In this episode, I am hosting Ezgican Özdemir. We will talk about the symbolic meanings ascribed to water and infrastructures in Northern Cyprus, which also includes gendered imageries of motherhood. Ezgi conducted impressive fieldwork on the water pipelines transferring water from Turkey to Northern Cyprus.

Ezgi will make a compelling case for these symbolic meanings as an important lens through which locals understand the dependent and unequal relations between Northern Cyprus and Turkey. She will also explain how such symbolic meanings play an important role in mediating the daily life experiences of living under a de-facto state that remains unrecognized by the international community to this day.

Today, Ezgi will present us a small part of her Ph.D. research, focusing on two important sets of symbolic meanings ascribed to water and infrastructure.

At the heart of the first set of symbolic meanings lies water as a gift. This particular symbol is cemented with the gendered imageries of a mother nourishing its child via an umbilical cord which signals the water pipeline carrying water from "motherland" (Turkey) to the "babyland" (Northern Cyprus).  Ezgi will demonstrate how such symbols have been reproduced by officials from Turkey and Northern Cyprus as well as by locals who utilize the symbols in depicting Turkey as the “unconditional caregiver”. The metaphor of the umbilical cord also played an important role in reiterating ethnic and kin relations with Turkey. 

Ezgi argues that the second set of symbolic meanings have emerged especially after it became clearer that water was not a gift and that Turkey was not providing unconditional care. She details how Turkey has imposed a privatization deal on the pipeline which states that Northern Cyprus has an obligation to purchase water, but that Turkey does not have an obligation to supply water. After the privatization deal surfaced, water and infrastructure also started to represent the lack of sovereignty felt by many.

Ezgi is a Ph.D. candidate at the Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology at CEU. For her MA degree, also at CEU, she conducted research on identity politics, the anthropology of the body and image, and cultural politics in the Turkish context. She now pursues her doctoral research on water politics, infrastructure, and the anthropology of state and sovereignty in Northern Cyprus. Her dissertation explores the socio-political implications of a newly built Turkish state-sponsored water pipeline project that runs beneath the Mediterranean Sea and provides clean water resources to the internationally unrecognized polity of the Turkish Republic of Northern Cyprus (TRNC).

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