Lara Sarlak

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

British Columbia, U. of

Grant number

Gr. 10448

Approve Date

October 11, 2022

Project Title

Sarlak, Lara (British Columbia, U. of) "Disposable Labor: Migrant Recycling Workers and Waste Infrastructures in Istanbul, Turkey"

A common sight on the streets of Istanbul, as in other cities across Turkey, is informal recycling workers pulling their heavy handcarts filled with wastepaper and plastic. In recent years, collecting recyclable waste has become a significant economic survival strategy not only for low-income citizens, but also for migrants and refugees in Istanbul who are largely excluded from employment in the formal job market. Despite migrant recycling workers’ role as the backbone of waste management infrastructures, the Turkish state has often chosen to criminalize their labor through environmental legislations and heavy-handed policing’depriving them of their only source of income, and even deporting them from the country. This research explores migrant recycling workers’ essential role in supporting the waste management infrastructures of Istanbul and questions how informal recycling industry unveils the systemic effects of pervasive border regimes and racialization of urban waste labor. My project also interrogates how these workers have developed strategies to contest the state’s punitive measures as they negotiate their belonging in the recycling industry and in the Turkish nation-state.