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Yildiz, Emrah

Grant Type: 
Dissertation Fieldwork Grant
Insitutional Affiliation: 
Harvard U.
Status: 
Completed Grant
Approve Date: 
October 12, 2011
Project Title: 
Yildiz, Emrah, Harvard U., Cambridge, MA- To aid research on 'Traffic in Value: A Road Ethnography of Pilgrimage, Contraband Commerce, and Border-Crossing Across Eastern Borders of Turkey,' supervised by Dr. Steven C. Caton

EMRAH YILDIZ, then a student at Harvard University, Cambridge, Massachusetts, received a grant in October 2011 to aid research on 'Traffic in Value: A Road Ethnography of Pilgrimage, Contraband Commerce, and Border-Crossing across Eastern Borders of Turkey,' supervised by Dr. Steven C. Caton. The phase of research covered by the grant involved conducting crucial ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, and archival research on the Hajj-e Fuqara ('pilgrimage of the humble') route between Iran, Turkey, and Syria. The route emerged during the Iran-Iraq war as an alternative for Shi'a Iranians' pilgrimage to prominent sites in Iraq as well as to Mecca. The dissertation research examines the changing nexus of state sovereignty, religious pilgrimage, and informal economies along the Hajj-e Fuqara route. In the following two decades, this bus route shuttled Iranian pilgrims to the Sayyida Zainab shrine near Damascus, as well as contraband goods between Iran, Turkey and Syria. The Syrian civil war brought an end to pilgrimage and restructured the transnational contraband networks that the route had previously facilitated. By chronicling the transformations of this border landscape on the transnational fringes the Middle East, this dissertation aims to recover the arresting of traffic in people and goods as a moment in legal construction and social praxis of cross-border commercial labor, which the growing historical and anthropological scholarship on transnational mobility has often neglected in favor of historical continuity and geographical contiguity.