Sunday, May 20, 2007

Turkey fieldwork notes: work; insecurity

Kurdistan/Turkey fieldwork notes extracts

At 11.55pm on the 8th of May 2007, I jotted down a few notes about the economic, political and professional insecurity that influences choices about work in the region:
I got up, made my way into the centre of the old town (of Mardin), had a light breakfast and visited the small museum. After the visit, I rang a friend of a friend and met him [for a glass of tea]. I explained what I was doing to him and some of his friends in English and Turkish, him translating what I had to say in English.

He told me that young Turkish archaeologists worked on dam-affected sites because they needed the money and because they needed publications, for their professional standing and advancement; I sympathised, noting that if international archaeologists refused to work on dam-affected sites, they could always just go somewhere else.

He also drew a distinction between the British archaeologists who I'd mentioned whose union issued a ban on work for the Ilısu Dam Project on ethical grounds and the Americans who continued to come and work here.

He also observed what I'd read elsewhere, that locals worked on the projects just for the work. 'They just look to today, they don't look to the future'; enduring the poverty and insecurity that they do, it's perfectly understandable.

He also noted that it was different in Hasankeyf: 'in Hasankeyf, they have tourists so they know what they're missing'; for this reason, they are willing to face the different sets of risks associated with trying to stop the Ilısu Dam Project (the loss of the guaranteed income from dam work against the potential maintenance of and gain from tourism).

Smiling, he said, 'you can say that some archaeologists are definitely opposed to the dams'.... I learned that Kurdish-language cultural heritage works are published under assumed names, to protect the academics.

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