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Secluded Lives: Restricted Urban Practices of Migrant Domestic and Care Workers in Istanbul

Ezgi Tuncer, Zeynep Eren-Benlisoy


Our research investigates the gendered processes of labour migration of domestic and care workers (MDWs), along with their experiences of urban life in Istanbul. As an interdisciplinary urban study in concordance with ethnographic methodologies, it further focuses on gendered drivers of migration: the home, work, and social urban environments of MDWs. The significance of our study is that it contributes to analyses of Global South–South female labour migration from a gender perspective, which has emerged as a relatively new and burgeoning field in migration studies. It is also significant in that it reveals how gender inequalities are spatialised. This is done by representing the city through the digital mapping of anonymous information from MDWs concerning their use of Istanbul.

Our findings state that the urban practices of MDWs are highly limited and restricted by patriarchal family structures, either remote husbands or transnational communities. The fear of being a foreign woman in Istanbul, language barriers, illegal status, and the expensive costs of socialising outdoors restricted their urban social lives as well. Furthermore, the host community sometimes stigmatises foreign women as “easily exploited”, thus, most were exposed to verbal, physical, and/or sexual harassment in public spaces, which caused women to lead secluded lives. Fearing male violence, which is widespread in Turkey, they censor themselves. In this sense, gender inequalities seem to be spatialised; this can be traced through Google My Maps based on the subjective urban narratives of MDWs. It represents how urban policies remain insufficient in responding to feminised labour migration.



Secluded lives; Restricted urban practices; Female migrant domestic and care workers; Spatial-ethnography; Istanbul

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Copyright (c) 2022 Ezgi Tuncer, Zeynep Eren Benlisoy

ISSN 1828 5961
Registration at L'Aquila Law Court no 3/15 on 29th June, 2015.
Indexed in SCOPUS. Diamond Open Access. All papers are subjected to double blind peer review system by qualified reviewers.

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