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The Many Faces of Home: Law and Affect among Afghans on the Move

Author Alexander EPHRUSSI
Director of thesis Dr. Alessandro Monsutti
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

My PhD research focuses on the relationship between legal framework and lived experience of Afghan refugees at the borders of Europe, and in particular in Turkey.

For decades now people have been leaving Afghanistan and migrating to neighbouring countries or further to escape harsh economic conditions, or armed conflict. Turkey is and has been a country which Afghans have crossed, lingered or settled in, and which blurs the distinction between country of transition and place of indefinite settlement. A series of national and international legal frameworks relating to migration are in place in Turkey, conceived to regulate movement and settlement across the country (Le Chêne, 2019). This project aims to understand how legal frameworks affect the lives of Afghans in Turkey for weeks, months or years, and how these are understood and navigated by those they are meant to control.


Turkey has signed bilateral agreements with the EU, most famously the ‘EU-Turkey deal’ in 2016 that places further responsibility on Turkey to hinder migration across its borders and into the EU. This agreement is part of an effort on the part of the EU to control and limit migration at its borders and has thus been considered to be a form of externalisation of EU borders outside of its own territory (Römhild, 2014). Furthermore, as Turkey is not a signatory nation of the 1967 Protocol Relating to the Status of Refugees, there is very little in terms of perspectives of asylum for refugees in Turkey, this kind of international protection being relegated to third countries by way of the UNHCR (Le Chêne, 2019). Nevertheless, and particularly since the Taliban takeover in August 2021, hundreds of Afghans are entering Turkey daily and communities of Afghans have been living in Turkey for over forty years, navigating these frameworks of legality and illegality.


Turkish laws from the 1930s make it easier for Turkic peoples of central Asia to be granted residency permits than other migrants. This legal framework draws a new distinction among Afghans in terms of opportunities for settlement and legality as those considered Uzbek Afghans can access these permits easier than say a Pashtun or Hazara Afghan, leading to a multitude of different Afghan migratory experiences (Canfield, 2004; Olszewska, 2013). Moving in an between these spaces of legality and illegality also entail performative and discursive aspects of belonging, as preforming Turkishness through language and embodied practices (Besnier, 1990) can mean the difference between deportation and being permitted to stay. This cultural capital is not spread evenly among Afghans in Turkey, and further contributes to the new meanings ethnicity, class and age acquire through migration and the encounter with new socio-legal contexts.


Preliminary fieldwork in Turkey has shown that not only is this space not necessarily conceived in the dichotomy of country of destination versus country of transition, but that the border space stretching from Turkey to Afghanistan is more porous one than the stretch of water or land leading to the EU. Movements between Turkey and Afghanistan are not unidirectional and attempting to live in Afghanistan for some time with the projection of perhaps returning to Turkey one day is talked about among Afghans in Turkey especially in light of the current economic crisis in a way which is not afforded by the legal framework of the EU. This invites the question of what defines a migrant or refugee experience, and to what extent the finality of this migration, co-creative of the category of refugee, is a product of legal frameworks and their implementation.


My research thus aims to look at the interface between legality, performativity and affect to shed light on how Afghan migrants in Turkey navigate categories of legality and illegality and how this influences both daily life and the ability to imagine an emplaced future in Turkey.



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Besnier, N. (1990) Language and Affect, in Annual Review of Anthropology 1990. 19:419-51

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Leavitt, J. (1996) Meaning and Feeling in the Anthropology of Emotions. American Ethnologist, Vol. 23, No. 3 (Aug., 1996), pp. 514-539

Le Chêne, E. (2019) La Fabrique de l’Asile Sans Droit d’Asile. Sociétés Politiques Comparées


Mathur, N. (2017) – Bureaucracy. Cambridge Encyclopedia of Anthropology.


Monsutti, A. (2005a) - “La migration comme rite de passage: La construction de la masculinité parmi les jeunes Afghans en Iran.” In Genre, nouvelle division internationale de travail et migrations, ed. C. Verschuur and F. Reusoo 179-186 Paris: L’Harmattan
Monsutti, A. (2005b) - War and Migration Social Networks and Economic Strategies of the Hazaras of Afghanistan. New-York & London : Routledge

Olszewska, Z. (2013) - Quetta’s Sectarian Violence and the Global Hazara Awakening. In Middle East Report, No. 266, (Spring 2013), pp. 40-45


Römhild, R. (2014) Vom Rand ins Zentrum. Perspektiven für eine kritische Migrationsforschung. Berlin: Panama

Status beginning
Administrative delay for the defence 2025