Accepted paper:

Paradoxes of Precarity: Hopes and Aspirations of Central Asian Migrant Domestic and Care Workers in Istanbul

Authors:

Marhabo Saparova (Northeastern University)

Paper short abstract:

This ethnographic case study problematizes the conventional understanding of precarity/precariousness and examines everyday negotiations of Central Asian domestic and care workers within the informal labor market and different systems of inequalities in Istanbul.

Paper long abstract:

The fall of the Soviet Union has brought immense social, cultural, political and economic transformations in Central Asia since the 1990s. The reorganization of the economy and labor market, the construction of a new gender order and the rise of the ethno-nationalist tendencies have forced many Central Asian women out of labor market into the domestic domain. However, the post-socialist survival of the private household in the times of mass unemployment and stagnant economy has relied on active participation of women in informal economy and their social networks to access goods and services. Labor migration of young and middle-aged Central Asian women to Turkey has become one of the most common survival practices due to language proximity and nationalist rhetoric of presumed common past. Overstaying their visas, the majority of Central Asian women get employed without legal documents in the middle-class households in Turkey as live-in nannies and maids. The informal employment and undocumentedness, on the one hand, provide an opportunity for social, economoic and spatial mobility for Central Asian women, and on the other, generate disposability and immobility of migrant domestic workers (in the host country). Moving beyond the conventional understanding of precarity, the case of Central Asian domestic workers in Istanbul points to the complexities of the global processes and local livelihoods. In this paper, I examine the everyday experiences of Central Asian domestic and care workers in Istanbul and their daily negotiations and navigations within fluctuating labor market and different systems of inequalities.

panel P056
Beyond precarity: the politics of hope, care, and solidarity under conditions of unsettling (im)mobility [Anthropology of Labour Network]