Author:Duygu Topcu (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)
Paper short abstract:
The paper will focus on permanent values that shape economic decisions of Syrian refugee families in Istanbul throughout their migration processes despite the new material opportunities and moral frameworks of the international labor market in the new locality.
Paper long abstract:
"Starting from zero" (in Arabic: ballash min al sifir) was a common phrase among Syrian refugees in Istanbul, mostly referring to their loss of status, property, job, and social networks and having to start everything all over again. Adapting their economic practices to the changing conditions in this time of crisis, economic practices of these families are dependent on material opportunities, moral frameworks of the market, and their personal interests (Narotzky & Besnier 2014). Yet amidst these changes, some of their habits and values rooted back in Syria also determine their decisions. Depending on the families' class backgrounds, household demography, or the members' commitment to traditional gender values in the family, the permanent values they brought with them shaped the economic decisions of the families as much as the new context they encounter. The families hold, either collectively or individually, differing regimes of values, for example, when it comes to deciding whether young female family members would continue to study in the Turkish education system. They calculate various regimes of value throughout their migration process: their traditional one, where they expect women would get married at their early ages; and that of their migration place, where women are expected to earn money for the family. Drawing on a yearlong ethnographic fieldwork conducted in 2016-2017 with Syrian refugee families in a neighborhood of Istanbul, the paper's focus on the permanence of values is an opportunity to contribute to debates on the reproduction of values even in times of crisis.
Permanence: anthropologies of what stays