Ethnicity and gender dynamics of living in borderlands : the case of Hopa-Turkey

Akyüz, Latife
The aim of this dissertation is to investigate how the border economy shapes inter and intra group dynamics of ethnicity and gender for those who live in these regions. This study based on the qualitative research conducted in the town of Hopa in the Turkey-Georgia border region. The most fundamental argument of the study is that border regions have economic activities that are specific to these regions and the form of participation in these activities shapes the dynamics of social and cultural life. The field study which has been build around this argument raises questions on the socio-economic relationships as well as family and kinship relations involving two ethnic groups, Lazis and Hemshins. This study shows the crucial role gender and ethnicity play in determining negative and positive effects of the border economy. After the opening of the Sarp border gate Hemshins and Lazis experienced the effects of the border in different ways. Consequentially, discourses of exclusion and othering between these two groups have deepened. Moreover, gender inequalities gained new dimensions when women from the post-Soviet nations across the border have entered the picture. Representations of the life styles of immigrant female workers employed in the so called “entertainment sector” enhanced imprisonment of the local women in the private sphere. However this difference between ‘local women’ and ‘immigrant women’ did not create any sense of solidarity among Hemshini and Lazi women to surpass ethnic divisions and gender inequalities. This study which focuses on the new inequalities those emerge at the intersection of gender and ethnicity in the border regions. It demonstrates the slippery grounds upon which socio economic life of the border towns are established, which eventually brings forth new forms of inequalities, by the changing definitions of winning and losing parties.