Gendered social imaginaries in the Turkish humanitarian field: the strategies of Syrian refugee women to reach aid
This dissertation investigates how Syrian refugee women in Ankara cope with their systematically enforced dependency on humanitarian aid. It uses gendered social imaginary as the theoretical framework. With the initial premise that refugeehood is a gendered experience where gender is a logic of organising humanitarian aid, it demonstrates how actors in the humanitarian field deploy gendered templates at both organisational and interpersonal levels. Paying particular attention to the interactions between humanitarian aid workers and refugee women sheds light on how gendered social imaginaries are drawn from templates emerging from discursive constructions that delineate deservingness categories in the humanitarian field. While female vulnerability predominantly associated with refugee women is a vital template guiding humanitarian enactments, the study exposes how refugee women have to simultaneously contend with contrasting gendered templates that act as barriers to their access to aid, leading them to rationalise specific behaviour in response and deploy specific strategies as they attempt to conform to the role of the ideal humanitarian subject. In the field study, in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 20 refugee women and aid workers were conducted, complemented by participant observation in multiple sites in Ankara where Syrian refugees are concentrated. The data from the field study further illustrated the significance of humanitarian aid practices along the formal-informal axis when examined at three levels – the national, the district and the neighbourhood.