This article explores the potentials for and pitfalls of the virtually nonexistent terrain of rights for undocumented migrants in Turkey to engage the broader question of whether the language of rights can serve emancipatory ends for subordinated groups. 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 social security intensifies their vulnerability in the flexible, predominantly informal labor market. On the other hand, rights claims risk naturalizing deeper structural inequalities as they simultaneously seek to ameliorate them. 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, the article concludes by pondering the possibilities for an alternative, incipient discourse of rights that takes labor rather than ethnicity as the basis of entitlement.
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Ayse Parla; Undocumented Migrants and the Double Binds of Rights Claims. differences 1 May 2011; 22 (1): 64–89. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/10407391-1218247
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