MSc Thesis on return-migration in Turkey-Kurdistan

The destruction and burning of thousands of rural settlements and the forced migration of hundred thousands, if not millions of (mostly) Kurdish villagers is one of the most painful and pressing issues in Turkey. Though the evacuations date back to the end of the 1980s, the issue has left a heavy legacy, socially, politically, and economically.

Over the last years, many thousands of people returned to their villages. Yet little is known about who returns and when and how livelihoods are rebuild . The evidence there is suggests that not all segments of the population return in equal proportions and that young men and young families in particular are underrepresented among the returnees. Furthermore, it transpires that people do not exchange their urban accommodation for a rural one; instead, it appears that what may be identified as dual or extended settlement patterns emerge. Apparently, there is not only no coming back to an earlier condition, but rather the development of new ways of organizing living and working space.

For those attempting return, there are new problems, livelihood difficulties that they did not have to face prior to their evacuation. Clearly, re-establishment as a peasant is difficult because most of the displaced have to start from scratch: they arrive back to find their fields and houses ruined. Furthermore, community facilities and services like health care and education facilities and water and electricity supplies were similarly destroyed or fell into disrepair or just remained unsupplied. Neo-liberal policies are said to have negatively impacted returnees by undermining their ability to make a living from agriculture.

At the Rural Sociology group and in collaboration with partners in Turkey we would like to look at return migration from several perspectives. Therefore, we are looking for (two or three) students who are interested in doing a MSc thesis, looking at the (gendered) demography of return, the rebuilding of livelihood and multi-place settlement patterns and spatial mobility.

Does one of these issues make you curious and/or do you have an interest in one or more of the research themes mentioned above, please contact Joost Jongerden at