone significant changes and the project has evolved into a bolder scheme to reorder and transform the political, social, economic, and cultural landscape of GAP region and reshape the mindset and behaviors of its local population.
Even though the advancement of GAP increased the influence of the project on GAP region and led to positive development outcomes such as increase in agricultural production and per capita income over time, it also led to controversy, unintended consequences, and contestation on different fronts. The mismatch of visions, aspirations, and expectations between the architects of GAP and the local population never ceased to exist. The negative environmental and social impacts and drawbacks of the project were also subjected to wide criticism. Despite these, the project was not only constantly redefined, repackaged, and reintroduced as a solution to socio-economic and socio-political problems of GAP region, but also given a “special” or “untouchable” status that prevented the questioning of its rationale, raison d’etre, modus operandi, and similar deeper and often overlooked aspects. Also, GAP was rarely examined in the light of critical development approaches and especially the concept of depoliticization, both of which question the “neutral” and “non-political” nature of development and concentrate on contestation and power relations created or altered by development. Discursive constructions and perceptions of the architects of GAP and their implications were also largely overlooked. The project remained mostly unpacked and many questions as to what it used to be in the past, has recently become, and would look like in the future; why it was initiated; and how it was initiated remained uncontested in the literature.
This study fills this important research gap and examines through what kind of discursive and material practices politicians, bureaucrats, experts, intellectuals, and other elite groups of the Turkish state have shaped the design and implementation of GAP. Based on written and spoken texts on GAP such as parliamentary proceedings between 1975 and 2014, archival resources of GAP Regional Development Administration, and 64 semi-structured interviews with the representatives of various governmental and non-governmental institutions, the study examines GAP’s rationale, vocabulary, assumptions, constructions, and mechanisms. In the theoretical guidance of critical development approaches and depoliticization and methodological guidance of post-positivist discourse analysis and qualitative content analysis methods, the study demystifies the project and demonstrates how it could remain rarely problematized and retain its “sanctified” position, which was supposedly “above” and “beyond” politics. Finally, based on the empirical findings, the study introduces and discusses a number of illuminating inferences on the concept of development in general and GAP in particular.
The study comprises eight chapters that are subdivided into four parts. The first part, “Introduction,” comprises the introduction chapter followed by the theoretical framework and methodology of the study (Chapter 1, 2, & 3). The second part, “Background and Literature Review,” comprises one chapter (Chapter 4) and provides the history of modernization and development efforts of the Turkish state since the Ottoman period in the 19th century, distinct characteristics of Southeastern Anatolia Region, and a comprehensive and systematic literature review on GAP. The third part, “Empirical Analysis,” comprises three chapters that examine the historical trajectory of GAP and oscillations in its governance since its inception (Chapter 5); what kind of sources gave impetus to the initiation of GAP and how it has been rationalized in more than four decades (Chapter 6); and the sources and forms of depoliticization in the overall GAP framework and how GAP and depoliticization have related to each other (Chapter 7). The fourth part, “Conclusion,” comprises one concluding chapter (Chapter 8) that summarizes the study, identifies the major inferences drawn from the study about development and GAP, explains the implications of the study on GAP and development practice, and points to future research directions that can complement the study and initiate new research avenues in the relevant literature.},

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