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Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - IRI THESys

The green face of capitalism: Hydropower plant investments and neoliberal enclosures

Özge Can Doğmuş is a doctoral researcher at IRI THESys. She is enrolled at the Geography Department of the Humboldt-Universitat zu Berlin. Her main interest is commodification of the natural commons -i.e. water, land- and dispossession of locals under the guise of the green economy. Her research will focus on how, to what extent, and with what consequences for local lives neoliberal capitalism takes advantage of hydropower plant investments.

photo: Özge Can Doğmuş
Fig.: Özge Can Doğmuş

Over the last two decades, there has been a rapid increase in the number of hydropower plant projects in developing countries. Hydropower plants are portrayed as renewable, clean, cheap, and profitable. According to advocates of hydropower plant investments, these plants serve “greening” of the economy which means “growing without degrading the environment”. Therefore, building hydropower plants in order to generate energy which will mainly be used for production of more market goods has been promoted as a solution to ecological degradation. In developing countries, mainly, it is projected to be done by building many hydropower plants on the same river basin.

Hydropower projects promise a sustainable development. However, as a result, loss of land and loss of right to water are primary possible impacts of these projects. Visioning these projects as a green (or sustainable) development strategy, in other words as a solution to environmental degradation, might be only a cosmetic change of business as usual. It is because green developmentalism (or sustainable development argument) recast environmental problems as a result of market failures rather than as a result of the ideology behind never-ending growth. To put it another way, the green economy can be seen as continued capitalism providing neither improvement nor reformation of its central premise of continued growth leading to environmental degradation. Since ecological degradation is a result of existing production and distribution system, any so-called solution that does not bring about radical change to these cannot be considered truly alternative. Therefore, such an economic and political system does not really promise hope in a world with limited resources.

This doctoral project aims to explore green capitalism in order to understand the hydropower rush in developing countries. Green capitalism discussions embrace the discussion of sustainability and the neoliberalisation of nature. In this project, these discussions are linked with discussions of hegemony, possibilities of resistance, neoliberalisation of nature, and the role of the state.

Özge Can Doğmuş is a doctoral researcher at IRI THESys. She received her MSc degree in Global Social Change at the University of Edinburgh in 2014. Her dissertation was on neoliberal privatisation of water as commons with a focus on the case of hydropower plants in Turkey. Since August 2015, Özge is a part of IRI THESys Research Group on ‘Changing rural-urban linkages’ which is led by Jonas Østergaard Nielsen.

After receiving her bachelor degree, she worked in an environmental consultancy company for two years and took part in social impact assessments projects of various energy investments. Taking part in such projects allowed her to observe the impacts of these projects on locals closely. She also worked as a freelance field researcher (mostly as the team leader) for more than five years in many other projects, for instance, on child workers and domestic violence against women.

Research Group: Integrative Geography


photo: Özge Can Doğmuş
Photo: Anne Dombrowski


Özge Can Doğmuş, Doctoral Researcher
THESys Graduate Program
Phone: +49 (0)30 2093-66343
E-mail: dogmusoc@hu-berlin.de