Middle East Section
Oral Presentation Session
Now known as the ‘deadliest industrial disaster in modern Turkish history,’ the Soma Mining Disaster of May 13, 2014 took place in the town of Soma in Aegean Turkey, the result of an explosion in the Eynezopen-pit lignite coalmine. Three hundred and one miners died from carbon monoxide poisoning or from being burned alive. On the one hand, many actors have established causal links between the disaster and neoliberal structural adjustment in the Turkish energy and agricultural sectors implemented by the Justice and Development Party governments from 2002 onwards. Neoliberalization under the JDP has accelerated a rural transformation in the province, turning it from a well-established agricultural community to one of impoverished wage earners, many of whom have had to abandon (completely or partially) agriculture and seek jobs in coalmines. On the other hand, the secularist elite–who have been strong critics of JDP’s Sunni Islam-oriented discourse and policies–has postulated causal links between the disaster and the expanding voter base of the JDP in Soma, implying that the victims are also the causes of their own suffering. In this paper, I focus on the ways in which coal miners experience ‘work’ as both embodied and ideological, within the confines of this context. I explore how what I call ‘mutilation anxiety’–the fear of losing one’s labor-power by mutilation of limbs and organs that maintain one’s labor-power–manifests itself through subjective experiences of work. I argue that these manifestations differ depending on the coal miner’s migration background, ethnic identity and attributes of masculinity.