Confronting gendered constructions of refugee deservingness and representations: Syrian refugee women strategising for humanitarian aid in Turkey
This study shows how Syrian refugee women living in Ankara cope with their systematically enforced dependency on humanitarian aid through individual and collective agency as they negotiate their inclusion into categories of deservingness and attempt to maintain this inclusion. We argue that the gendered discourses used to delineate deservingness categories in the humanitarian field clash heavily with the portrayal of Syrian refugees in Turkish public discourse. Our qualitative data demonstrate how notions in the humanitarian field about women’s role in the family as nurturing homemakers, assumptions about their innate docility as vulnerable refugees and the contrasting portrayals in Turkish society of Syrian refugee women as sexualised threats to the Turkish family shape their agentive negotiations and subsequently lead to multiple tensions. We also highlight how the centrality of gender in the discursive framing of refugees in Turkey produces the idealised refugee in the figure of the widowed refugee mother. By problematising how refugee women’s agency play out, we intervene in the discussion about the gendered terrains of refugeehood and provide empirical weight for the exploration of the paradoxes in the humanitarian field that refugee women struggle to resolve.