Dr Ilay Ors

ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2019-20

Dr Ilay Ors

ISRF Independent Scholar Fellow 2019-20

ISRF Ilay Ors

Ilay Romain Ors was born and raised in Istanbul, where she completed her undergraduate education at Bogazici University in Political Science and Sociology. After a year at the University College London doing an M.Sc. in Social Anthropology, she pursued her Ph.D. degree at Harvard University in Anthropology. Her dissertation fieldwork on the Greek Orthodox community of Istanbul was later revised and published under the title Diaspora of the City: stories of cosmopolitanism from Istanbul and Athens by Palgrave Macmillan in 2018. She is currently working on a project on migration where she investigates the overlapping migratory waves in the Aegean over the course of the last century until today. In addition to the eminent ‘refugee crisis’ at present, she will be taking into account other major episodes of displacement, such as the Forced Exchange of Population between Greece and Turkey in the 1920s. Ors is interested in showing that migration is not a singular linear narrative with a beginning and an end, but involves circular, broken, and overlapping waves that are diverse and disconcerted, which need to be comparatively studied and spatiotemporally contextualized. She is focusing her ethnographic research on various locations in Greece, including Athens and the islands of Lesvos and Leros.

Overlapping waves of migration in the Aegean: contextualizing a hundred years of disconcerted displacement with an interdisciplinary, comparative, and ethnographic approach

An ancient seaway of migration, the Aegean has long been scene to a variety of migratory experiences. The situation with Syrian refugees adds yet another dramatic episode to the backdrop of migratory waves in the region, not least the one imposed by the Treaty of Lausanne almost a century ago. Today, Aegean shores make breaking news with theatrically contrasting images of beach tourists and asylum-seekers. The juxtaposition of such criss-crossing trajectories in the same small corner of the world invites critical inquiry.

Migration is rightly recognized as an extraordinary matter of human concern, but the coding of single cases as ‘crisis’ causes us to lose sight of its persistent aspects, disregard its various perceptions in societies accustomed to living with mobility throughout their history, and disable any social preparedness that may render the impact of migration to be less than disastrous. The present project is unique for recognizing the overlapping courses of displacement and offering an interdisciplinary perspective for their spatiotemporal conceptualization to reach comparative analyses of migration in the Aegean and beyond.

My argument is that migration is best understood without reverting to conflation but through due contextualization, and that it is effectively addressed not through crisis-management, but through cultural accommodation––of how societies have at different times dealt with different migratory processes, and how these may help construct the basis for more apt strategies of policy-making in response to migration.

Fieldwork will be based on two critical sites selected as nodes of mobility for addressing the complex diversity of disconcerted displacement in Turkey and Greece. The research combines an interdisciplinary theoretical perspective with a qualitative mixed-methods approach and an ethnographically grounded analysis, which will form the first step in the longer term objective of a longitidunal study of the dynamic meta-network of global migration.

Contacting Fellows

If you would like to contact any of our Fellows to discuss their ISRF-funded work, please contact Dr Lars Cornelissen (Academic Editor) in the first instance, at lars.cornelissen@isrf.org.