Demarcating Kilis as a border town: community, belonging and social mobility among socio-economic strata on the Syrian border of Turkey

Thesis Type: Doctorate

Institution Of The Thesis: Middle East Technical University, Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Department of Sociology, Turkey

Approval Date: 2014

Thesis Language: English

Student: Hatice Pınar Şenoğuz



This study focuses on the impact of border on the cultural and economic landscape of Kilis, a town which has been identified as nowhere in Bilad al-Sham but as a border town after the establishment of Republic, inconspicuous for a long time, yet recently gained prominence with the eruption of Syrian crisis in 2011 as opposed to other Eastern and Southeastern border towns. The overriding question of the study concerns the ways in which the border influences the life prospects of dwellers. Through the lens of ethnographic research and oral history, it explores belonging and social mobility among various socio-economic strata within the context of transition from Ottoman rule to the Republican regime in order to reveal culturally informed strategies of border dwellers in coming to grips with new border contexts. It is suggested that the border perspective will move the social analysis beyond “methodological territorialism” that encapsulates it into the idea of nation-state as unit of analysis and provide a theoretical framework that explores the social change at the intersection of local, national and transnational processes. From the vantage point of border, this study aims to highlight that the maneuvering capacities of dwellers in navigating territorial, cultural and economic boundaries nevertheless reproduce local power and inequality structures. It also demonstrates that social reproduction and social mobility strategies of families in Kilis are incorporated in broader cultural, social and economic transformation of Turkey long before globalization processes started to put limitations to the state sovereignty and territorial control.