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construct a complex and ambivalent image of the border, superimposing different experiences
– immediately lived through or learnt (heard) from others – alongside with different emotions
connected to this experience. The range of feelings associated with the border is extremely varied
– from the drama of out-migration, to the joyous return to the place of birth, through the sense of
nostalgia for that which they leave behind (in whichever direction they cross the border), through
the business-like manner of the business trips, the concern, sadness or joy when meeting relatives
“beyond” (depending on the occasion for the visit), to the contentment one feels upon returning
“home”, to one’s habitual routine.
All these combine in the image of the border constructed by re-settlers - an image in
which different temporalities overlap or flow into one another, memories as well as immediate
occurrences, feelings and mental pictures in a continuous dance of approaching and retreating
tide waves at the sea shore (See also Green 2009).
Individual differences are important but what is also important in the case of re-settlers
is that this is an experience which connects and unites – because of the shared trauma of exile,
because of the similar problems, opportunities and conditions of adaptation, because of the
similar ways of life and practices of living “across” and “on both sides” of the border. All these
shared dimensions create a sense of closeness and empathy among otherwise different people,
people who have various backgrounds and have settled in different places. In our case, this
shared formative experience is superimposed over common ethnic and cultural characteristics –
belonging to the Turkish minority in Bulgaria, common language, religious and cultural traditions,
models of behavior – intensifying the sense of community (and commonality).
Border crossing means crossing the socially-invented images and notions which have the
capacity to connect or divide people on either side (Topaloglou 2009). It can be connected with
a change or switching of identity, with social mobility turns, with changes in regimes of living,
with changing loyalties. The border restructures even kinship relations, local belonging, ethnic
and religious affiliations.
One of the characteristic features of re-settlers’ shared experience is the necessity to switch
between different regimes on the two sides of the border – political, ideological, but also regimes
of identity (Elchinova 2005), of gender (Parla 2009), of memory and remembering. Initially, this
switching is also a life-transforming factor – life in Turkey not only begins from nothing, it is also
being built along completely different principles and values, which often contradict the existing
by then notions, dispositions, expectations and assessments. Gradually this switching becomes
a routine, an inherent characteristic of the new transnational
modus vivendi
of re-settlers. This
is a switching between different codes happening on every occasion of crossing the border
– a switching in speech, notions, values, behavioral norms, communication styles, forms of
Hereafter I will examine more closely one dimension of this “switching” or
“redefining” on the two sides of the border – how the re-settlers are categorized by the external
environment and to what extent they internalize these different, even opposite categories when
constructing a fluid identity “across” the border.
3 On the different aspects of differentiating between re-settlers from Bulgaria and local Turks in Turkey on the
basis of otherwise thought of as “common” cultural characteristics such as food, home, language, religion, morality,
family, and behaviour with women see Güneş 2012, Zhelyazkova 1998, Parla 2009a, 2009b, Elchinova 2009.