Field Research and  gatherings, Doctorate Research / Adana, Mersin, İstanbul / in collab. with Nöbetçi Kütüphane / project assistant: Arda Aslan / Supported by EU CultureCIVIC Grassroots Grants in 2022 

Mahsul, yield in English, is an originally Arabic word used in Turkish. It is derived from the root “produce” and it means “produced, product or result”. Mahsul Project focuses on Çukurova, the delta plain on the southern coast of Turkey that has drastically changed over the last century. Mahsul aims to examine this agrarian development through the different meanings and networks of Mahsul that is present in the Çukurova.

The main driver of the agrarian transformation of region have been associated with colonial aspirations of the former Ottoman Empire and modernisation ideals of the current nation state, Republic of Turkey. Various interventions and projects like the railway line, the cotton colonies, factories, water dam and power plants were realized. Mahsul Project aims to trace the starting points of these interventions and their environmental and cultural consquences effecting the landscape and human-land relationships.

The project process can be followed on website.

Photo 1: My mother, aunties and uncles in the cotton field where they worked during the summer, 1986, Karaisalı, Turkey
Photo 2: My father working in the field where young olive trees and pomegranates grow, 2015, Karaisalı, Turkey

Diagram:  Preliminary research sketches

Mahsul asks: How many crops can grow on the same soil? What is the connection of the railways, the dam, the factories and the power plants that have grown on the same soil as the other crops over the last two hundred years? How these infrastuctures evolved and given rise to other yields, industrial farming routines, microclimatic changes, urban-rural identities and new semi-natural landscapes?

To explore these questions, the Mahsul Project aims to assemble a field research exploring the past and current urban and rural landscape through field trips and archival research. Adding to that, it aims to initiate a dialogue through series of field meetings in the region involving regional agricultural producers of different sizes, the people associated with the agriculturral industry, the inhabitants interconnecting rural and urban landscapes, and the memories that record this evolution.

Through this dialogue, Mahsul aims to create a collection of observations, answers and critiques on the transformation addressed. Also the dialogue will serve as a collective memory and an oral historiography that gathers people, their experiences and memories representing the different inheritances of the agrarian transformation the region experienced.

All  the encounters of these field visits will be recorded in the interactive Mahsul Archive. The website will function like a research diary that will also create a network of research foundings, new questions and connections linked to the land, agrarian developments, ideologies behind them, their influence on the human-land relationship and their other tangible and intangible artefacts.

Mahsul Project will be on the ground first in winter 2022 and spring 2023. In addition to field explorations and meetings, the Mahsul project will organise a series of public meetings and gatherings in Adana in collaboration with Nöbetçi Kütüphane, a local initiative dedicated to creating spaces for critical and creative encounters.

Considered public meetings and gatherings for 2022 Winter

Mahsul Field Meetings: Mahsul Project goes to the field and analyses the reflections of the agrarian transformation on landscape and culture. It aims to meet with local producers who produce at different scales. In these meetings, answers are sought together to the following questions: What kind of rural-urban everyday routines were generated through the agrarian development? What kind of ecological impact the tangible interventions caused in long term? How the human-land bond were transformed in Çukurova? The visit records will be presented at the Mahsul Archive.

Mahsul Lectures:
As part of the Mahsul project, the lectures will trace the evolving agricultural industry, the outcomes influenced the ecology and the landscape They will highlight various topics, from the Ottoman Empire’s attempts at modernization with railroads and cotton colonies, to off-center exercises of the Republican Modernisation such as the “National” factories, Seyhan Dam energy plant, to today’s crises and strategies. The lectures will be open to the public and will be held with Nöbetçi Kütüphane in Adana. Digital records of the lectures will be presented at Mahsul Archive.

Mahsul Reading Club: The reading list is shaped by the social realist novels of Yaşar Kemal and Orhan Kemal, which testify to the transformation of geography. Together with the text by Armenian author Zabel Yaseyan on the genocidal interventions, the readings reflects the social and environmental transformation that geography has undergone. The sessions will explore the potential critical view inherent to these books between history writing and story telling. Also the club will initiate series of memory exercises by following the narratives of selected literature. Thorugh this exercises the club will gather family memories, archival materials from the periods that the texts illuminate. The materials gathered will be presented on the Mahsul Archive.

The project is developed by Dilşad Aladağ in 2021 and supported by the CultureCIVIC Grasroots Project Grants in 2022. The local collaborator of Mahsul will be İsmet Aladağ, a local farmer and Nöbetçi Kütüphane, a local initiative. The project assistant is Arda Aslan, an architecture student from Istanbul Technical University.


Initiated by Goethe-Institut Istanbul, Anadolu Kültür, Istanbul Foundation for Culture and Arts (İKSV), Institut français de Turquie, and Danish Cultural Institute in Turkey, and in collaboration with the Embassy of the Netherlands in Turkey, CultureCIVIC is a European Union project that aims to foster civil society involvement in the field of arts and culture.