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Negotiating Modernity and Europeanness in the Germany-Turkey Transnational Social Field

In conversation with recent work on transnational social fields, this article explores how Germany and Turkey are linked through a “set of multiple, interlocking, networks of social relationships” . The article examines how the social field affects migrants returning from Germany to Turkey. Specifically, it describes how the transnational social field emerges through a concrete set of economic, political and cultural exchanges. It also illustrates that the social field is a space of imaginations of Germany and Turkey, reflecting and producing citizens’ uncertainties about the “Europeanness”. For German-Turkish return migrants, the transnational social field exacerbates conflicts with non-migrants and fosters anxieties about migrants’ “Germanization” and loss of “Turkishness.” Ultimately, this research shows that Turkish citizens remain deeply concerned about the meaning of modernity, Muslim citizenship in Germany, and Turkey’s current and future position in Europe.

Negotiating Modernity and Europeanness in the Germany-Turkey Transnational Social Field
Turkish people living in Europe pass to Turkey through Kapıkule border gate. AA / Cihan Demirci
 

This article demonstrates the significance of a transnational social field connecting Germany and Turkey for explaining German-Turkish return migrants’ experiences and for shedding light on broader concerns in Turkey regarding the country’s belonging in Europe. During two years of ethnographic research with German-Turkish return migrants, I found that return migrants often experience significant conflicts with family members and neighbors. Specifically, when return migrants signal transnational belonging, they spur debates in their communities about the potentially positive influences of “German” discipline and self-education and the perceived negative influences of “German” individualism and a feared loss of “Turkish” morality and religiosity.

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