The role of the Kurds in Turkey has long been a controversial issue, although discussion has generally been focused around the political and cultural rights and activities of the Kurds. This book aims to bring a new approach to this contentious subject by shifting attention to the changing popular image of the Kurds in Turkish cities. It focuses particularly on the ways in which the middle-class in Turkish cities develop an exclusionary discourse against the Kurds. Cenk Saracoglu investigates the social origins of such a perception by bringing into focus how neoliberal economic policies and Kurdish migration have transformed urban life in Turkey. For sixty years, Turkey has been experiencing a significant migration movement from Eastern Anatolia to Western cities. However, since the 1980s, this migration movement has gained some qualitatively different characteristics as a result of the increasing insecurity of the Eastern regions of Turkey, on the one hand, and the neoliberal transformation of the Turkish economy on the other. Whilst the former forced a large number of people from Eastern regions to flood into Western cities, the latter dragged them into difficult socio-economic conditions in the post-migration process. One of the outcomes of this situation was the emergence of socio-economically and spatially segregated Kurdish communities in Western cities. Kurds of Modern Turkey brings into focus one of the social problems that these conditions have created in the social life of Turkish metropolises: ethnicization of migrants from Eastern Anatolia. In this study, 'ethnicization' refers to the processes through which people living in these cities perceive and construct these migrants as a distinct and homogenous ethnic group, and exclude them through stereotypes and stigmas. More concretely, ethnicization refers to the recognition of the migrants as 'Kurdish' and articulation of this 'Kurdishness' through some pejorative labels. Saraoglu argues that the ethnicization of migrants from Eastern Anatolia and the exclusionary perception of Kurdish migrants in Turkey is a historically specific phenomenon that takes place in urban social life rather than being a manifestation of the conventional nationalist discourses in Turkey. He examines the transformation of social life in Izmir in relation to the neoliberal transformation of the Turkish economy and migrant exodus from Eastern Anatolia. He also criticizes the tendencies to reduce the Kurdish question to the political and cultural rights of the Kurds and invites researchers and policy-makers to take into consideration the social-relational dimensions of the Kurdish question.
Kurds of Modern Turkey
Migration, Neoliberalism and Exclusion in Turkish Society