Packing Relations: A Case Study on Young Refugee Women’s Capability to form Social Capital

Balcioglu, Zeynep (2016). 'Packing Relations: A Case Study on Young Refugee Women’s Capability to form Social Capital' Paper presented at the annual conference of the HDCA, Tokyo 2016.

abstract The OECD defines social capital as “networks together with shared norms, values and understandings that facilitate co-operation within or among groups”.  Social Capital is a concept that is getting highly popularized in recent years through its use by the OECD and the World Bank. Its utilization marks a significant shift for the analysis on social cohesion from a macro-level perspective to individual and community levels of analysis. In this paper, I explore how social capital perpetuate and reinforce refugees’ capability to expand their agency, meaning ability to choose different ways of living.   The target group of the study is the young female refugees aged between 18 and 30 who fled the civil war in Syria and moved to Istanbul in the last 3 years. The focus is placed on refugee women living in urban environment rather than camps, because I explore young refugee’s social, economic and political choices in an urban settlement, which necessitates the application of long term or even durable policies. Thus, the Capability Approach is used as a metric and a lens through which I can underlay the conditions that enable individuals to promote collective action, instead of outcome oriented frameworks that analyze individuals as mere receivers.   I gathered data through extensive survey with the refugee women themselves and conducted in-depth interviews both with the refugees and the academics and humanitarian workers who are working closely with the refugee women. I used both qualitative and quantitative approaches. Accordingly, the paper is designed in three parts: First, I analyze if there is an enabling environment for young refugee women to develop their own form of social capital. To do that I examine the means and the ways refugee women gather information regarding daily life affairs, market conditions and public services, patterns of social inclusion and exclusion in everyday forms of interaction (particularly in public services) and if they hold any power to influence the institutions that affect their welfare. Then in the second part, I analyze, given the circumstances, can young refugee women form social capital and in what forms by looking at their participation into social organizations including informal groups, trust levels (interpersonal and to institutions) and their ability to have say over the legal infrastructure that affects their lives. Finally, I seek to explain in what ways capability or incapability to form social capital expands refugee women’s agency in terms of integration into host community, access to work opportunities and public services etc.

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