Page 21 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
of those who came from Bulgaria is often contested. The migrants themselves have an ambivalent
attitude with regard to their connected-ness with the locals. On the one hand, they find it difficult
to feel connected to them for reasons which are very similar to those I mentioned previously with
regard to the label “Balkan Turks” – a different context of enculturation and socialization, different
degrees of competence regarding Turkish society, different levels of integration into that society,
different prospects for the future and so on and so forth. This, alongside occurrences when lack of
understanding or acceptance and exclusion are manifested, fosters a tendency for emphasizing
one’s own specificity and significance – of Turks from Bulgaria. On the other hand, the desire
to successfully fit into host society, to achieve upward social mobility motivates strategies for
integrating inandmergingwith theenvironment. Between theseextremes andunder the influence
of official national discourses in Turkey, the re-settlers reveal different reactions with regard to the
categories which describe them be they “top-down” or “bottom-up”. The dynamic factors of the
social milieu are crucial in shaping the reactions to the imposed categories. As I alreadymentioned,
even if the contradictory rejection or acceptance of a certain way of category attribution may
manifest itself in the behavior of an individual depending on his/her communication strategies
and interlocutors, some more stable features of the immediate living environment may generate
particular group dispositions at the local level. I would include among these formative factors the
place of residence, the peculiarities of the immediate living environment (neighbourhood and
neighbours), the groups they are in contact with or the groups they are associated with in terms
of place and standard of living, as well as their professional realization. Hereafter I will discuss a
couple of examples to clarify this point.
While taking a walk in the Mevlana district in Izmir, where he lived in a three-storey house
together with his three married sons and grandchildren, my companion and informant, the sixty-
year-old H., pointed at two women in colourful robes with scarves on, sitting in the dust by the
road and surrounded by barefoot children running around. “This is where we live – among the
gypsies!” thus he articulated with a sigh his dissatisfaction with the new environment. He had
already told me that they used to live in the town of Lom (Bulgaria) where there weren’t many
Turks but “everybody” knew and respected him. Later on it became clear that his neighbours were
not gypsies but Kurds. In the eyes of my interlocutor there was no difference between the two, he
simply “equated” one popular system of social categorization “over here”with another “over there”
across the border, in which the respective least prestigious positions were reserved for gypsies
and the Kurds. By using this implied analogy H. expressively revealed his idea that he had lost his
status after migrating to Turkey – from a “normal” respected position in the local community in
Bulgaria to the lowest social level in Turkey.
5
Such spontaneous evaluations of one’s own situation in the host society counter declarative
statements about the exceptionally good attitude on behalf of Turkish authorities to the re-
5 The change of status entailed here is thought of on the everyday level by the informant, which is why the
opposition between “here” and “now” is not softened by superimposing political layers – the discriminatory policies
of the communist regime in Bulgaria before migrating vs. the policies of tolerance on behalf of Turkish authorities
(Dimitrova 1998, Parla 2009b). The same authorities which offer social assistance and low interest rate loans to
newcomers so that they build houses, houses them in less prestigious residential areas where they also accommodate
in-migrants from the underdeveloped regions of Turkey.