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THE PREDICAMENTS OF RECIPROCITY AT "HOME" FOR GERMAN-TURKISH RETURN MIGRANTS Susan Rottmann I. PROJECT SUMMARY In an era of increasing concern over host-country "assimilation" for transnational migrants, it is often taken for granted that migrants returning to their "home" country are effortlessly reabsorbed. However, for German-Turkish return migrants, "home" can be a space of tension and uncertainty. Returnees' ambiguous ethno-national identities are a source of anxiety for their fellow Turks, who wonder how Turks can maintain ethnic and cultural uniqueness while expanding political and social engagement with Europe. These anxieties are exacerbated by Turkey's pending European Union membership and the prospect of future Turkish labor migration to Europe. Many scholars have explored ethno-national identities for Turks in Germany, where their purported inability to "assimilate" is perceived as a threat to the ethnic and cultural uniqueness of European nations. However, the predicaments of German-Turkishness in Turkey remain less well understood. Over the course of one year of dissertation research, funded by Fulbright-Hays, I intend to study how the ethno-national identities of German-Turkish returnees are displayed and recognized in Bigadiç, Altinoluk, and Istanbul, Turkey. By interviewing these migrants, collecting their life stories, and observing everyday interactions, I will examine how German-Turks navigate belonging in families, communities, and nations after returning "home." My study will look at forms of reciprocity as empirical arenas for viewing the enactment and contestation of ethno-national identifications. During two months of preliminary research with German-Turks in Turkey, I found that belonging at "home" is created through webs of reciprocity--exchanges of food, money, information, help, and emotional support. I also found that these ties of reciprocity differ greatly depending on whether migrants are surrounded by their extended family in a small town like Bigadiç, surrounded by other German-Turks in a sea-


Susan Rottmann

side resort like Altinoluk, or surrounded by city-scale neighborhoods and institutions such as Hometown Associations (see Erder 2000) in Turkey's largest city, Istanbul. In the process of establishing homes in these different places, returnees confront a variety of predicaments surrounding their ethno-national identities (i.e. their belonging to a perceived cultural, genealogical, historical and political group). For instance, I noticed that sharing food, visiting neighbors and relatives, and caring for the sick and elderly are deeply entangled with "Turkishness" in Bigadiç. However, for many German-Turks, these notions of reciprocity are perceived as air (hard or burdensome). Some returnees prefer to visit and host German-Turkish friends in Altinoluk, even if it means angering family and being labeled Almanci (German-er or German-like). Building on these preliminary observations, I ask: How do reciprocal but hierarchical relations of support and obligation to relatives, the German-Turkish community, and the Turkish state change as return migrants move between geographically and symbolically different "homes"? How might migrants move between several different (and possibly contradictory) ethno-national categorizations as they search for inclusion in different places? In a context of increasing concern over ethno-national identities in Europe, what do such categorizations teach us about ethno-nationalism for German-Turks and potentially for other migrants? In answering these questions, I draw from scholarship on return migrants, on reciprocity, on migrant ethno-national identities, and on "everyday ethnicity." I plan to make three empirical and theoretical contributions to these literatures: First, by comparing and contrasting three locations, this research highlights the contextual variability of return migration experiences and points to the diversity of ethno-national identifications of return migrants. Second, it draws attention to the importance of reintegration into reciprocal networks for returnees and suggests


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ways that notions of reciprocity may be affected by transnational migration. Finally, the project's emphasis on the "everyday" forms of ethnicity and nationalism for return migrants will enhance our understanding of ethno-national identification and provide a valuable perspective on debates concerning "postnationality." II. RESEARCH CONTEXT The political, social and economic integration of Europe and the expansion of the European Union has brought on a "moral panic" about the meaning of "European civilization" (Lutz 1997: 100)--a panic compounded by Turkey's pending EU membership (Kubicek 2005). Commentators discussing Turkey's candidacy frequently note that Germany's more than 2 million Turks have been either unwilling or unable to "assimilate" (Ehrkamp 2006). Turkish immigrants often experience racial and anti-Muslim discrimination in Germany (Fetzer and Soper 2005), even though the German state initially invited Turkish immigrants to Germany as Gastarbeiter (guest workers) after World War II. For this project, I focus on German-Turks originally from the town of Bigadiç (population 14,600) in North-Western Turkey who were recruited to a variety of cities (Aachen, Munich and Nurenburg) and industries (mining, textile, food, plastic) in Germany in the 1960s and 1970s. Though many Turks choose not to return to Turkey permanently, approximately 35,000 return each year (Statistisches Bundesamt 2004), including several hundred originally from Bigadiç. These returning migrants are not seamlessly reabsorbed into Turkish society, but face several dilemmas: Many Turks view migrants to Germany as undesirable representatives of Turks in Europe. On the one hand, German-Turks are criticized even by Turks for their perceived inability to assimilate into Germany; on the other hand, their fellow Turks also call them "Almancis," a term literally meaning German-er or German-like. This derogatory label


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may refer alternately to their higher economic status or to their lack of Turkish cultural knowledge (Çalar 1995: 316). German-Turkish return migrants are thus caught up in struggles over national identity in both Germany and Turkey. In fact, their situation mirrors that of Turkey to the European Union: Turkish immigrants are the "Muslim other" in Germany, just as Turkey is the problematic "Muslim other" to the European Union. However, when German-Turks return to Turkey, they are the problematic and unfamiliar "European Turk"--representing what Turkey ambivalently wishes to be and may become in the future. III. THEORETICAL FRAMEWORK This project draws from and speaks to three key bodies of research: return migration, reciprocity and ethno-nationalism. Return Migration. Although the Annual Review of Anthropology published an article on the

subject of return migration in 1980 (Gmelch), it remained a largely neglected topic until the 1990s when transnationalism became an important research field in numerous disciplines (Brettell 2003: 48). As a broad literature surrounding "transnational communities" evolved (Basch et al 1994; Kearney 1995), scholars began noting the necessity of multi-sited research in order to capture immigration experiences (Marcus 1995) and the study of return migration burgeoned (see Stefansson and Markowitz 2004; Levitt 2001; Glick Schiller and Fouron 2001; Salih 2002). Recent research has begun to examine German-Turkish return migrants' experiences: their views of healthcare systems (Razum et al 2005) and consumption and display (Çaglar 1995; 2002). (See also Hesapçiolu 1991; Güven 1994; and Wolbert 1995). This proposal builds on this work as well as the sizable scholarship describing Turkish communities in Germany (White 1995; Abadan-Unat 2002) to examine ev (home) and memleket (homeland) for German-Turkish return migrants. Like previous scholars of return migration, I


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am concerned with how constructions of "home" are not only multiple and transnational, but how "home" becomes a place of tension for migrants who struggle with various forms of inclusion and exclusion (Al-Ali and Koser 2002). Establishing "home" through interactions with extended families once left behind in the country of origin, with neighborhood hosting and visiting circles, with religious communities, and with the state is a dynamic and creative challenge for return migrants. This study makes two contributions to this literature: first, it uses three sites of "return" to explore how migrants from the same "home town" establish homes in different places. Second, it points to the importance of networks and reciprocity for returnees' reintegration in their new (and paradoxically old) "homes." Reciprocity. The study of reciprocity has a long history in anthropology (Mauss 1925 [1990];

Levi-Strauss 1969; Wiener 1980) and anthropologists have remained concerned with how it allows recognition of "social worth" (Herzfeld 1987) or enables belonging and status in social networks (Forte 2001; Heatherington 2001). White (1994) studies reciprocal relations in Turkey, showing how kinship implies notions of reciprocity that are utilized in exploiting women's labor. She finds that notions of kinship and reciprocity can even be extended to national scales in Turkey through a rhetoric of indebtedness to the "father" state and "mother" nation (66-67). White's later research in Germany leads her to argue that the primary measure by which Turks in Germany identify someone as ethnically "Turkish" is by their participation in "generalized reciprocity" (e.g. sharing food, childcare, and money) (1997). White also suggests that there are conflicts between Turkish and German-Turkish norms of reciprocity. Unlike in Turkey, for example, money forms a central aspect of reciprocity for Turks in Germany (1997: 758). My research extends White's by focusing on return migrants' participation in reciprocal relations. I will investigate which reciprocal circles are key to returnees' reintegration, how


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participation in reciprocity may differ for men and women and how it may be linked to Muslim religiosity. Particularly, I will concentrate on the conflicts and tensions that may arise out of changed notions of reciprocity. I am also concerned with how migrants may be altering the terms of reciprocity in Turkey: for example, is their "German-ness" changing the way that money is used or shifting expectations of participation in familial rituals for others? These findings will be of interest to Turkish studies scholars and anthropologists concerned with how transnational experiences in Germany may be changing "traditional" notions of reciprocity. Ethno-nationalism. By examining German-Turks' participation in reciprocal networks in

Turkey, I will ask fresh questions about ethno-national identifications. I build on studies of migrant ethno-national identity in which two competing perspectives are emphasized. While some scholars emphasize weakened ethno-national identities and claims for rights based on notions of universal human rights (Soysal 1994; Baubock 1994), others stress the hegemonic disciplining of nation-states and the persistent strength of ethno-national attachments (Koopmans and Statham 1999; Ehrkamp and Leitner 2006). Oddly, German-Turks are singled out by scholars on both sides of this debate ­ as examples of both the "postnational citizen" (Soysal 1994), and as figures who identify strongly with Turkish ethnicity and seek belonging in the Turkish and German nations (Ehrkamp and Leitner 2006). My project engages this debate at the local level by drawing from recent scholarship on "everyday ethnicity," which views ethnicity as a mode of experience used to make sense of everyday problems and predicaments (Brubaker et al 2006: 207-208). Rather than a stable identity for individuals, in this view, ethnicity "happens at particular moments and in particular contexts" (Brubaker et al 2006: 208). I plan to study "everyday ethno-nationalism" (not simply "everyday ethnicity") because I do not believe that it is always possible or useful to distinguish


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between ethnicity and nationalism--indeed, in Turkish, the word "Türk" refers both to Turkish ethnic and to Turkish national background. I will examine where and how "everyday ethnonationalism" happens for return migrants by attending to the everyday problems and predicaments of reciprocity, including care for and financial support of family members, alms giving, and hosting and visiting other German-Turks. I also take this to the national level by looking at citizenship as a reciprocal relation with the state in the form of educating children, paying taxes, political mobilization, and voting. I will explore where conflicts over ethnonational identities arise and how returnees strategically mobilize different ethno-national identifications in their search for inclusion. For example, when are labels such as konukseverlik göstermeyen (inhospitable), gavur (Westerner/infidel) and avrupalilasmak (Europeanized) applied to German-Turks and how do German-Turks respond to such ethnic marking? I expect that explorations of differing "everyday" practices of reciprocity at multiple levels and sites will shed light on the dynamic and contextual nature of ethno-national identifications, and therefore provide fresh perspectives on "postnationality" and ethno-national identity. IV. PREPARATION AND FEASIBILITY This project has matured under the direction of my dissertation committee including: Prof. Kenneth M. George and Prof. Kirin Narayan, who have guided me in exploration of anthropological theory and methodologies; Prof. Leila Harris who is an expert on Turkey and is herself working on a research project examining migration between Turkey and Germany; and Prof. Myra Marx Ferree, with whom I am co-authoring a paper entitled, "Citizenship and Intersectionality: German Feminist Debates about Headscarf Laws and Anti-Discrimination Laws," which we plan to publish in Gender & Society. I have also been working closely with anthropologist Aye Parla at Sabanci University, whose work with Bulgarian-Turkish return


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migrants (2003; 2005; 2006) provides an apt comparative case to my own. Dr. Parla has expressed willingness to collaborate with me on future research and to allow me to share the results of the research in progress and a copy of the dissertation with scholars at Sabanci University. Prof. Parla advised me throughout preliminary research funded by the Social Science Research Council during the summer of 2007, while I spent two months in the household of a German-Turkish family moving between Bigadiç and Altinoluk. I was engaged in every aspect of daily life with them, and I was able to attend several family and community gatherings such as weddings and güns (women's visiting days). I also utilized my advanced Turkish language skills to conduct 22 interviews with these family members, their relatives, and their neighbors. This pre-dissertation research allowed me to hone the ideas I discuss in this proposal as well as to establish contacts that make my future research feasible in a one-year time period. V. RESEARCH METHODS AND TIMELINE I plan to answer my research questions by collecting evidence through three ethnographic methods: close observations of everyday interactions, directed and open-ended interviews, and collection of migrants' life stories. I apply these methods as part of a comparative approach which takes seriously the need for "a multi-locational research strategy" to study migration (Guarnizo and Smith 1998: 26). September 2008 ­ December 2008: Bigadiç. Upon arrival in Turkey, I will stay with a family in Bigadiç with whom I lived during the summer of 2007. Over four months, I will regularly attend the meetings of a gün (women's visiting circle). My stay will coincide with Ramadan, as well as the four-day religious holidays of Ramazan Bayrami (Eid ul-Fitr) in October and Kurban Bayrami (Eid ul-Adha) in December, during which many Turks travel home to visit their


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families. This will provide me with an opportunity to view interactions between returnees and family members. Building on my previous relationships in Bigadiç, I plan to complete 30 interviews during this time. My goal will be to establish trust with several returnees in order to gather complete and detailed stories about their lives by the end of the year. January 2009 -- April 2009: Istanbul and Bigadiç. During this time, I will live in Istanbul with a family of German-Turks (originally from Bigadiç) that I met last summer, and I will seek out contact with returnees that I meet during their return to Bigadiç for religious holidays between September and December. I will also observe interactions between family members visiting from Bigadiç and will make trips to Bigadiç with German-Turks whenever possible. I plan to complete 30 interviews and to attend the meetings of a gün and a hometown association during this time. I hope to observe how returnees' practices and ethno-national categorizations in Bigadiç and Istanbul differ. May 2009 -- August 2009: Altinoluk and Bigadiç. During the final stage of research, I will divide my time between Altinoluk and Bigadiç and attend to changes in returnees' practices in these two places. June, July, and August are the months when Turks still living in Germany return for izin (summer vacation), and permanent and semi-permanent returnees will converge on Altinoluk to meet friends. The summer months are also the time for weddings in Bigadiç. I will thus return periodically to observe wedding planning and celebrations. I will complete 30 additional interviews during these months and will select 10 representative migrants from whom I can gather complete life histories. VI. ETHNOGRAPHIC EVIDENCE I plan to observe reciprocal exchanges in daily life between German-Turks, their family members, other German-Turks, and the state across three locations. I will follow migrants as


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they move between public and private settings and events, including family gatherings, hometown association meetings, markets, religious services and travel agencies. I plan to especially attend to moments of ethno-national labeling in circumstances in which reciprocity is contested. For example, such labeling might include accusations of having become "Almanlamak" (Germanized) or that Türklüü kaybetmek (Turkishness has been lost). I will also monitor returnees' ongoing participation in local and national political processes including voting, interactions with government agencies, and political discussions. Interviews and collection of life stories will explore returnees' participation in reciprocity and will investigate how involvement may have changed across location (Bigadiç or Istanbul) or time period (before or after returning permanently to Turkey). I will look for explicit reference to duties and obligations because of a desire to be perceived as (for example) "hospitable" and "concerned about family" like "Turks" or "modern" like "Germans." I will also be attentive to accounts of conflicts surrounding expectations, since these may be moments where reference is made to inclusion or exclusion within ethno-national categories. As the research progresses, I also plan to identify interviewees among returnees' relatives and neighbors who can provide direct statements about their relationships and their perceptions of conflicts with German-Turks. VI. RESEARCH SIGNIFICANCE Ultimately, German-Turks are a group that has come to represent the potential sociocultural redefinition of Turkey signified by Turkey's pending EU membership. There is a pressing need for scholars and government officials in Turkey, Europe and in wider academic circles to understand return migration, reciprocity and ethno-national identity for German-Turks. I will therefore share my research findings through publications, public talks and private meetings with policy makers and scholars in Turkey, Germany, and the United States.




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