Affective Resettlement and Sense of Place: Embodied Experiences of Infrastructural Developments in Hasankeyf Town, Turkey

Cansu Sonmez | PhD Researcher in Urban Studies and Regional Sciences, Gran Sasso Science Institute, Italy 

The paper analyses the struggles, vulnerabilities, and socio-ecologies of everyday life of the forcibly displaced and resettled inhabitants of Hasankeyf town in the wake of Ilisu dam as an infrastructural urban and regional development. Hasankeyf was an ancient and historical settlement in Batman City in contested South-eastern Turkey. A major part of the town has been submerged due to the construction of Ilisu dam in 2020. Most of the inhabitants of the town were displaced and resettled in the resettlement of Hasankeyf where the fieldwork takes place for this paper. The paper questions: how do displaced people with a particular emphasis on women reconstruct and deconstruct socio-ecological and socio-spatial relations among themselves and with other actors (State and non-State) and non-human neighbours (spatial and ecological entities such as the neighbourhood entities, animals, the river, historical heritages, graveyards, their housing infrastructure, gardens, livelihoods, and the dam itself). The paper explores the lived and embodied everyday life experiences and practices of primarily women by focusing on spatial, ecological, social, economic, and affectional ramifications in the life after displacement. By doing so, the paper contributes recently emerging literature of embodied feminist urban political ecology by focusing the concept of sense of place. A qualitative empirical study including body-mapping (cuerpo-territorio) method was carried out in old Hasankeyf town before the submergence and after in the resettlement of Hasankeyf. Preliminary findings suggest that displacement and gendered spatiality of the resettlement paved the way for the fortification of existing power structures of the patriarchy. In addition to the existing moral patriarchal geography of the region, the planned socio-spatial environment (such as the way that roads, marketplace, neighbourhoods, were planned) induced restrictions and limitations more for the lives of Muslim Kurdish and Arab women in terms of the social and ecological interactions, embodiment, and uncomfortable everyday encounters. Urbanisation of the water resources through the dam infrastructure led to wipe away the rural texture of everyday socio-ecological relationships, therefore, oustees who have stronger sense of place are struggling to adapt the new urban sense of place. Embodied experiences of displaced women and their interactions with the non-human neighbours especially with the gardens, animals, cultural gathering spaces and the river are affective and disarticulated.