I have an interdisciplinary educational background from Political Science and International Relations Department of Bogazici University, Istanbul; Lund University Center for Asian Studies and Centre of Excellence for Integration of Social and Natural Dimensions of Sustainability (LUCID). I have worked in interdisciplinary teams on issues such as environmental politics, transboundary water governance, human security, water and land rights, social movements and neoliberalism.
Currently, I carry out two research projects:
- Ecological citizen and right to the city movements in Turkey and Spain (Project Unrepresentables): This is a three-year postdoc project which has been awarded a research and mobility grant from Swedish Research Council (VR) until 2018. Project is going to be carried out in collaboration with scholars in Autonoma University of Barcelona and Manchester University. The purpose of this project is to produce a comparative study of right to the city movements by analyzing the re-politicization of the citizens engaged in Spain’s Indignados movement and Turkey’s Gezi movement. Despite the large diversity of scholarly explanations of social movements revolving around different societal issues in the Middle East, North Africa and Europe, little has been said about the repercussions that politicization can have on our understanding of citizenship. Firstly, the project aims at analyzing how processes of urban and ecological re-politicization feature in Spain’s Indignados and Turkey’s Gezi Movement. Both movements became landmarks of contemporary socio-ecological struggles manifesting themselves as mobilizations against urban transformation. The struggles targeted mega-projects that were leading to enclosure of urban/rural commons, but at the same time they also created ruptures, generating spaces of hope, cooperation, and the reclamation of right to the city against market-oriented developmentalism. Secondly, the project aims at exploring the concept of ecological citizenship. The new concept of ecological citizenship has emerged from critiques of liberal democracy, highlighting the limited degree of citizen participation in areas that generate ecological problems, e.g. decisions about consumption, investment strategies, production and technology. From this perspective, the reconstruction of citizenship as ecological citizenship underlines the responsibilities and obligations of the citizen in the framework of a sustainable society and in relation to unrepresented or underrepresented collectives(Valencia Saiz 2000: 191). As such project also represents an expansion of political space and participation.
- Rivers of Commons: A study on the sustainability of community-run hydropower development in Nepal . This is a short term LUCID and SSEESS research links funded project. The main scope of the project concerns with the access to renewable energy and the ways in which community-run renewable energy production work. As argued in the LUCID PhD work ‘Private Rivers’, if hydropower is owned and managed by private investors in ill-regulated property rights system, it may create negative impacts on water and land rights, environment and rural livelihoods. The project ‘Rivers of Commons’, aims to provide alternatives and counter narratives to business-as-usual energy governance (either state or market-run) by comparing it with the case of Nepalese community-run hydropower development. Analyzing the central role of communities in micro-hydro development in Nepal and its impacts on participation, environment, rural livelihoods as well as water and land rights, project’s objective is to show whether or not decentralized resource management in renewable energy can be one of the pathways towards a more participatory sustainable energy development.
- Other current research activities:
During 2014, I act as an IPBES expert (Intergovermental Panel on Biodiversity and Ecosystem services) on behalf of Turkish Ministry of Environment. In several expert meetings, I evaluate and discuss ecosystem-value understanding in depth and concerning various regions in Eastern Europe with other scholars and experts.
Since 2013, I have been part of the coordinating team of European Union FP-7 Project, GLOBIS where we have conducted an interdisciplinary analysis on the interlinkages between sustainability and globalization as well as have ensured interactive dialogue and cooperation between Swedish, French and German project partners.
In my thesis “Private Rivers: Politics of Renewable Energy and the Rise of Water Struggles in Turkey”, I offer diverse conceptualizations of values and rights of water and land in the case of hydropower development in Anatolia. I emphasize the importance of understanding urban rural interdependencies and how urban needs such as energy depends highly on different uses of land and water systems in rural areas. This thesis has gained recognition as one of the first works focusing on the privatization of renewable hydropower and water rights controversies in Turkey, from several development institutions and policy circles such German Development Institute (DIE) and United Nations Development Programme.
In my PhD project, As part of my research strategy, I have prioritized to publish in interdisciplinary arenas and used visual methodologies to communicate field-based research such as producing a short movie about controversies around water rights in Turkey. See the film based on my PhD research project that explores the flowing politics of renewable energy in the villages of Turkey. What happens to rural life and to the rights of people and nature when parts of a river system are privatized? Who owns the water?: Rivers and Struggles
I have four years teaching experience which I contributed to the social science perspectives on the master courses in the programme of Environmental and Sustainability Studies of Lund University (LUMES) and Center for Asian Studies. Among many others, I taught on contemporary social theory including theories of state, feminist approaches, green state, governmentality, environmentality; political ecology; environmental justice and recognition, participatory governance, governance of commons, water rights; qualitative methodology especially on discourse analysis, focus groups and interview methods. I have also advised several master level theses on the issues of participation, renewable energy transitions, transboundary water governance, water access in peri-urban areas and mining conflicts and resource rights.
Papers and publications
Islar, M and Boda, C (2014) Political ecology of inter-basin water transfers in Turkish water governance. Ecology and Society 19 (4).
Harris, L. and Islar, M. (2014). Neoliberalism, nature and changing modalities of environmental governance in contemporary Turkey. In Yildiz Atasoy (ed.) Global Economic Crisis and the Politics of Diversity, London & New York: Palgrave MacMillan.
Islar, M. (2013) Beyond the classroom: Social movements and citizenship education in Turkey.Presented at the Changing notions of citizenship- Past, Present and Future, 26-29November 2013 at Lund University, organized by SIDA, VR and SwedishInstitute.
Islar, M. (2013). Private Rivers: Politics of renewable energy development and the rise of water struggles in Turkey. Ph.D. Thesis, Lund University.
Ozerol, G., Ozen, A and Islar, M. (2013) Translating Integrated Water Resources Management to Turkish: The Case of Public Participation in Water Management. In de Boer, C., Vinke-de Kruijf, J., Özerol, G. and H. Bressers (eds.), Water Governance, Policy and Knowledge Transfer: International Studies on Contextual Water Management, Earthscan (Taylor & Francis Group).
Islar, M. (2012) Struggles for recognition: Privatization of Water Use Rights of Turkish Rivers. Local environment: The international journal of justice and sustainability. 17 (3): 317-329.
Islar, M. (2012) Privatised hydropower development in Turkey:A case of water grabbing? Water Alternatives 5(2): 376-391
Islar, M. (2011) Rivers and Struggles: Water rights movements in Turkey. Presented at the International Conference of the European Society for Ecological Economics, June 14-17, 2011 at Bogaziçi University, Istanbul.
Nastar. M, Islar, M. (2011) Decentralization: Resolve or Hide the Problem? Presented at IASC conference, Hyderabad, India 2011
Islar, M. (2010) Privatized Rivers of Turkey: The Case of Yuvarlakcay, paper presented at the Berlin Conference on Human Dimensions of Global Environmental Change., 8-9 October 2010, Berlin.
Islar, M. (2010) Unsustainable Environments: The Case of River Privatization. Presented at Brief Environmental History of Neoliberalism Conference in Lund.
Islar, M. (2009) Crisis of Water: Interrogating Neo-Liberal Water Discourses in Turkey. Presented at Third IIPPE International Research Workshop. Available from: