Ecology, the Accumulation of Capital, and Dispossession in Late Ottoman Western Anatolia
Akgül, Önder Eren
This dissertation is an entangled history of capitalism, environment, and labor in Western Anatolia—the rural hinterland of the Ottoman Empire’s major commercial port city of Izmir—between the 1850s and 1910s. Focusing on two environmental scales—lowland plains and valleys and mountain forests—this dissertation illustrates how local, regional, imperial, and global capitalists employed a set of technologies to appropriate nature and subordinate labor into the circuit of capital during a moment of mounting global and local markets, the subsequent expansion of commodity production in the region, and fiscal crisis in the Ottoman Empire. It examines two economic spaces as case studies: landed estates known as çiftliks that were owned by capitalist land entrepreneurs; and forest tracts, over which capitalist entrepreneurs secured control and exploitation rights via concessions auctioned by the state. Drawing upon Ottoman, Turkish, and British archival sources, this dissertation traces the two main processes that marked the local trajectory of accumulation and dispossession, and development of capitalist relations of exploitation in the region’s lowland and highland environments: the primitive accumulation of rural commons and capital, and the subsumption of labor—and hence nature—into capital.This dissertation understands the massive enclosures of land and forest commons by capitalist land and forest entrepreneurs, and the consequent production of environments of dispossession in this particular epoch of history in Western Anatolia as an Ottoman phase of primitive accumulation of capital, showing how the characteristics of this process were shaped by Ottoman institutions, existing hierarchies, and the trajectory of agrarian capitalism’s evolution in its geography. It also demonstrates that capitalist actors relied on existing forms of labor and patterns of production—such as small peasant family labor-based production in the lowlands and village and community-based forest labor in the highlands—in order to generate profitable patterns of accumulation. The forms of labor that the process of capital accumulation reproduced aimed to produce nature as a site of accumulation and resource exploitation, and the different technologies used in different environments (lowlands and highlands) reflected the articulation of capitalism into different ecologies. Overall, this dissertation shows how an Ottoman variety of capitalism developed at the intersection of local ecological contingencies, imperial fiscal crisis, and the expansion of global commodity markets.
Embargo Lift Date
MetadataShow full item record
Showing items related by title, author, creator and subject.
The Mountains are Ours: Ecology and Settlement in Late Ottoman and Early Republican Cilicia, 1856-1956 Gratien, Christopher (Georgetown University, 2015)During its last century, the Ottoman Empire witnessed dramatic changes in settlement patterns due to migration, sedentarization, and the ascendance of commercial agriculture. Out of this process emerged new relationships ...