Koç University (Turkey)


This project examines how families with members suffering from chronic occupational diseases manage Covid-19 infection risk in Turkey. Workers employed in dangerous industries with exposure to the risk of chronic occupational diseases or those who suffer from such diseases become extremely vulnerable as healthcare services are drastically suspended for people with chronic health conditions. We will study how workers with silicosis—a chronic lung disease triggered by the inhalation of dust particles—and their families negotiate their working lives and health conditions within the specific context of Turkey. We will conduct surveys, telephone interviews with 30 households, and archival research on the pandemic’s socioeconomic impact on working-class families with members suffering from occupational diseases. Analyzing this data, we want to understand the familial, social, and political contexts where these workers face the conundrum between keeping their employment and maintaining their health. Moving beyond the microscopic approaches to contagion in epidemiological studies, this research first reveals the socially and politically embedded route of disease by analyzing the collective familial efforts in managing the volatile balance of infection, the need for care, and household subsistence. Second, our research shows how the two public health crises—i.e., the acute Covid-19 pandemic and the slow unfolding of occupational diseases—and their diverse temporalities co-exist and perpetuate each other in unexpected ways. Finally, it diversifies scholarly conversations on the pandemic and contributes to epistemic fairness by incorporating the perspectives of researchers and the marginalized poor from the global South.

Principal Investigators

Basak Can

Assistant Professor, Sociology Department, Koç University

Dr. Basak Can holds a PhD in anthropology from the University of Pennsylvania and is an assistant professor of sociology at Koç University. She is a medical anthropologist with an interest in the intersections of human rights, political violence, forensics, and the politics of care and body. She is currently working on her book “Forensic Fantasies: Doctors, Documents and the Limits of Truth in Turkey.” She has previously undertaken research on gendered work relations, care work, reproductive health, forensic documentation of torture, and triaging of care among dialysis patients in Turkey. Her research has appeared in journals such as American Anthropologist, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health and Illness, New Perspectives in Turkey, Reproductive Health Matters, Communication, Culture & Critique and Media, Culture & Society. She secured research grants and fellowships from institutions such as the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University, Raoul Wallenberg Institute, Blickwechsel: Contemporary Turkey Studies at Humboldt University of Berlin, and the Wenner-Gren Foundation.

Zeynel Gul

PhD Candidate, Johns Hopkins University

Zeynel Gul is a PhD candidate at the Department of Anthropology at Johns Hopkins University. His research project examines the classification and documentation of occupational diseases at the intersection of law, medicine, and workplaces in Turkey.