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Environmentalism of the malcontent: anatomy of an anti-coal power plant struggle in Turkey

Arsel, Murat, Akbulut, Bengi, Adaman, Fikret
The Journal of peasant studies 2015 v.42 no.2 pp. 371-395
activists, coal, consciousness, development projects, environmental impact, motivation, peasantry, politics, power plants
This paper introduces the concept of the ‘environmentalism of the malcontent’ to characterise a type of environmental activism that is increasingly common in Turkey. It illustrates its argument by analysing the resistance movement against the proposed Gerze coal power plant. By so doing, it problematises the relationship between class and environmental consciousness as well as the ability of the existing literature to accurately characterise the underlying motivation of movements against development projects. It shows that the mobilisation in Gerze was not rooted only or primarily in environmental concerns but animated by disaffection with, among other things, neoliberal developmentalism, disregard of democratic policy-making and violent suppression of societal dissent by the state. ‘Environmentalism of the malcontent’ describes the way in which long-lasting dissatisfaction with broader processes marking the development trajectory of the country combined with personal experience in radical political action enabled a group of urban, mostly retired, residents of Gerze to successfully collaborate with peasant activists against the construction of the power plant by deploying arguments regarding its potential negative environmental impact.