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Keywords:

  • narcotics;
  • opium poppy;
  • oral history;
  • political ecology;
  • Turkey

abstract.

Cultivated in the Eastern Mediterranean region for millennia, the opium poppy (Papaver somniferum) was profoundly significant in the economies, ecologies, cultures, and diets of the peoples of many towns and villages of rural Anatolia. When the United States compelled Turkey to eradicate cultivation of the plant in the early 1970s in order to diminish the flow of heroin into America, farmers were obliged to deal with not only changes in their incomes but also profound changes in their relationships with the land and the state. Although Turkish officials later allowed production to resume in a highly controlled manner for pharmaceutical purposes, significant socioeconomic and ecological dimensions of Turkey's poppy-growing communities were forever changed. Interviewing now-retired poppy farmers, I employ oral history as my primary source of historical evidence to reconstruct these past ecologies and associated social relationships and to give voice to the informants.