Our Students

  • Mahsun Oti
  • Title: Ph.D. Candidate, Anthropology
  • Student Image

I am a second-year anthropology Ph.D. student working with East African migrants who have been affected both by the civil war and climate crisis and consequently traveled through different countries and used various means to reach Eastern Turkey. During the summer 2023, I conducted a preliminary field research in Eastern Turkey, Turkish-Iranian borderland, and also in Central Anatolia, in the city of Konya.

During the preliminary filed research, I first focused on the 96-kilometer-long border wall and two ditches constructed by the Turkish state throughout the Turkish-Iranian borderland. I attempted to understand the impact of the border wall and ditches, militarization of the borderland, and the criminalization of the migration in the discursive level on the actual process and of migration. I also tried to collect official data regarding the demographic information of the East African migrants. Furthermore, I did observations in public places such as cemeteries, bus stations, border areas, and urban centers to understand the mobility and incorporation experience of East African migrants in Kurdish and Turkish cities in Turkey.

The preliminary field research enabled me to examine the mobility and incorporation process. Consequently, I start focusing on the concepts of waiting and hope and their significance for the migrant life. Similarly, while focusing on the waiting and hope, I also started questioning the concept of personhood. As a result of the preliminary filed research, I came up with a set of questions which guide me to develop my research proposal. The questions are as follow:

  1. What are the impacts of civil war and climate crisis on the migrant’s life, process of mobility, and incorporation?
  2. What are the ways in which the uprooted subject, who is being deprived from her/his political/economical/social rights, keep the hope and continue producing her/his life within the precarious conditions?
  3. Where and when does personhood for someone deprived from his political rights and cultural chains ends?

Based on the discussions and questions that I develop during my preliminary filed research; I would like to develop my research proposal and apply for external fundings.

In this regard, I am grateful to the RCI for their Ph.D. student travel grant which enabled me to cover some of the filed related expenses for my summer 2023 filed research.

Photos by Mahsun Oti based on Summer 2023 field study:

 field studi mahsun oti 1

Photo Title: Care After Death - 2023
Place where the photo taken: Northern Kurdistan – Eastern Turkey
Explanation of the photo: The Cemetery of the Nameless where “irregular migrants,” who died while attempting to cross the Turkish-Iranian border, decorated with a border wall and two ditches, seek peace in the afterlife. The cemetery is the place where personhood ends not because life ends but rather because of the absence of care for the dead and grave.

field study mahson oti 2

Photo Name and the year taken: Irregular Graves – 2023
Place where it is taken: Northern Kurdistan – Eastern Turkey
Explanation: The Cemetery of the Nameless where even the afterlife is irregularly organized.

field study mahson oti 3

Photo Title and the year: Numerology of the irregular migrant Death-2023
The place the photo taken: Northern Kurdistan – Eastern Turkey
Explanation: No personal identification tags are present in the Cemetery of the Nameless; no name, family name or date of birth. There are two numbers written on the tombstone, one of which is the date the dead body was found in the border area. The second number is provided by the Directorate of the Cemeteries Affairs of the city Municipality which serves as a bureaucratic archival method.