"Poppies Are Democracy!" A Critical Geopolitics of Opium Eradication and Reintroduction in Turkey
Evered, Kyle T., The Geographical Review
This article addresses experiences of opium poppy eradication and reintroduction in early-1970s Turkey from a critical geopolitics perspective and as informed by oral history interviews collected from now-retired poppy farmers. A subfield of political geography, critical geopolitics emerged in the early 19903 and drew upon key works from both critical theory and alternatives to realism in international relations research (Ashley 1984,1987; Campbell 1988; Walker 1987,1988). As such, seminal critical geopolitics scholarship engaged especially in critiques of state-centered, positivist traditions within and beyond political geography (O Tuathail 1989,1996; Dalby 1991; Dodds and Sidaway 1994). The subfield's common research themes thus far include studies of geopolitical discourse as reflected in: official narratives and ideas associated with institutions, policymakers, and the conduct of international and other politics; scholarly, journalistic, and other sources that seek to inform policymakers; and popular media and culture (for example, Dalby 1996; Sharp 2000; Dalby 2002; Gregory 2004; Smith 2004; Debrix 2007; Dittmer 2010). Moreover, as with Simon Dalby'& Environmental Security (2002). critical geopolitics offers one avenue for bringing together the otherwise "distinctly separate tracks" of scholarship once found in political ecology and political geography (Robbins 2003, 641).
Although considerable work within critical geopolitics has thus far addressed imbalances conveyed in official, academic, and popular media through a privileging of particular narratives and frames of analysis, the subfield can benefit from an unearthing and bringing to light of alternative geopolitical perspectives as found among otherwise marginalized populations. Indeed, this is one way of moving toward a more "progressive geopolitics." In outlining the steps toward this alternative beyond geopolitics as merely an examination--and reaffirmation--of "violent relations between states," Gerry Kearns observed, 'The first would be through a critique of existing theory and the other would be by redirecting our attention towards neglected practices, and critical geopolitics is now well established at least in the first of these respects'' (2008,1600-1601). Both incorporating "neglected" voices and reorienting our geopolitical focus accordingly, methodologies such as ethnography and oral history provide a means for identifying alternative voices and reimagining political options.
Employing the early-1970s case of the United States' first "war on drugs," in this article I examine the geopolitics of both the eradication and the reintroduction of opium poppies in Turkey. Although various histories dealt with U.S. antinarcotics policies involving Turkey and Turkish experiences with poppy eradication and re-introduction as matters either of Turkish-U.S. foreign affairs or of populism within Turkey (Zentner 1973; Wishart 1974; Spain 1975; Altindal 1979; Erhan 1996; Uslu 2003), local-scale connections emphasized in this study make it unique. In my research, I supplemented both archival and secondary sources with oral histories collected during a four-week period in the summer 2009 from forty retirees (twenty men and twenty women, with ages ranging from fifty five to eighty six years at the time of the interviews). Informants lived and worked as poppy farmers during the ban and in the years following its reversal. Their interviews and this study are part of a wider, multiyear research project devoted to the cultural and political ecologies and geopolitics of opium poppies in Turkey. As a geographical research method; oral history is of particular utility for reconstructing past societal and nature-society relationships, processes, and events and for analyzing the ways in which collective memories of particular experiences continue to be operative politically and otherwise (Perramond 2001; Robbins 2010; Evered 2011).
Through its incorporation of first person accounts, this study moves beyond exploring the U.S. and Turkish political rhetoric of the period to analyzing how farmers experienced antinarcotics policies and how they remember associated events and outcomes today. It thus renders a better understanding of the diffusion of U.S. antinarcotics policies into the Anatolian countryside and among its communities and the enduring impressions that the U.S. and Turkish governments created. (1) As such, this article not only gives voice to those first targeted in the "war on drugs," it also speaks more broadly to sentiments of anti-Americanism in Turkey and the region and informs the present conduct of antinarcotics policymaking.
THE UNITED STATES' "War on DRUGS" and Turkey
U.S. consternation over narcotics consumption began well before the 1970s "war on drugs" declaration. Indeed, agendas for control date to the nineteenth century and have reflected through time continuities and connections with both the country's prohibition movement and its racial politics (Ahmad 2007). Notably, such agendas contrasted strikingly with early U.S. involvements in international opium trade--for example, as facilitated by many New England clipper ships. Since the early twentieth century the United States has played a significant role in early efforts toward institutionalizing international regimes of narcotics control. This commitment was evident at the February 1909 Shanghai meeting of the International Opium Commission, with the International Opium Convention of 1912, and with the 1931 Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs, as facilitated through the League of Nations (Booth 1998, 175-190; Musto 1999).
During World War II efforts toward international control diminished initially, but momentum had resumed by 1943. In this context, Great Britain and the Netherlands began to contemplate a postwar curbing of opiate production and consumption in their Asian territories. In these pre-1970s efforts, which spanned the transition from the Ottoman era to the republican era, Turkey was a local point in attempts to restrict producing regions. In association with European intentions for a postwar order, as early as September 1944 U.S. officials engaged with Turkish authorities. In correspondence from the U.S. embassy in Ankara, Ambassador Laurence Steinhardt wrote of Allied intentions, the above-noted developments, and the purported Japanese source of Asia's opium problem. Specific to Turkey and to a postwar arrangement, he indicated that the United States hoped "Turkey and all opium-producing countries would] be willing to participate in a conference which is expected to be held after the war for the purpose of drafting a suitable poppy limitation convention, preparations for which were undertaken several years ago by the Opium Advisory Committee" (USDOS 1945. 63).
On 14 May 1945 Turkey's Ministry of Foreign Affairs sent a response to this initiative that recalled commitments to international efforts since as early as 1932--when Turkey ratified adherence to the 1931 Convention for Limiting the Manufacture and Regulating the Distribution of Narcotic Drugs--and expressed both interest in such a conference and concern regarding equality in applying any resulting international standards. In doing so, the ministry further articulated clearly its apprehensions about how such measures might unfairly impact both local cultivators' incomes and ecologies and those states that were expected to enforce controls. In particular, it noted the ecological circumstances of Anatolian peasants in terms of their economic and dietary dependence on the poppy and the absolute lack of alternatives (USDOS 1945,69). This issue of the local cultivator--and the fact that Turkey was still a largely agrarian country with a ruling party that relied on its rural electorate-continued to limit Turkish compliance with demands for absolute bans as articulated by the United States in the late 1960s and early 1970s (on pre-ban ecologies, sec Evered 2011).
The United States persisted in its engagement of Turkey on the question of opiates from that time through the administration of Lyndon B. Johnson, …
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Publication information: Article title: "Poppies Are Democracy!" A Critical Geopolitics of Opium Eradication and Reintroduction in Turkey. Contributors: Evered, Kyle T. - Author. Journal title: The Geographical Review. Volume: 101. Issue: 3 Publication date: July 2011. Page number: 299+. © 1998 American Geographical Society. COPYRIGHT 2011 Gale Group.
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