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Doctoral defense: Mert Kocak on "Migration Industries and Transnational Governance of Queer Migration: Bureaucratization of Sexuality and Gender in Turkey"

CEU Vienna
Thursday, January 26, 2023, 3:00 pm – 5:30 pm

This thesis scrutinizes the construction of transnational governance of queer migration which is operationalized within the borders of Turkey and spread to the Global North. Based on a 25-month long ethnography in four cities, the thesis lay bare the intertwined transnational and local bureaucratic governance mechanisms via which queer asylum seekers are deemed “deserving” of refugee status and rights, not just in Turkey, but across the Global North. The thesis tells the history of how Turkey has been refashioned as an open-air detention center for 4 million refugees, gaining the title “the country hosting the world’s largest refugee population”. Turkey’s own political and legal approach to (queer) refugeeness, as well as the Global North’s determination to exclude refugees of the Global South have made it possible for Turkey to become a transnational zone of processing asylum applications. The thesis conceptualizes Turkey’s approach to queer refugeeness as “legally unrecognized but bureactically managed” which creates a political and legal vacuum to be filled by transnational and international organizations. In a bid to do so, the Global South countries pour billions of euros into Turkey, creating what has been conceptualized as, a migration industry but with a uniquely different main actor, - the local NGOs of Turkey. Funded exclusively by transnational and international organizations of the Global North, these NGOs emerge as the nexus of the multi-layered and simultaneously operating sets of values. Local NGOs are deeply embedded in the social and political life of Turkey – thus subjected to and experienced in navigating the neoliberal and neoconservative gender politics of the Turkish state. Yet, they must also adopt to and translate the Global North oriented narratives of sexual orientation and gender identity into projects to be executed in the cities of Turkey. To capture and conceptualize the multi-layered and simultaneously operating sets of values that determine one’s refugee status based on sexual orientation and gender identity, the thesis coins the term “transnational matrix of deservingness”.  


Chair of the Examination Board: Nadia Jones-Gailani, Department of Gender Studies, CEU

Supervisor: Dorit Geva, Department of Sociology and Social Anthropology, CEU;

Internal examiner: Ayse Caglar, University of Vienna;

External examiner: Camille Schmoll, École des Hautes Études en Sciences Sociales.


Non-CEU affiliates are kindly requested to register for in-person attendance, also please register for online participation for the zoom link here