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Syrian Refugees as Agricultural Labourers in Turkey: Reflections on Refugee-Host Relations from a Labour Perspective

March 23, 2023 @ 5:15 pm - 7:00 pm

Face-to-face seminar at SOAS and online Zoom webinar by Zeynep Ceren Eren Benlisoy (International Institute of Social Studies, The Hague)

Registration link: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/reflections-on-refugee-host-relations-from-a-labour-perspective-tickets-583499862797


The Eastern Mediterranean region of Turkey attracts massive numbers of agricultural labourers during the harvest season. This rural labour market used to be primarily composed of Kurdish and Arab seasonal workers from the eastern parts of Turkey. Armed conflict led to the internal displacement of these workers, while forced dispossession further escalated their participation as seasonal labourers for generations. However, since the civil war in Syria and the large-scale displacement of refugees to Turkey, Syrian refugees have become another critical source of rural labour, and their interactions with diverse groups of local residents and other migrant workers have caused tensions and conflicts in rural labour markets as well as in daily life. Building on research carried out as part of the Whole-COMM project, this paper critically examines how the attitudes, encounters and daily interactions between refugees and the host community are (re)constructed through labour processes in the Eastern Mediterranean region, where fresh fruit and vegetable production is highly dependent on Syrian agricultural labourers. While taking into consideration the dynamics of migration in ongoing processes of agrarian change, the paper focuses on the perceptions of Syrian agricultural workers, prioritizing women’s voices. It also gives room to the views of diverse local actors, including small farmers, village headmen, members of local governments, heads of labour unions, journalists, and local women on the dynamics of refugee-host relations based on labour processes in agriculture.

About the presenter

Zeynep Ceren Eren Benlisoy is currently a postdoctoral visiting scholar at the International Institute of Social Studies, Erasmus University of Rotterdam. She has a Ph.D. in Sociology from Middle East Technical University, Turkey. Her thesis focused on gendered rural transformation in Turkey based on women peasant-workers’ working practices and experiences in paid labour at a large-scale, export-oriented greenhouse in Western Anatolia. Her research interests include gender, agri-food relations, rural transformation, migration, women’s labour, ethnography, and the politics of neoliberalism.

Image by Zeynep Ceren


March 23, 2023
5:15 pm - 7:00 pm


Journal of Agrarian Change
Department of Development Studies, SOAS


Room RB01, SOAS Main Building
SOAS University of London
London, United Kingdom
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