Page 14 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
BORDER AND CATEGORIZATION: THE CASE OF
THE 1989 BULGARIAN RE-SETTLERS TO TURKEY
Magdalena Elchinova
Introduction
The present study offers an analysis of the experience of Bulgarian Turks who migrated
to Turkey in the summer of 1989
1
by discussing the ways in which that group has been rendered
in different systems of categories both in the society of origin and the host society. These social
categories are produced at various levels (national, local, individual), and they interact in different
ways. They complement or contradict each other; they employ shared categories or stem from
different interpretations of widely-known notions. My aim here is to present an overview of the
different categories recruited to labeling re-settlers on both sides of the Bulgarian-Turkish border
and discuss the ways in which these are viewed by the migrants themselves. I aim to show how
by contesting or accepting these social categories in different situations of social interaction
out-migrants re-negotiate their place in the two bordering societies and re-think their role and
importance in the political, historical, and social processes. Further, I examine closely how the
terms expressive of these categories lead to the emergence of different strategies for positive self-
identification (at the personal and collective levels) as well as of a range of transnational practices
and projects for life realization.
The essay discusses a large group of people thought of in terms of a delineated whole (“a
community”) on the grounds of their shared traumatic experience – these are the representatives
of the Turkish minority in Bulgaria who lived through the assimilatory campaign of the so-called
“Revival Process”in the 1980’s, who left their birthplaces and settled inTurkey, whounderwent there
similar processes of adaptation and inclusion. Since they are indeed significant in number, their
experience leaves a deep imprint in the sending and receiving societies and makes them visible
for the other members of these societies who see them as a particular whole and characterize that
whole through a range of shared categories. The underlying assumption here is that the seemingly
monolithic and unified community is in fact based on different degrees of social coherence and
characterized by internal differentiations and diversity (including with regard to the shared
experience of out-migration and/or re-settling). This is why I apply the term “community” rather
loosely, not in the sense of a stable given but as a process of manifestations through divergent ways
of defining and labeling people who share a particular experience. Along such lines I address the
questions of how and why the same individuals reflect in different ways on certain labels of social
categorization attributed to them; of whether, how and to what extent re-settlers internalize these
qualifying labels given to them by outsiders; of whether this acceptance or rejection of various
definitions about themselves lays the foundations of some form of communal construction; and
of what the role of the border in the formation of these different categories and definitions related
1 Hereafter referred to as ‘re-settlers’ for short which stands for “
izselnitsi
” in Bulgarian. I return to this below.