Despite the busy schedule before Christmas, many AAU students took the opportunity to listen to a guest lecture on December 7th. The lecturer, Dr. Selin Akyüz, is a research fellow at Ihsan Dogramaci International Advanced Studies Centre of Bilkent University, with a specialization on the critical studies of masculinity, politics of gender and migration.
Dr. Akyüz started her lecture saying that she has been a migrant herself, having lived in various places away from her home. In Gaziantep, a city in southeast Turkey, she lived for two years and studied the experiences of Syrian refugees from a gendered perspective. She highlighted that the refugees are not one homogenous group and emphasis should be placed on their individual life stories. She criticized the standard conceptualization of female refugees as being ‘victims’. She highlighted that there was no one version of a refugee and one must acknowledge the different vulnerabilities and sorrows that they face.
Dr. Akyüz shared various gendered observations from her field research in the refugee camps at the Turkish-Syrian border to explain different patterns of identity formation after becoming a refugee. She studied Syrian teenage boys as well as Syrian brides who married the Turkish men. The groups of boys participated in various workshops and were asked to express their past, present and future life expectations through different forms of art, such as collages, poems, pictures or essays. She observed many recurring themes, such as mourning about displacement, sorrow caused by war. They spoke about the feelings of isolation, loneliness or nostalgia of their home. On the other hand, Dr. Akyüz observed that many boys were motivated for their future and wanted to work on building a good life for themselves. Moreover, they enjoyed the new responsibility of being the breadwinner of their families, which they thought, turned them into men. Many expressed their desire to be educated, trained and modern.
The research based on in-depth interviews with the young Syrian brides who married Turkish men also showed interesting results. Dr. Akyüz shared her observations about the way the traditional, patriarchal relations remain the same or change after such marriages occur. The interviewed brides explained how their marriage was a true breaking point between their old lives as refugees living in camps and their new life as the wives of Turkish men. Many of these women showed their deep understanding of the Turkish customs and their new roles, through for instance praising their mother-in-law, which somehow confirmed the new hierarchy they entered into and helped them become anchored into their new life. The grooms, during the interviews also pointed out the similarities between the Turkish and the Syrian culture and portrayed their wives as good Muslims.
Dr. Akyuz’s lecture was filled with intriguing stories that underlined how diverse the experiences of the refugees were and showed the importance of field research in bringing an in-depth understanding to the theoretical work on masculinities and immigration.
By Nikita Maksimovicova
Publication date: December 12, 2017