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Struggles for environmental commons are often framed as “resource conflicts” in the literature. This framing of non-human/environmental entities as resources, though, is increasingly challenged by the “already existing” (Thomas 2015) relational ontologies and ethical practices of indigenous and/or rural communities, and by their grassroots environmental struggles that reflect those ontologies and practices. Based on an ethnographical research on local community struggles against run-of-river hydroelectrical power plants (HEPPs) in the East Black Sea Region of Turkey, this paper aims to demonstrate the limitation of the “resource” frame in explaining the grievances of environmentally dispossessed communities and their motivations to fight against it. Doing so, I will discuss how and why rivers are more than “natural resources” for the rural communities of the region maintaining non-human life and entities as integral not only to the umwelt (environment, surroundings), but also to the lebenswelt (lifeworld). By connecting phenomenology with ecological thought the paper underscores the constitutive role of non-human beings in the making of sociality, identity and embodied subjectivity.
Dr. Özge Yaka is currently an Alexander von Humboldt PSI fellow at the Centre for Citizenship, Religious Diversity and Social Pluralism, Universität Potsdam. She has received her PhD in Sociology from Lancaster University and has awarded with several research fellowships in Germany and France. Her research interests include social and environmental movements, theories of justice, critical and feminist theory, phenomenology, body and subjectivity. She is a member of Global Young Academy (GYA) and Academics for Peace Germany Network. She is also engaged with Turkish and Middle Eastern politics and organizes discussions and lectures on social movements, contention, protest and war in the region both in and beyond the academic context.