Page 15 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
to the out-migrant “community” is.
The subsequent discussion is based on anthropological field observations conducted over
a considerable period of time in different places in Bulgaria (Zavet, Isperih, Razgrad) and in Turkey
(Istanbul, Izmir, Edirne).
2
The spread of the observation sites, i.e. the application of the so-called
“multi-sitedethnography”(Marcus 1995), contributes to identifying the roleof theborder and trans-
border experience in the processes under consideration here. It affords categorical comparisons
of the ways in which re-settlers describe themselves on both sides of the border and allows us
to trace strategies for identification and life realization applied by them in relation to a specific
social context. It is necessary to specify here with regard to the chosen research method that my
emphasis falls on the everyday experience of those re-settlers whose personal development had
already been formed to a great extent by the summer of 1989 under the conditions of Bulgarian
society then.
The border as a formative factor in the life of re-settlers
The ways in which people understand and interpret the border are revealing of the ways
in which they relate it to their own experience and the experience of others. This is why the social
constructions of the border influence the processes of social categorization which I discuss here.
Geopolitical borders are socially constructed (See Anderson & O’Dowd 1999 and
Topaloglou 2009) on different levels (national, supranational, local) and by different actors (the
state, institutions, communities, individuals). The borders are a product of the dialectics between
space and social reality - they are not associated only with territory, but with culture, language,
nationality, social and economic particularities. In this sense political borders correlate with
collective identities (See further Topaloglou 2009, as well as Lundén 2004).
The character of the border is determined by its“contents” (Anderson & O’Dowd 1999: 594),
i.e. by that which it delineates – nature, social organization, state, nation, culture. It is the“contents”
that produce different overlapping meanings of the border – political, ideological, economic,
military, ecological, etc. Its definition comes predominantly from the centre of management,
constructed through legal frameworks, ideology, the narrative of the “imagined community”, the
practices of control, security and regulated permeability. These are changing definitions since
political regimes and/or directions of state policies are changing as well. For example, while in the
socialist era the Bulgarian-Turkish border was defined by the two centers of power mostly in terms
of a dividing line between two ideologically opposed states and historical enemies, after the fall of
the BerlinWall and the communist regime in Bulgaria this ideological opposition ceased to have a
leading role. The definition of the border underwent further changes when Bulgaria joined NATO
and became an EU member state.
Ambivalence is an inherent quality of the border – it is defined by at least two centers
of power; it divides and connects bordering societies, political systems, economies; in symbolic
2 Most of my field observations were conducted within the following two projects: “Re-settlers and migrants
on both sides of the Bulgarian-Turkish border: heritage, identity, intercultural interaction” (2009-2011), funded by FNR
in the Ministry of Culture and Science, and “The re-settler – issues of identity and adaptation with Bulgarian Turks,
out-migrants to Turkey” (2001-2004), supported by New Bulgarian University.