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Four Migration Stories: Four Turkish Migrants, Four Sui Generis Portraits in Germany

This study attempts to analyze the peculiarity of the migration stories of the Muslims in Germany who have emigrated from Turkey. Each of the four interviewees is treated as a case to explore diversity and pluralism amongst the Turkish immigrants. The main questions addressed in the study are: (a) How does anthropological discourse study of the interviewees reflect the particularities of migrants termed as “individuation”? (b) How can each personality be viewed as a conglomeration of sociological concepts through a discourse analysis? (c) How does anthropological discourse analysis approach to Muslims living in Germany who have a relationship with Turkey reveal personal backgrounds as a predictor of migration experience? An interpretative approach is exerted throughout the study to reveal the self-constructed individual realities that each story entails.

Four Migration Stories Four Turkish Migrants Four Sui Generis Portraits
Turkish women and their children, taking German lessons provided for immigrants, soon after they moved to Germany. Eckel / ullstein bild via Getty Images


This is a case study of the Muslim immigrants living in Germany who maintain a relationship with Turkey, either distant or intimate. The study aims to explore the diversity of the immigrant Turks and seeks. By the phrase 'each case,' it is meant that each interviewee is a case to explore diversity, sui generis characters and pluralism. The study seeks the peculiarity / subjectivity of the interviewees. as such studies are not micro-lenses to reflect upon the very subjectivities. In other words, the purpose is to evaluate and validate a discourse analysis of the Turkish immigrants' reflections on their migration journeys,1 Retrieving from the interpretative anthropology, the study of Geertz writes, Ge but an interpretative one in search of meaning. ” 2The discourse analysis is expected to assist in revealing the differences, meanings and symbols. In other words, the output of the discourse analysis constitutes the input of the interpretative anthropology. The fundamental questions, retrieving from the discourse analysis and interpretative anthropology to study the ethnography of communication, the interviewer, to be addressed in the study are: (a) How does anthropological discourse analysis study of the interviewees reflect the particularities of migrants termed as “individuation”? (b) How can a personality be viewed as a conglomeration of sociological concepts through a discourse analysis study? (c) How does an anthropological discourse analysis approach to Muslims live in Germany?

The dichotomy of the in life in urban Germany as more comfortable ”than the Anatolian rural Anatolian countryside from which most immigrant Turkish workers came” However, such a generalization makes one fall into the trap. 

Turkish immigrants rendering their disparity in different ways, convening in Turkish coffee-houses, mosques and hometown associations, through which they incarnate their say in the public sphere which also leads to a recreation of a mini-Turkey practice in the habits, language, tradition In this way, they can also be used in a new way. 3

Germany urgently needed young healthy men who would form the labor force during the recovery period after the Second World War, hence treating them as guest workers, symbolizing the temporariness of their stay in the host country. Turkish immigrants in Germany are virtual immigrants, as the German governments did not define Germany as a permanent host of immigrants in the 1970s and 1980s. Turkish immigrants had been “initially called Framderbeiter , or foreign / alien workers, but later labeled Gasterbeiter or guest workers, denoting in German meaning of the term their alien or temporary status.” 4

There is a considerable amount of literature, with examples from several European countries, published by Wodak, Khosravinik and Mral,5 Mudde6 and Mudde and Kaltwasser7 on the typologies of migrants, as a discursive product of populism and right-wing parties, the populist radical right parties’ enemy perceptions and even enemy constructions. The current position of the radical right parties with respect to the process of defining refugees as a problem and a threat to the order of the society, their roles in the alienation of the migrants, representations of the refugees as the agents stealing the jobs of the host society, state policies underlining the temporary nature of the refugees’ stay in the host country is reflected in migrants’ discourse by countering or internalization strategies.

Another reciprocal clash is the point that although he was a person actively participating in politics and earning a lot of money in the home country, the condition of being an illegal worker pushes him to be a total outsider

The state of in-betweenness is the alienation from both home and host country. Hence it is not only the state of belonging to the home country but also the state of non-belonging to both that may push them to the margins of not only the host but also the society back home. It is also argued that Turkish immigrants had never been labeled as high-class citizens in the home country, and most of them were instilled with the idea of making money and looking after their families in the home country since the low socio-economic conditions of the Turkish care-takers play a crucial role in the dynamic of the motivating factor for many.8 Turkish immigrants have faced the problems of education, language, adaptation and integration and most of the young Turkish immigrants have been employed in the apprenticeships where the level of supply by the host society is low since more desirable choices are at the disposal of the wider community.9 The lower-class state in the home country has preserved the validity taking regard of the prevalence of “unemployment and income poverty (as the) signs of incipient underclass formation.”10 In the absence of the adequate availability of job opportunities, Turkish immigrants are subjected to “the major form of exclusion.”11 With regard to the individual experiences of being an immigrant, one can appreciate the extent of the sense of exclusion, alienation, belonging and assimilation, which is employed to denote being in harmony with the tradition and lifestyles of the large-scale community.12

Source of Data

The community does not have a feature of exclusiveness, for this reason it was not difficult to get involved into the public spheres they have established, both formal and unofficially. As the variables are complicated, the researcher needs to use the “emic” point of view, interpreting the significations and actors’ points of view within that culture: this requires techniques of data gathering in the form of interviews in the field, participant observation that will provide understanding of the actor’s perspectives.


For this study, 23 interviews were conducted. Most of the interviews were held in the city of Bremen and the remainder in Hamburg, Münster, Lübeck, Leipzig, Osnabruck, and Dortmund. Concerning the ethnic orientation of the interviewees, they were mainly Turkish, including three Kurdish and one of Bosnian origin, reflecting on the social structure of the home country. Hence, the main criterion for the selection of interviewees was being a Muslim/Turkish immigrant in Germany, but exceptional cases were included if they were thought to be useful within the context. Another criterion for the selection of interviewees was the emphasis on the time of the migration. Turkish immigrants show different aspects considering not only their cultural, religious, linguistic and even national characteristics, but also the time period in which immigration to Germany took place. The interviewees were of different migratory generations, however, in this study, our focus is on the last generation.

Most of the interviews were held in Turkish, but there were also a few interviews held in German. Some interviews were conducted both in Turkish and German. While some interviews employed two languages simultaneously, other interviewees switched from one language to another during the interview. The interviewer did not intervene in the process of rhetorical creation, as the main concern was only to collect the anthropological data and the switches from German to Turkish or from Turkish to German were also of a crucial anthropological value revealing their most sincere moments, assisting reader’s association. The study is thematically organized, as themes are the prominent factors to reveal the individual accounts of the interviewees countering the mainstream, macro-level and conventional histories. The thematic categorization of each case reveals how the personal backgrounds, as a product of various themes, underlies the account of each migration.



Personal Background as Predictor of Migration Experience

Case 1: Hidayet Çoban

The personal backgrounds as a predictor of migration experience means that particular subjectivities are of various dimensions, maneuvers and amalgamations of the past and present opportunities at their disposal. It reflects the extent of their chance to be in harmony with the new habitat. A single category of the socio-cultural, ethnical, economic status of immigrants exerted out of the scientific, long-process, theoretical studies does not always provide a sound ground upon which an anthropological discourse analysis study as such can depend. An anti-case is the figure that is out of the general pattern regarding the push-pull factors. Each of the interviews, as a case, reveals differences in personal backgrounds, migration experiences and responses to the receiving country and society.

Turning now to the empirical data and the notes of participant observation obtained through random interviews, as an anti-circumstance, Hidayet Çoban reveals his past:

As I said, I was born in Adana and grew up there. I was a market trader when I was in Adana, Turkey. Everything was fine with my job. Sometimes, I was able to gain so much money in two months that I could buy a car. I remember that once in four months I made enough money to buy a house.13

These words, uttered as a reflection of his personal background in Turkey, reveal that though semi-skilled, he cannot be evaluated as a low-income Turkish citizen in the home country. One of the generalizations made by the Turkish migrants is that the main reasons for migration are low-income, low-social status, no future prospects and unemployment-ridden conditions, which were not the case for him. The dichotomy of the “life in urban Germany as more comfortable” than the “rural Anatolian countryside from which most immigrant Turkish workers came” seems to be the main dynamic behind the migration experience.14 However, such a generalization makes one fall into the trap of overlooking other dynamics that are also significant. Çoban’s words make it clear that it is not his own social achievement or failure that swept him to Germany but the political events and his psychological problems in the home country. Çoban reveals the reason for his migration with the words:

I had to take my leave from university due to some political reasons. I was a member of a leftist group during that time. I was always in trouble. There was almost no day without any trouble. I was also stressed in the bazaar. I fought with a group there. It was a serious event. It was about exaction. I stabbed one of them. He did not die but got injured. Then I ran away to Antalya.15

It is the combination of political events, personal psychological problems (though he tried to explain that he has nervous tension he failed to find the true term) and an unfortunate circumstance that pushed him into migration. According to a large volume of literature, the principal push factors include: widespread unemployment, poverty, a rapid increase in population and slow rate of development and industrialization in the sending countries. However, in this example, economic and social pressures are simply replaced with a psychological problem and political chaos in the home country.16 It is not the social life conditions, but his very personal life that functioned as a push factor.


Familial Push Factors: An Imported Bride

It is not only the social obtrusive factors, but also familial reasons that were the main pushing factors as Çoban states: “My father was disabled, and mother was a mental health patient. What I had in mind was: if I had a better lifestyle, I could also help my family.”17 The difficult conditions in making a living also play a central role in the discourse.18 However, among the reasons that Çoban uttered they do not have priority, but are rather reflected as the tangible reasons for his nervous tension rather than the migration journey. The quest for a peaceful home reflects the sense of displacement since it involves the replacement of the home country with another one.

The sense of weirdness is applied to every experience in Çoban’s memory. The mutually exclusive factors increase in number as Çoban’s interaction with Germany increases. He describes his emotions as a reflection on the exclusive factors of real Germany as:

But the real shock was after I got out of the airport. I saw a Mercedes 500L brand car. What a beauty! Then I realized that it was a taxi. It was a taxi. I was surprised. But the weird feeling inside me grew in the taxi. The driver was also Turkish. He was an engineer. Everything was more than enough for me. It was as if I was getting smaller and smaller. Everything was bigger than me. There was almost nothing that I was familiar with. I had a weird feeling in my heart. Should I shut up? Or cry? I preferred to keep silent. As soon as I was home, I got into bed and slept. I was surprised by almost everything.19

‘Shock,’ ‘surprise,’ ‘surprising,’ ‘everything being more than enough,’ ‘unfamiliarity’ and ‘weirdness’ are the words that need to be focused on. These words demonstrate the discrepancy between the imagined Germany and experienced Germany in Çoban’s mind, since Çoban loses his sense of comfort, as his experiences constitute the new and real impression of Germany in his mind-set. His personal background taught him that expensive cars are not used as taxis. However, even a simple encounter with an expensive brand of a taxi is more than enough for him to change his perception, to redefine his place, and to check whether he has something to say about it or not.

The sense of helplessness, which becomes prevalent in the spheres out width the Turkish immigrants’ network, works as a factor forcing Soydan to take the role of an outsider

The discourse also involves a minor sample of inter-textuality, referring to the real profession of the taxi driver. The story reveals “a picture of great waste of human capital in economic terms.”20 Waste of human capital is not only visible in economic terms but also in the restricted social milieu within which the “lebensraum” of the Turkish migrants is defined.

When I came here, we stayed with my mother-in-law. It was a huge house, but it was really difficult for us. For instance, one day, my mother-in-law said: “I just bought 20 liters of water yesterday. Today there is nothing left. How come?” In every similar situation, I felt that she was talking about me. I didn’t drink a glass of water for a long time at home.21

Being homeless in the host country is the first factor pushing him down the ladder of social hierarchy. All the economic and social achievements in the home country are gone with the wind of the migration. Now he is a man, married to a German-Turk, depending on the economic and social facilities at his mother-in-law’s disposal. Home symbolizes a protected sphere. It seems that even a grumble about a trivial thing by his mother-in-law within the new ‘home’ makes him think that his independence is already lost. A man with nervous tension, who was accustomed to “show the strength of his muscles” at every opportunity, loses independence in the host country.


Appearance vs. Reality

A comparative view of his two lives, in the home and host countries, reveals an utter loss of economic independence. His words also reveal that in his eyes he becomes half a man since his existence was directly related to the financial guarantee of his mother-in-law. Since he did not have a work permit he had no other chance to create his own lebensraum. Another downfall is observed in his preconceptions of the host country. He realizes that the prosperity of Germany is not applicable to the Turkish immigrants. Another reciprocal clash is the point that although he was a person actively participating in politics and earning a lot of money in the home country, the condition of being an illegal worker pushes him to be a total outsider: “I turned into an introvert. I had a social life in Turkey. I was playing football. I was a member of a political organization. When I had a problem, one hundred people were ready to gather beside me.”22 One can get the sense of a paralyzed man deprived from the social and political spheres that require active participation.

migrant museum

The “Migration Museum,” opened to recall the past of the Turkish immigrants in Germany, exhibits handicrafts, life stories and pictures of 50 first generation Turks who migrated to Germany.  CÜNEYT KARADAĞ / AA Photo

During the interview, omitting the nervous tension, Çoban insists that even his psychological problems have adapted to the new environment. The first period of his migration experience can be described as if he were in a survival psychology. The trivial problems are overcome by the adrenaline of ‘survival’ in the host country. However, when it comes to his present condition, he states “I am at peace with the German society. I like living with these people here. I like the established order here but it took some time for me to recognize their characteristics. I was so busy with my own problems that I could not realize the different aspects of German society but I really appreciate them.”23 While referring to his present condition, he makes use of the words: ‘being at peace,’ ‘like,’ ‘established order,’ ‘recognition’ and ‘appreciation.’ Though these words seem to reveal his adaptation and integration, the rhetorical tools of association are only the means of covering his obligation. When he refers to recognition, he actually makes use of the term with two meanings: recognition and understanding. It is not Çoban’s epiphany. What one can deduct from his rhetoric is that it is only his way of adaptation as a form of survival.



Language as an Obstacle to Self-Esteem Development

Case 2: Metin Soydan

Metin Soydan reflects a refugee mindset when he reveals his migration journey. Turkish immigrants like Soydan refer to their inability to express themselves as the primary reason to be outsiders to “what is going on” in different public spheres in which interaction with German speaking people is inevitable as an ordinary course of things.24 He refers to his condition as “helplessness.” He found complete difficulty in finding the words to express what he knows by heart. Leading on the same subject, Soydan maintains:

Yes, it was a huge problem. I lost my willingness to learn the language. When you accept the situation as such, when you lose your self-esteem, you cannot learn the language. One day, I was going to my job. The boss came by. He was saying something. I thought he was saying the usual things as always he does. “Alles klar.” “Ok Maister.” I said. Then they brought someone. There was no Turk in the business. Then he tried to explain with simple German words. He said: “Keine Arbeir. Feierabend.” I said “Warum.” He said: “Hause. Weg, Keine Arbeit.” I understood that I was fired. I could not make any sense. I was just fired. Then I came home. It was one of the worst days of my life.25

Soydan’s response to his boss is a simple example of “feeling as ‘outsiders’ to a unicultural dominant society.” It is not only due to his inability to express himself in the common language but also as an “Auslander” whose opportunity to find a new job is predestined to be low.26 As to the “worst day of his life,” Soydan refers to a day in Germany, though he had lived in Turkey and in Austria with a labor passport. The sense of helplessness, which becomes prevalent in the spheres out width the Turkish immigrants’ network, works as a factor forcing Soydan to take the role of an outsider. The sense of restriction, alienation, humiliation and inferiority can be traced through the sentences he employs.

Rather than the German media, Turkish immigrants choose to follow the Turkish media, which has a critical eye on Germany, as a source of getting information about the host country

Language is depicted as a prominent cultural asset, without which the life of the migrants is out of the natural course of things. Rather than putting the blame on the other side, Soydan adopts a rhetoric that puts the blame on his own “inability,”

It is all because of the fact that I could not express myself. I felt myself a 5th class citizen. I said to myself: “Oh my God. Why did you send me here?” I was working really hard. I was always smiling. Despite my broken German, I got along well with other people. But when you do not have enough words to express yourself, you lose self-respect. One week after I came from Turkey, I said to my wife: “I became a half human here.” I could not achieve anything myself. I felt inferior since I could not speak German.27

Soydan reflects his deficit in learning German. He thinks that it is his mistake to think of an easy life without language which forms a huge obstacle against socio-cultural integration. Lack of language produces the “tendency to become somatized due to an inability to express feelings verbally… low self-determination and self-control, and the desire of obtaining social or economic benefits from the symptoms.”28 In parallel with many German-Turks, Soydan longs for economic facilities such as employment, equal economic opportunities, and accommodation rather than cultural and social harmony with the host society.29

The reciprocal relationship between Soydan and the public spheres belonging to German society plays a constraining role. He cannot perform what he simply wants or what is expected from him. Hence, he finds refuge under the wings of the Turkish community or he takes rhetorical action that is full of self-criticism. He gives a picture of a “half-man” whose premise is the Turkish conception of the “father figure as the backbone of the home.” This is the culture in which the man is expected to earn money, look after his family and provide them with all their necessary needs. The discourse also associates “freedom” with living within Turkish culture and tradition in the home country. As a Turkish father with an expectation to fulfill the responsibilities as the backbone of the family, he delineates his “freedom.” Fulfillment of the roles constructed by the traditional demands in the home country is directly associated with freedom.



Conglomeration of Sociological Concepts

Case 3: Hasan Çamcı

The setting in which this interview was conducted was a quiet mosque teahouse, usually crowded during the five daily prayer times with Turks being the dominant group. News about Turkey was on the TV. One can observe that, rather than the German media, Turkish immigrants choose to follow the Turkish media, which has a critical eye on Germany, as a source of getting information about the host country.30 In line with studies on the public spheres constructed by Turkish immigrants, it was evident that German-Turks prefer to get information from the Turkish TV channels, and especially TRT INT.31 Another focal point in the debates and daily conversations of Turkish immigrants was the Turkish football super league. It was a civic sphere constructed by Turkish immigrants as a way to “secure the self” from the outer German sphere. It is a self-structured habitat “constituted by a well-functioning extended family, an ethnic neighborhood, community-based groups, self-help organizations, and the mosque.”32


Culture Shock

Mentioning the images that simply annoy him, Çamcı maintains that: “the intimacy of people, girlfriends and boyfriends on the road, was also strange. I feel myself as an alien and different. I had never experienced such things before.”33 Çamcı depicts a state of cultural shock that can be described as the psychological loss of one’s bearings, experienced by people whose social and cultural environment is in a sudden and radical change.34 The unfamiliar circumstance that he finds himself in creates a need for a new formula of life-conduct and perspective. The words “alien” and “different” work in service of figuring out the extent of the cultural shock experienced.

One simply needs to use language to raise and reflect his/her identity. Lack of language results in being silenced in the political and social spheres and creates a concurrent existence and  non-existence

The feeling of inferiority and servility stems from the perception that the large-scale community is actuated by self-help motives. In what follows, he maintains that: “people think that I am just stupid since I could not speak German. I believe this. I know it is prejudice. But I cannot prevent it. They make me feel inferior.”35 Though he is aware that it is just a prejudice, he reflects the impact of the attitudes taken by the large-scale community as a humiliating factor regarding his incapacity to adapt to a fundamental cultural trait, language. The deficits can be put into a structural line as: the want of practical knowledge, the agents’ belief and ideas for their social and standard relations and the logical negative evaluation (without any discursive exaggeration) of their success opportunities in a non-ethnic career.36 Leading on the same line, he expresses the source of discomfort as the perceptions or representations by the dominant social group with the words: “I will never be perceived as a German citizen. Whatever I do, it won’t change.”37 It is not only the reality but also the perceptions or cliché attributions of the dominant social group that makes him feel uneasy. A comparative view of his life in the host and home country reveals that the familiar environment gives him the chance to be himself.


Isolation and Identity Crisis

His ongoing quest for familiar people stemming from the sense of alienation is expressed as:

I really longed for a group of friends with whom I could talk about the common problems. I had no one like that. I was pouring out my grievances with my friends in my dreams. At that time, there was no such mosque. I only had my wife. I had many days when I only spoke with three or five sentences. Since my German was not fluent, I did not have the real sense of speaking. During the first period, I made many attempts to speak, but they made fun of it. Then I kept silent when people were speaking German.38

The typical nostalgia in his mindset reflects the longing for “homecoming” through which he can find someone with whom he finds comfort in communicating and tasting the real sense of speaking. One simply needs to use language to raise and reflect his/her identity. Lack of language results in being silenced in the political and social spheres and creates a concurrent existence and non-existence. A mosque is represented as a realm through which he can establish his own network. It is not only functioning as a way of emancipation from the lebensraum of large-scale community but also a realm of feeling himself. Speaking is associated with “pouring out one’s grievances” that denotes the communication as a forum of sharing in the mother language. Though the interview was full of discursive structure in the form of grouching, Çamcı feels the need to make the additional point: “I don’t want you to misunderstand me. I have no problem with this country. I show full respect to the rules. I have had no criminal affairs. I have never been a troublemaker here. But since I am a Muslim, and since I am in the mosque five times a day, I have been labeled as a terrorist, though not obvious, but implied.”39 He shows his respect to the ordinary way of things in the host country emphasizing the words such as “no problem,” “full respect,” “no criminal affairs” and “not a troublemaker.” However, the end of the discourse reveals another complaint reflecting the clash between freedom of expression and sacred values of a particular group. The former part of the discourse expressing his “peaceful relationship” with the large-scale community reveals a kind of legitimacy for the latter part of the discourse since the former part implies a kind of emancipating himself from the perceived and exposed identity of troublemaker who is not in full respect to the rules or culture of the dominant group, namely a dynamite of the social cohesion. It is the general philosophy, that one can make any claim on any religion and no one cares about it, which is creating the tension.40

This tension, which has increased in all European countries in recent years, cannot be restricted to the case of German-Turks. It is the debate starting from the caricature of the Prophet Mohammed, which created a sense of insurgence and resentment among the Muslim minority groups in Europe. The main question is whether the right “to say whatever you want about religion” legitimizes the right to say whatever you want about other religions if the members of that religion are not in favor of it due to their religious conviction. The label of the dominant social group on Çamcı as “terrorist” is perceived as an exercise of the freedom of expression. Çamcı’s tension with the large-scale community members is not only a clash between German-Turks and Germans but also between Muslim minorities in Europe and the philosophy of being European.



Imported Groom

Despite its significance in number, family-related forms of migration lack thorough analysis in the traditional picture of post-war migration.41 The migration, after the Second World War, can be evaluated in two basic categorical periods. The characteristic of the first wave was single workers. It included healthy men, trying to make an acquaintance with the new environment and preparing themselves for the necessary conditions awaiting their family members whom they plan to import in the possible near future. Another episode in writing the migration started when the wives of single workers were imported.42 The logic is that the third stage should be regarded as the process after immigrants’ children came of marriageable age. The partnership choices played a crucial role in paving the way for a new wave of migration.

The practice of importing partners from the country of origin can be seen as an indicator of the lowest level of assimilation among immigrants. The less contact the partner has with the host country, the more loyalty to the original culture and values is assumed

Kalmijin mentions three types of factors that stimulate intermarriage and homogamy for the partner choices of the individuals: (i) the preference of the individuals for certain characteristics in a spouse, (ii) the influence of the social group of which they are members, (iii) the potential constraints imposed by the structure of the marriage market where they are searching for a spouse.43

Thanks to our personal immigrant experiences and throughout our interview experiences, we came across all the factors Kalmijin puts forward in rigid forms. Turkish immigrants made their choices for their partners with the belief that people in Turkey are ‘unadulterated’ if one takes their perspective to the ground. Being “unadulterated” creates a reason of preference for the Turkish immigrants. A spouse is more attractive if he/she is not ‘contaminated.’

It is still a taboo for a Turkish immigrant to make a choice for the future spouse among the German citizens. The German spouses are still regarded as ‘unwelcomed guest;’ however the idea retains its validity for female immigrants while men are free to choose a German or a Turk as a spouse. Though one may guess that religion plays a crucial role in choosing a spouse, the situation is more complicated than can be explained only by the religious factors since choosing a Muslim partner is still a problem if the ethnic origin is not the same.

cologne mosqueMuslims living in Germany gather at the Cologne Central Mosque, a building commissioned by the Turkish-Islamic Union for Religious Affairs, during the celebrations of Eid al-Adha. MESUT ZEYREK / AA Photo

The practice of importing partners from the country of origin can be seen as an indicator of the lowest level of assimilation among immigrants.44 The less contact the partner has with the host country, the more loyalty to the original culture and values is assumed. Hence, the gender inequality within the immigrant population is not enough to explain the marital choices. The desire for “unspoiled” wives and husbands appears to be the most powerful argument for the import of spouses.



Internalization of the Societal Culture and Self-Esteem as a Member of a Broken Family

Case 4: Alev San

She migrated in 1999. Her parents were divorced. This is an example of illegal migration in her words “While crossing the border, I was a baby in arms, my mother hid me, and my life was in danger since I could not get enough fresh air.”45 The hazardous conditions in which illegal migration is performed are reflected as a probable cause of death of a newborn infant. It depicts that illegal migration involves taking the risk of death, especially for the ones who are vulnerable. Rather than a story reflected with a smile, or called as an adventure, it is a story with a life secured by chance. Reference to the deeds of her grandfather as “the first Turkish cinema producer in Germany” depicts her mental and sentimental quest for appeasement and legitimacy for her existence in Germany.

During the interview, she did not feel herself at peace with expressing her migration story. She describes the beginning of her migration story as the ‘destruction of the life in the home country’ expressing:

I came here (Dusseldorf) at the age of 14. My world was destroyed. I was just a teenager. I did not have a good life in Turkey. But I had some intimate friends and my own country. When I landed at the airport, my stepmother picked me up, while I was waiting for my father to come and pick me up. I had an undeniable hatred since I had come to a country that I had never wanted to be in. We just shook hands with my father when I was at home.46

San faces with her own alienation in the eyes of her father when they just shook hands. It is not the father figure, but her stepmother that comes to pick her up. It is not the father who is the host, but the stepmother who is just a stranger for San. Her father’s non-existence in the airport makes her feel herself a persona non grata. She is just an undesirable alien for whom life is just an unclaimed right. No sense of belonging is revealed by San regarding the host country, family or home.

The sense of alienation functions in a different way. Rather than excluding her from the large-scale community, it works as a factor prompting her to get over the obstacles and her repressed mood. She develops an interest in personal development expressed as: “I had German language courses. I was speaking German fluently. Language brought me freedom, work, and feeling at ease to have a say at home. My father made a very good job offer.”47 There is an obvious association between language and freedom, the former paving the way for participation, having a say, raising the voice, existence in the public sphere, being recognized, job opportunities and economic independence. The receiving state and the host society acknowledge the responsibility of Turkish migrant children if they are not in harmony with the society.48 The peculiarity of her case stems from her personal migration experience that pushes her toward personal development without any boost and despite the sense of aloofness in the host country.

There is an obvious association between language and freedom, the former paving the way for participation, having a say, raising the voice, existence in the public sphere, being recognized, job opportunities and economic independence

She maintains that the subject of being accepted is on the basis of utility: “You can exist here as long as you are useful, or you have no value.”49 It is also a story of metamorphosis, which includes “the need to rebel” and “need to suffer punishment for this rebellion.”50 Another mechanism is the adaptation to the ways of meeting a goal worded as: “Though I have a peaceful, happy and stable life here now, the ways to obtain and maintain these were different.”51 It is not only adaptation, rather a maneuvering through the labyrinths of migration as an ontological fact. The pursuit of these ways in the form of personal development denotes a different case of migration journey, upon which the migrant can make assessments without prejudgments, a priori knowledge of the host country and the network of the Turkish immigrant community. Rather than indicating the other factors or dynamics at hand, San takes the responsibility and fulfills the requirements of being a useful individual. As an outsider, she works out a successful attempt to maintain a peaceful life in a completely different environment.


Women in Migration

As Pedraza claims, the underlying dynamic in the studies of migration has been “the male pauper -a single or married male, who looks forward to amassing capital with the wish to return to his native country.”52 Thus, it is the “strong male” (whose strength is accepted by everyone around) who has the last say about the decision to immigrate, and then the other members of the family carry out the decision. Everett Lee puts emphasis on the migration led by the male figure in his push and pull theory: “Indeed not all persons who migrate reach that decision themselves. Children are carried along by their parents, willy-nilly, and wives accompany their husbands though it tears them away from environments they love.”53 Houstoun also underlines the fact that women “generally migrate to create or reunite a family.”54 Due to the dominant male immigrant figure, female migration is represented in the form of a circumvented role which gives it secondary importance. The main dynamic giving shape to the process is generated by the original, homo-economicus male immigrant.

The Turkish immigrant woman is not considered as exempt from the western milieu of thought and constructed western views upon her, and the particularities in the migration process and its personal uniqueness is overlooked or neglected

Alev’s migration story also presents the Turkish woman’s perspectives within the context of migration in German literature. However, the subjects of loss, broken family, breakdowns, violence and oppression within the migrant families are represented in the printed media through a concealed dictation. While criticizing these negative and concealed associations created on the subject, Brucks55 expresses that these representations of Turkish women and Turkish migrant families is not a sign of scientific value, but rather a sign of the authors’ own obsession and the latent xenophobia prevailing in the texts.

The blame is firstly put on the male-dominant Turkish family and secondly on the religion and culture-oriented issues, which define the way the common tendencies about the subject are shaped.56 The Turkish immigrant woman is not considered as exempt from the western milieu of thought and constructed western views upon her, and the particularities in the migration process and its personal uniqueness is overlooked or neglected. This study, in this sense, pulls Turkish immigrant women out from these one-sided representations and endeavors to demonstrate the very subjectivities/particularities existing in personal, emotional, and subjective migration experiences.


Shifting Homes

Home can be defined as a place where we belong through our experiences, recollections, imagination, aspirations, and psychological belonging. Home “provides the physical and social context of life experience, burrows itself into the material reality of memories, and provides an axial core for our imagination.”57 In most of the studies, home is strictly associated with self-identity, a sense of security, and a kind of stance against or within the disordered cultural unfamiliar world. The loss of home is related to disorientation as it is acknowledged that “a sense of being at home is related to health status and well-being and that disruption of this sense, through in situ environmental change, relocation, or through disruption of a more existential sense of being at one with the world.”58

Migration shatters the idea of home either literally or metaphorically down. The absence of home or quest for a real home is the main theme in the migration story. The fear of the young Turkish woman in Alev’s story can be read as the fear of having lost the home which is the only place associated with security. Each event, person, material, and sentiment is perceived as a threat taking control of her life. Her journey is on the way to an unknown, the heart of darkness, which simply displaces her.




Anthropological discourse analysis of Turkish immigrants reflects that it is possible to make the representation of an individual as the convergence of the concepts of identity, motherland, ethnicity, the sense of belonging, non-belonging, loneliness, alienation … and hence as a case. It points out the dynamic of personal backgrounds as a predictor of the migration experiences. This study investigates the intrinsic relationship between the interviewee and the interviewer and how the stories of the migrants set out to manipulate, hinder, alter and circumvent the migration stories.

The study presents how generalizations about the Turkish migrants in Germany are not providing a deep analysis unless the research takes individual immigrants as a case. The personal backgrounds of each immigrant can play a crucial role in defining their migration experiences and what is challenged in this study is the failure to assess the variety in migration experience. Though these studies are supported via statistics, scientific data, indiscrete sociological theoretical basis, what is missed is the deliberation on the particular subjectivities, which reveals a wide spectrum of backgrounds, personal experience, emotional associations revealing the discrete relationship between the individual backgrounds and migration experience. The present study reflects the challenge to the holistic sociological studies that tend to put all the members of a particular group into the same category, since it is argued that there are as many push and pull factors as the number of immigrants whose personal migration experiences and motivations are of different dynamics; from poor economic conditions extending to the desire to overcome psychological problems in their country of origin. This study takes the agency of the individual migrant as the foci countering the disregard or underestimation commonly found in macro-level approaches.

The personal background, the psychology, and language deeply shape the migration experience that cannot be explained by mainstream statistical sociological studies that reduce migration to numbers

The paper also analyzes the personal dignity of each individual migrant, via exploring their own migration stories and reflecting on their very self. Throughout the interviews, each of the interviewees gets in touch with their constructed self-image which is (sometimes) claimed as an excuse or justification for the changed circumstances they are in.

What is worth noting is the fact that the interviewees are consciously involved in the process of creating a case during the interviews, and sometimes the stories reflect a kind of amateur disguise to cover the realities. The study reveals how the personal background, the psychology, and language deeply shape the migration experience that cannot be explained by mainstream statistical sociological studies that reduce migration to numbers.




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