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Labor Migration from Bulgaria to Turkey, Ethnic Kinship, and the Politics of Relative Privilege

A CPSC lecture by Ayse Parla, Anthropology, Sabanci University, Turkey.

Thursday, February 28, 2013
12:30 PM
352 Haines Hall

While various citizenship regimes around the world tend to privilege the inclusion of migrants designated as “co-ethnics,” such differential access is inscribed in the very term for “migrant” in Turkish (göçmen), which legally denotes and historically connotes only those who are “of Turkish origin.” Despite this linguistically marked privilege, residency and work permits in Turkey are not rights that may routinely be claimed even by migrants who qualify as ethnic kin, but rather, legalization is granted on the basis of amnesties and exceptional status.  In this talk I examine the dual movement between, on the one hand, the allocation of relative privilege to Bulgarian Turkish migrants, and on the other hand, their systematic instrumentalization as a cheap, exploitable labor force just like all other undocumented migrants in Turkey. How do Bulgarian Turkish migrants experience and manage this structural tension between ethnonational appropriation and capitalist exploitation in their everyday encounters with the law? Given the fact that the majority of migrants from Bulgaria are women who work in the domestic labor market, how does gender interact with shared ethnicity in their affective encounters with state officials and the police?  Exploring how the politics of relative privilege at the macro scale of migration policy and legal bureaucracy translates into certain common affects among migrants, I suggest that while the “cruel optimism” (Berlant) of relative privilege may result in limited individual gain, it also works to preclude possibilities for collective action.

Ayşe Parla is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at Sabancı University in Istanbul, Turkey. Professor Parla has written numerous articles on labor, migration and kinship, and is the recipient of the three-year Turkish Academy of Sciences fellowship.

Sponsor(s): Center for European and Eurasian Studies, Center for Near Eastern Studies, Anthropology, UCLA Department of Anthropology Culture, Power, and Social Change Group

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