Managing oil theft: Socio-material relations, debt, and disruption in Southeastern Turkey

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In the Kurdish-populated Southeastern Turkey, oil theft carried out by Kurdish villagers who live near the oilfields in Diyarbakir are sometimes criminalized. But often, the matter is resolved by the state-owned oil company’s engineers and technicians. This paper argues that rather than an exterior problem, oil theft and its management are central to the governance of the colonial and militarized petro-geographies of Turkey’s Northern Kurdistan. The governance of kaçak oil, I argue is a technology of rule that is predicated in a moral economy of debt, reciprocity, negotiation, and collaboration that reproduces state territoriality and sovereignty. Yet the relations around oil and oil infrastructures, not only operate as technologies of governance, but also become the means through which Kurdish villagers reappropriate such infrastructures through acts of misuse and sabotage, which in turn, expose the fragility of state power. In arguing so, this paper situates kaçak oil as a distinctively political commodity whose management both reinstates the contours of the sovereign state and proper citizenship as well as a site where Kurdish actors redefine the limits of colonial state power by refusing the relations of indebtedness imposed by a violently benevolent state.
Original languageEnglish
JournalJournal of Cultural Economy
Early online date23 Jan 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23 Jan 2023

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • colonialism
  • debt
  • moral economy
  • oil
  • Turkey


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