"Can continents have a history as continents? Let us not confuse politics, history and geography, especially not in the case of these shapes on the pages of atlases, which are not natural geographical units, but merely human names for parts of the global land-mass. Moreover, it has been clear from the beginning, that is to say ever since antiquity when the continents of the Old World were first baptized, that these names were intended to have more than a mere geographical significance...

Eric Hobsbawm, On History, 1997


Question No:1 [apropos of Hobsbawm]: Can one write a History of Asia (minor)?

Botany Carcinoma


The rivers and streams are frequently have deep cuts on the high plains. The ancient roads connecting cities are mostly built along usually mild but sometimes wilder flows of water across mountains. In addition to large-scale construction projects, the topography of Eastern Anatolia was altered by many stone quarries and other effects of strip mining, like the random scars on the hills. Once the gentle slope of a barren hill is cut and slowly eaten away, it is easier to grasp the geological timescale that the natural topography sculpted during millions of years. In a similar process, but in a somewhat shorter duration, the waters incise the earth to form a deep valley, a canyon or a gorge. However, one sees the similar topographic pattern for a highway passage done within a matter of months: thousands of tons of rock crushed and taken away, and this in the ancient lands of the old world. Although it is not slave labor that got things done of this magnitude today, the roar of thousands of machines to crush, move and to compact the rocks and earth is on a par with the dust generated by building the monuments of antiquity.

Botany Carcinoma


When it comes to naming of plants, the geographical location and circumstances play a major role. The names of endemic plants of greater Anatolia take their cues from the location (orchis anatolica), or from mountains (alchemilla kackarensis; elymus tauri), or from cities (verbascun artvinense; gypsophila bitlisensis; isatis erzurumica; allium karsienum; salix trabzonica), or yet from other characteristics of their specific locations in Anatolia (Querqus volcanica; Thymus cratericola; Anthemis calcarea) Link. The Latin genus names for the classification of flora serve a distinct purpose in science, but nevertheless keep us at a distance: we tend to appreciate wild plants with their photogenic looks and as the metaphor for the hardship and regeneration of nature in a distressed land.

Botany Carcinoma


Nationalistic-religious hysteria took the world by surprise, and arrested people in a state of shock for a short while. It has not generated an immediate consensus of animosity towards the other. Nevertheless, it eventually swept them away in various directions and for some, it inflicted a contempt for the apparent wealth of a minority, or inversely, induced a realization of their own misery in material and moral terms.


You have no right to despise the future.

Botany Carcinoma


An abstract space of cartographies imposes us a fictitious reality, of state, of a nation, of a fixation packaged by mobs.


"The Western experience of time is split between eternity and continuous linear time. The dividing point through which the two relate is the instant as a discrete, elusive point. Against this conception, which dooms any attempt to master time, there must be opposed one whereby the true site of pleasure, as man’s primary dimension, is neither precise, continuous time nor eternity, but history. (...) it is only as the source and site of happiness that history can have a meaning for man."

Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History, 1993


Question No:2 [apropos of Agamben]: Is Anatolia the original home, the source and site of happiness?

Botany Carcinoma


Strabo (of Amaseia) wrote about Eastern Anatolia and its peoples in Gegraphica approximately 2,000 years ago. In books 11 and 12, he gives extensive descriptions of the rivers, i.e. Araxes (Aras) and Cyrus (Kura), of the mountains and the names of the peoples that inhabited them, including how they were dressed, what they ate, what they produced. After two thousand years, we would expect the outline of major routes and passages on the map to have changed a little, whereas the perception of distance and time, and indeed the landscape itself must have been immensely altered. Strabo must have taken around forty years to fathom the then-known world from Ethiopia to Western Europe, and following Alexander’s path, to central Asia and the gates of India. His map of the world was as accurate for the purpose as the one we have used for our short (and fast) journey, except for the fact that we were at a loss on a number of crucial stops that our brand new map indicated, matters of mistaken identity and altered names of places.

Botany Carcinoma


For the people of Anatolia, these plants had a totally different calling, each in his/her native language, intertwined with daily life often signifying the plants’ qualities in folk medicine, color, looks and their overall benefit for humans. They had been used for kilims and textiles and indeed the patterns on clothing still so dear to Anatolian women. Furthermore, one can imagine that for the thousands of cattle we have seen en route, some of these wild plants represent a delicacy. It is good to know that these species of wild plants spread across national borders under different names, just like the mountains and the rivers. Before national borders and nation-states, a diverse linguistic pattern possibly held true in Anatolia, Caucasia and the Middle East, each folk had their own names for rivers, mountains, plants, trees and indeed villages and towns.


Nationalism spread like the plague.

Botany Carcinoma


“This philosophical attitude has to be translated into the labor of diverse inquiries. These inquiries have their methodological coherence in the at once archaeological and genealogical study of practices envisaged simultaneously as a technological type of rationality and as strategic games of liberties; they have their theoretical coherence in the definition of the historically unique forms in which the generalities of our relations to things, to others, to ourselves, have been problematized. They have their practical coherence in the care brought to the process of putting historico-critical reflection to the test of concrete practices. I do not know whether it must be said today that the critical task still entails faith in Enlightenment; I continue to think that this task requires work on our limits, that is, a patient labor giving form to our impatience for liberty.”

Michel Foucault, What is Enlightenment? (in ‘Ethics’), 1997

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(...) But a revolution from which there springs not a new chronology, but a qualitative alteration of time (a cairology), would have the weightiest consequence and would alone be immune to absorption into the reflux of restoration. He who, in the epoche of pleasure, has remembered history as he would remember his original home, will bring this memory to everything, will exact this promise from each instant: he is the true revolutionary and the true seer, released from time not at the millenium, but now’’.

Giorgio Agamben, Infancy and History, 1993

Botany Carcinoma


From Ankara, our route took us to the East via Yozgat and Sivas to Erzincan. From there, we continued on to Bayburt, Erzurum and Kars, and on the return voyage we traveled through Artvin, Rize and Trabzon along the Black Sea coast to Samsun. Before returning back to Ankara our final stop was Hattusas, the city of the Hittites from 3200 years ago. Along the way, for some 2800 kilometers, in addition to hydroelectric dams, we encountered massive highway constructions, existing roads were being doubled, and many tunnels and bridges were being built along the ancient rivers.


In 1701, the French botanist Joseph Pitton de Tournefort traveled to North-Eastern Anatolia and collected samples for his herbarium at Jardin des Plantes in Paris. It took him 38 days to sail on a boat from Istanbul to Trabzon, and another four months to travel on land, approximately to the places we went in a much shorter time. Tournefort is known for his contributions to the classification of plants, making a clear distinction between genus and species, instituting the now defunct and long ‘sentence-names’ for plants in Latin, genus name first and the distinguishing characteristics of species later. Among the three new genus names he devised on the plants he found on the voyage are Gundelia, Morina and Dodartia, derived from, respectively, A. Gundelsheimer, his travel companion; Louis Morin, a member of Academie Royale de Sciences; and another Academie member, Denys Dodart. Approximately 50 years later, these plants were classified under the names of Gundelia Tourneforti L., Morina persica L., and Dodartia orientalis L. by Carl Linneaus, known as the father of modern taxonomy, authoring books like Systema Naturae and Species Plantarum in 18th century.

Botany Carcinoma


In this specific instance, we would not want to dwell on the harmony of ethnicities in a pristine arcadia. But looking at photographs of peasants from a hundred or more years back, only a highly educated eye can differentiate any race or ethnicity, and mostly by looking at clothing. And usually clothing gives away the geographic region more than the breed of its subject. Hardship speaks the same for peoples: the brutal winter of the highlands in Eastern Anatolia or the scorching summer of Mesopotamia equalize the poor peasants, darkens their skin and wears away their jacket and their coat, and the headwear on the older women: they may be Pagan, Muslim, Christian or something else.

Botany Carcinoma


What difference does today introduce with respect to yesterday?

Botany Carcinoma


We traveled a long way, from West to East, then South to North, crossed the mountains, moved down the plateaus, listened to rivers, settled in valleys, ran against hills, found streams, stopped at villages in order to look from a vista to gaze something beyond the nature of things. We wanted to see through the landscape what is infused with pain. We could only see plants, bugs, we heard the wind blowing, rivers shouting, we saw movement in irregular cycles.

Botany Carcinoma

Any curious observer strolling through the Anatolian landscape may notice the remains of abandoned villages. Without any historical data, it would be hard to guess the time period in which they were inhabited, their exact evacuation date, the reasons why people left and what they did before and after. They are silent testimonies to a troubled history, dating back centuries or as recently as a decade. These villages all have ancient names and histories that have been repressed and outright changed by authorities, but nevertheless are remembered vaguely by a living few old enough to confuse myth with history. xurban_collective recently embarked on a journey through Eastern and Northeastern Anatolia to various geological zones. On view are findings from their geological and botanical survey of some of these aforementioned villages and the region at-large.

xurban_collective, 2010
(Güven İncirlioğlu, Hakan Topal, Mahir Yavuz)

A Project by xurban_collective, 2010.