Diversity Through the Eyes of Seasonal Children Workers in Rural Turkey

Dr Melih Pinarcioglu,
Dr. Oguz Isik
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Temporary or seasonal agricultural work in Turkey is concentrated mostly in labour-intensive industrial crops such as cotton, tobacco and sugar beets. Among these, cotton cultivation absorbs the most labour and also requires more seasonal labour than other crops. Especially, Adana region in southern Turkey, where the population is mainly Turkish, champions the use of seasonal workers pulling landless rural households and small landholders looking for better opportunities in the seasonal agricultural work, mostly from the southeast where the population is mainly Kurdish.
Based on a field survey carried out in Karataş, Adana, one of the most important cotton production centres in Turkey, this paper tackles the question of diversity through the eyes of Kurdish children employed as seasonal workers in cotton fields mainly owned by Turkish people. Because of the effects of the political unrest that prevailed in southeast Turkey in the 1990s and the existence of big Kurdish landlords owing part of their wealth to the heavy exploitation of peasants, many landless households seem no longer to be capable of earning a subsistence level of income but are forced to migrate, either permanently or on a seasonal basis, in search of better lives in urban and rural areas.
The new life they face when they migrate is not easier, even harder. They have to work for long hours for below-minimum level wages under miserable conditions. In most cases children do have to work in conditions and jobs that are in no way suitable for their age in an attempt to make a living for their families. On the one hand, experiencing the tension between their parents and landlords in their original place of living and lacking the opportunities for decent education and health and, on the other, growing amidst harsh working conditions and ethnic tension and even harassment in areas where they come for working, children are apparently victimised by this pattern of seasonal migration.
This paper is an attempt to depict construction of diversity and otherness through the eyes of these trapped seasonal children workers in terms of “violence within family”, “exploitation” and “ethnic tensions”. We explore in a comprehensive field survey how the Kurdish children workers internalise difference and cope with the tensions associated with being different.

Keywords: Ethnic Tension, Exploitation, Child Poverty, Turkey, Seasonal Migration
Stream: Politics of Diversity
Presentation Type: Paper Presentation in English
Paper: A paper has not yet been submitted.

Dr Melih Pinarcioglu

Associate Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, Middle East Technical University

Dr. Oguz Isik

Associate Professor, Department of City and Regional Planning, Middle East Technical University

Ref: D05P0329