Paul Stirling Jan 94

  University of Kent at Canterbury, United Kingdom.

{This article was published in Humana: Bozkurt
Guvenc’e Armagan  Serpil Altuntek et al.  (ed.)
Ankara: Ministry of Culture 1994.   
ISBN 9751714613 }

  Labour Migration in Turkey: Thirty Five
  Years of Changes

  Paul Stirling

  Note: The main recent research on which this article
is based was supported by the Economic and Social
Research Council of the U.K.  (Grants G000 232121,
1985-6,and R000 23 1955,1989-91), for which I am
most grateful.  I also wish to thank the Republic of
Turkey for permission to carry out fieldwork.   An
earlier version of it was presented to the
International Scientific Conference: The Problems of
Migration, Department of Social Demography,
Institute of Sociology, Academy of Sciences of the
USSR, Moscow,  17th -21st June 1991.

Migration as Process

Labour migration is a process of complexity and
variety.   I argue that this simple point has interesting
and serious implications, and I illustrate some of
them both from a brief model of the history of the
Turkish Republic, and from my own research in
Turkish villages over a period of forty years.  By
labour migration, I mean a move by individuals or



  households, not by larger social units; people who
migrate in order to work and earn somewhere else,
because they perceive it to be to their advantage; they
expect to gain, or to avoid loss or suffering.  

Such a move is affected by and affects the context
from which the migrants move, the situation into
which they move, the migrants themselves, and the
relations between the two ends of their move.   To
put it more abstractly, in society, every ‘cause’ is
already itself an effect of several causes, every effect
is in turn one causal influence in a number of further
effects.  This cross cutting network of multiple
causes and multiple effects includes some `negative
feedback', that is, controls tending to stability, and
some `positive feedback', that is, escalating changes.
For example, some authors  have argued that labour
migration actually enables an agriculturally based
rural community - a village-  to continue its way of
life in new circumstances, by inhibiting some of the
potential changes [.Watson 1958.]; but at the same
time it is obvious that such migration must also
produce continuing - escalating - changes in the
exporting community.

This complexity of social processes makes our task as
social scientists enormously difficult.   If we ask what
are the causes of labour migration in Turkey, there
can be no simple answer, nor even a list of answers.
There are many causes, and the relations and the
quantitative balance between them is messy and
controversial.  If we ask what are the effects of
labour migration in Turkey, the list is likely to be
long and inconsequential, with overlaps and
imprecisions.   If we try to fit these two lists into a
more complex `systemic' model of wider social
processes, this model can only be partial and
provisional.   Moreover, each phenomenon, while it
is itself both a causal factor and an effect in the field
we are analysing, is also interacting with a whole set
of other phenomena outside that field.



  Time is a further complication.   The factors
affecting, and the consequences of, Turkish labour
migration from villages to towns operate differently
at different periods - in 1940, in 1970, in 1994.   So
disentangling the network of causes and effects in
labour migration is in principle immensely difficult.

Two or more (three? four?) centuries ago, some
unprecedented changes took place in northern
Europe and the USA, which produced further,
startling changes, at unprecedented speeds.  These
changes are normally called the rise of capitalism, or
the industrial revolution; the fashionable  intellectual
cop-out is ‘modernisation’.  Similar kinds of changes
have taken place in Turkey in the last seventy years.
I argue that one necessary and central part of this
process is the massive migration from villages and
agriculture to towns and other occupations.  In this
article, I only claim to make some relevant comments
towards unravelling its role in this process.

Research and the Villages

I came to Turkey with my wife to do anthropological
field work, in March 1949.  We lived and worked in
two villages near Kayseri.  I lived in Turkey on and
off till September 1952, spending about ten months
in S village, and about seven in E.  In 1971, I
attempted a restudy; but for political reasons I was
only permitted two weeks research, in which, with
massive help from my official protector, I recorded
a swift census.  I was able to visit the villages for a
day or two at a time most years from 1974 to 1983.
From 1983 to 1986 I joined the staff of the Middle
East Technical University in Ankara.  I did serious
field work, with the collaboration of the late
Mehmet Arikan,  Emine Onaran Incirlioglu and
others briefly in 1985, and from February to August
1986.  I would like to thank with all my heart the
people of the two villages for their generosity and
friendship, over forty years.  It astonishes me how
willingly so many people bear with being studied by



  academics, and indeed share with them their homes,
their food, and their affection.

In this article, I use specific data from S village.  S is
roughly 30 kilometres east of Kayseri; in 1949, the
village mud road had just become passable for very
infrequent lorries, which were destroying it, and
which took two hours to reach Kayseri.  Now there
is a metalled road with regular buses which take
thirty minutes.  The village was poor; the largest
household land holding was about 30 hectares; 10 out
of 100 households had none.  Land was fallowed in
alternate years.  Yields of cereal were less then 5 to 1
of seed; roughly 100 kg per dec.  .

E village was a District administrative centre further
east.  It owned more land per head of its 212
households than other nearby villages.  In spite of its
greater importance, greater contacts, extra land per
head, and the greater sophistication of a few top
households, it was the similarities in the way of life
and the standard of living that surprised me.  My
more general model fits E equally well, but I have
drawn no ethnographic illustrations from it here.

S Village





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