Studies on Turkey
A University of Michigan Rackham Interdisciplinary Workshop
Please join us on Wednesday March 15, Angell Hall G168, 5-7pm for

Uprooted Lives and Migrant Labor

in Kurdistan and Turkey


“Their daughters have seen nothing but these fields”:

Gender, Kinship and Desire among Kurdish Migrant Workers

Deniz Duruiz

Columbia University, PhD candidate in Anthropology

Every year, more than a million laborers organize in kin groups and travel from the urban and semi-urban areas of the Kurdish region to the rural areas of western of Turkey to stay and work there for several months. Unlike the labor migration from the Kurdish region to urban areas where it is mostly the Kurdish men that integrate into the insecure and temporary labor markets, temporary labor migration to rural areas mainly depend on the monetary valuation of women and teenagers’ labor. While the migrant characteristic of these jobs expose women and teenagers to new encounters and life experiences, the main reason laboring in a context of kinship in the rural areas is regarded as appropriate for women and teenagers is the very control the men and the elders of the family have over these social encounters and the limited prospects of sociality rural areas offer compared to that provided by the city. In this paper, I focus on the embodied and affective circulation of urban middle class desires, the gendered dynamics of family labor, and the modern spatial imaginaries of the rural/urban divide intersected by the West/the East divide. By doing so, I unpack the social formations and subjectivities generated through this labor practice that tether the political economy of the Kurdish region to that of Turkey in a very particular way.

Narratives of Violence:

The Making of Kurdish Community in Migrant Istanbul

Onur Günay

Princeton University, PhD candidate in Anthropology

This paper ethnographically documents personal and communal stories of Kurdish migrant settlement in inner city Istanbul. In the context of the resurgence of the war between the Turkish state and the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), Kurdish migrant workers in Istanbul remember and speak of violence in self-defense as a tool to enter the social and economic scene of the city, and thus as an important part of their struggle for subsistence and dignity. In the intersection between the ethical and the political lays the fundamental question of legitimate use of violence. While the recent anthropological work focuses on the ethical claims made by states and transnational institutions regarding the use of violence in these “troubled waters” at the confluence of ethics and politics, I explore the ways in which the justness of violence –as a contingent frame- is enacted in self-defense against state violence and what kinds of social relations emerge as a response. Violence as self-defense is conceived and narrated as a form of care through which Kurdish community is built in Istanbul, “the world’s biggest Kurdish city.” Care for others is an ethical practice that leads to formation of a moral and political community, though not one that is free from uncertainties and contradictions.

Date and Time: March 15, 5-7pm

Location: Angell Hall G168

For more information,

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~Light refreshments will be provided~

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