Wednesday, January 1, 2020

URSP Student Lucia Bautista Researches the Informal Employment of Syrian Refugees in Turkey’s Textile and Garment Industry

My name is Lucia Bautista, and I am a senior majoring in Global Affairs with a concentration in Global Inequalities &Responses. For my GLOA Honors project, I am researching Turkey’s lucrative textile and garment industry, where hundreds of thousands of Syrian refugees labor under exploitative conditions as uncontracted employees. More specifically, I examine how Turkey’s government and private sector interact to shape working conditions and precarious livelihoods for vulnerable Syrian workers. What sparked this idea was a course I took while studying abroad last semester at Oxford University. My professor at the time, Dr. Emre Korkmaz, inspired my project idea through one of my assignments that concerned low wages and poor working conditions in informal economies. When I arrived back at Mason and began my project, I noticed that two prominent themes across the literature I was reading were the concepts ‘precarity’ and ‘state-capital nexus.’ I have chosen process tracing as my principal methodology, which, in essence, is a qualitative method that determines the strength of evidence for causal relationships through probability testing. Within a single-case design, process tracing explains how different variables caused an outcome and confronts rival hypotheses to legitimize its case. I am systematizing data from the Turkish Government, UNHCR, and the World Integrated Trade Solution (among a few others) and testing for precarious labor, a contested state belonging and shared state and capital pursuits. In doing so, I will propose linkages between the implementation, reinforcement, and intentionality of informal labor in the textile and garment industry.

Each week varies in terms of what I do, but reading and re-reading is a must. It is essential that I fully understand the pre-existing scholarship so that I can probably analyze the quantitative aspects of my project, validate the trends I am testing for, and pair each part with its complementary literature. For a few weeks in the middle of the semester, I shifted my focus also to include researching statistics from the past few decades. The statistics I have gathered have provided insight into the working permits Turkey has issued to Syrian refugees and the industrial impact of Turkey’s textile & garment sector. Now, in the final weeks of this semester, I am focusing on creating the line graphs and other infographics for my poster. I am excited to share the findings of my project, as I believe that they address numerous gaps in the discussion of the global garment industry and the comparative advantage that a vulnerable working class of people provides. This project has deepened my knowledge of the garment industry. As I continue to work towards becoming a labor rights lawyer, it has enabled me to develop better analysis skills.