I feel like I am losing myself’: Humanitarian protection, security, and queer migrants in Istanbul


KHAS Core Program

April 19, Tuesday, 20:00

What does security mean from the standpoint of queer migrants and humanitarian agents? How does it shape the humanitarian protection regime? Can the existing regime protect queer migrants? Turning the focus to the humanitarian encounter between queer migrants and humanitarian agents, this presentation demonstrates that the humanitarian practice falls short of establishing a comprehensive protection response due to its selective hearing/listening of migrant voices. Framing security as freedom from immediate threats, humanitarian agents tend to privilege the claims to physical security while eschewing analysis of ontological security, derived from freedom to constitute a distinct self. In that, they turn queerness into an identity to be controlled in a context of systemic violence and discrimination and at times impede protection of the (queer) self. I conceptualize protection as a contested category, continually negotiated by migrants and humanitarian agents. Meaning of protection shifts across a continuum of varied and sometimes contradictory notions of security. I draw my conclusion from my fieldwork on humanitarian NGOs in Istanbul and from in-depth, semi-structured interviews with 10 humanitarian agents and 10 queer migrants. My analysis contributes to the critical literature on securitization by elaborating on the question of audience. In questioning security in its multiplicity, it further seeks alternative ways to rethink and practice humanitarian protection in the global governance of migration.