Refugees and the State in Turkey

Focusing on the shift in Turkey’s policy towards Syrians since the summer of 2019, this project analyzes how the state performs its power through embodied actions that aim to disregard, erase, or invisibilize Syrians. The AKP-led government in Turkey declared an “open door” policy at the onset of the Syrian war in 2011. Today, there are over 3.5 million Syrians living across Turkey. Different segments of the public have been skeptical of, if not outright against, the policy of supporting Syrians whom they see as racialized and gendered threats to social order, competitors in a tightening labor and housing market, and beneficiaries of social and economic programs that are rarely available to citizens. There have also been radical fluctuations in the implementation of this policy and contradictions between this policy and state action on the ground and politicians’ statements that fuel fear and animosity towards Syrians. When the AKP government saw its votes decline in the 2019 local elections and lost in Istanbul, its leadership partially blamed its Syrian policy and adopted a series of measures that sought to visibly reassert the power of the state. Despite widely known reports of the exploitation of and discrimination against Syrians in the workplace, in schools, and in marriages, there is very little state action to address these issues. I collaborate with Dr. Öcal and Betül Aykaç to examine the performative and affective making of the state through such omissions and invisibilities.

A billboard from 2014 in Umraniye, Istanbul. The large text reads: I am cold, help me! The smaller text above it reads: If there is persecution by Asad, there is brotherhood in Istanbul. Photo by Lacin Tutalar

Encountering Difference, Embodying Boundaries, and Unsettling Borders: Middle Eastern Refugees in the European Union

This virtual conference explores how refugee experiences provide insights into the production of difference, boundaries, and borders by unsettling established understandings of identity, statehood, and territory. In this conference, we seek to explore questions that arise in this political context about who refugees are and how they position themselves (or find themselves positioned) within systems of power operating at multiple scales and across a variety of spaces. We center the embodied Middle Eastern refugee experiences to understand and theorize subjects, political spaces, and technologies of governance along and within the borders of the EU.

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Duke Middle East in Europe Summer Program

This program explores the place of migrant, refugee, and Muslim-Germans within the context of broader public debates concerning public space, liberal democracy, and the rise of right wing political movements. This examination includes a critical perspective on how Muslims, Turks, and Islam have been framed as a “problem” in mainstream media and by politicians and how Berliners have countered such portrayals by mobilizing in support of refugees and immigrants. Our approach foregrounds the perspectives of Muslims and how they have created spaces of belonging while also attending to the gendered, classed, ethnic, and political differences and tensions among this population. We ask: What are the modes and spaces of citizenship, belonging, and identity for Muslim populations in Germany? How do Muslim populations produce their own spaces in Berlin? What are the everyday practices and spaces of living together in neighborhoods like Kreuzberg? What kinds of tensions and solidarities emerge through the experiences of living together in places like Kreuzberg?

In addition to scholarship related to these questions, this program also provides unique hands on opportunities to develop grounded experiences of Kreuzberg through observation and field study and to work as an intern at Kiron, a non-governmental organization that guides and supports refugee access to online higher education.

I worked with students in this program to develop storymap projects that explore Kreuzberg in 2018 and Dynamics Spaces and Faces of Berlin in 2019.