Undocumented migrants and the double binds of rights claims
Parla, Ayşe (2010) Undocumented migrants and the double binds of rights claims. (Accepted/In Press)
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This paper explores the rights of undocumented migrants in Turkey to engage the broader question of whether the language of rights can serve emancipatory ends for subordinated groups by focusing on the narrower and virtually nonexistent terrain of the rights of undocumented migrants in Turkey. As in other capitalist regimes, the question of the rights of undocumented migrants in Turkey presents a major paradox. On the one hand, the undocumented migrants’ lack of right to residence, work, and any form of social security intensifies their vulnerability in the flexible, predominantly informal labor market. On the other hand, to the extent that the demands for legal and social rights often gloss over the historically specific ground of the very demand for such rights, they naturalize the inegalitarian relations upon which contemporary capitalist societies are founded. The predicament of Bulgarian Turkish migrants brings its own twist to the thorny question of rights for undocumented migrants. Historically the most privileged among migrants in Turkey because of their “Turkish origins,” the recent Turkish migrants from Bulgaria continue to deploy the language of ethnic privilege in pursuing their claims. While such particularistic claims may result in individual gains for some migrants, they tend to preclude collective forms of migrant organizing and foreclose the articulation of more radical political and economic demands. After demonstrating the double binds of the specific rights claims available to Bulgarian Turkish migrants in Turkey, I will go on to inquire whether rights claims in general are invariably depoliticizing and complicit with the existing hierarchies of contemporary neoliberal regimes. I conclude by pondering the possibilities for and the significance of an alternative, incipient discourse of rights that takes labor, rather than ethnicity, as the basis of entitlement.
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