UBC Faculty Research and Publications

Modernizing the Nation : Postcolonialism, (Post)development, and Ambivalent Spaces of Difference in Southeastern Turkey Harris, Leila


This paper advances recent conversations related to the need to better engage postcolonial scholarship in development geography. To do so, I bring together analytics offered by postdevelopmental, feminist geographic, and postcolonial scholarship to analyze contemporary development efforts in Southeastern Turkey. To provide necessary background for the case study context, the paper considers three key moments foundational for Turkish modernist development aspirations: the foundations of the Republic through Kemalism, the emergence of Kurdish separatism and PKK resistance, and Turkish efforts to gain entry to the EU. Reading these moments, and their culmination in contemporary development efforts focused on the southeastern Anatolia region, through postdevelopmental and feminist geographic literatures invites a reading that highlights socio-spatial difference as underwriting modernist development interventions in the Southeastern Anatolia region. Drawing on postcolonial scholarship, particularly Bhabha’s notion of ambivalence, further enables a reading of socio-spatial difference as also undermining Turkish modernist development, signaling precisely the points where the project comes undone. The example thus lends endorsement to the need for enriched engagement between postcolonial theory, feminist and development discussions in geography, suggesting that postcolonial concepts might enable clearer focus on the ambiguities, tensions, and contradictions inherent to development geographies.

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