Date of Award

12-2007

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Major

Sociology

Major Professor

Sherry Cable

Committee Members

Jon Shefner, Harry F. Dahms, John Nolt

Abstract

This study explores and analyzes the grassroots movement against goldmining in the villages of Bergama, Turkey. The struggle of Bergama villagers started out as a local ecological resistance movement in the early 1990s and gradually transformed into an environmental justice movement with national implications when activists adopted a rights-based discourse by incorporating into their claims the notions of justice, democratic participation, and citizenship rights.

Since goldmining investment in Bergama was a manifestation of significant shifts in the global corporate mining industry starting in the 1980s, and of changes in the world political economy, an account of these shifts is presented as the global political-economic background for the grassroots resistance movement in Bergama. This global perspective is complemented by an account of the domestic socio-economic and political context in which the Bergama villagers’ resistance movement unfolded.

The study employs two reference frames for the conceptual and theoretical analysis of the Bergama villagers’ movement. The Environmental Justice Movement (EJM) Literature is reviewed for conceptual clues pertaining to the transformation process of the movement under investigation. As the theoretical reference frame, the New Social Movements (NSM) approach to contemporary social movements is employed in an attempt to assess the applicability of this theoretical approach to the resistance movement of Bergama villagers, as well as the EJM in the United States.

NSM theories are inadequate in explaining these movements. Based on the weaknesses of the NSM and the similarities identified between the Bergama villagers’ movement and the EJM, I assert that a new approach to theorizing social movements, which takes as its point of departure these similarities, is necessary. I argue that such an approach will guide not only social movement scholars in understanding ecological grassroots movements in the global North and South but also movement activists in their struggle for social change. In contrast, an exclusive focus on the distinctions between the ecological grassroots movements in the global South, on the one hand, and in the North, on the other, based merely on their economic and cultural differences, will be counter-productive in challenging the systemic root causes of ecological problems plaguing the people of the world today.

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