Dispossesion, Racialization and Rural Kurdish Labor Migration in Turkey
This dissertation concentrates on a circular labor migration from the provincial towns of the Kurdish region in southeastern Turkey, to rural areas of western Turkey. Each year, an estimated one and a half million workers migrate west with their families for several months to work in rural jobs such as farm labor, sharecropping, forestation, and charcoal making. Based on a total of sixteen months of ethnographic research between October 2014 and August 2016, following the migrant workers between their hometowns and work sites, this dissertation uses this labor practice as an ethnographic lens to analyze both the socio-political conditions under which this labor practice is shaped, and the material practices through which economic surplus is produced, managed, and distributed. Exploring the everyday life in the hometowns of the migrant workers, it investigates the racialized and regionally-divided class formation in Turkey, which heavily relies on labor migration from the Kurdish region. These power relations are also reproduced in western worksites through racialized and securitized practices of labor discipline and labor control. In this labor regime, the Kurdish family not only fulfills functions of social security and social reproduction, but also directly becomes the unit of production and the social hub through which relations of production are organized. However, the temporary character of this labor practice also allows the Kurdish migrant workers to construct a life in their hometowns that is not entirely determined by the structures of political domination and exploitation but is shaped through kinship, neighborhood politics, and everyday relations of multiple subjectivities to their material surroundings.