Page 25 - MIGRATION

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MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
achieve the visible markers of their advance in the new society relatively quickly – in terms of
property, economic prosperity, access to social services and funds, achievements in the sphere
of education and a higher degree of educational qualification for the young, a suitable place
in the labour market, professional development. Yet, this is not enough for them to acquire the
unequivocal and desired position of acceptance in Turkish society. The re-settlers find themselves
subjects of discussion in a range of discourses related to purity and hybridity (Ballinger 2002: 28),
as well as inclusion and exclusion. With respect to “cultural inventory” their hybridity emerges at
every level – language, food, attitude to religion, gender models, shared experience, influences
of national ideologies, etc. As regards their social position in the local and national communities,
things also appear rather unstable and contradictory as my discussion so far suggested. Without
being marginalized, in a number of situations and by different social actors they are being
situated in the social landscape in ways which do not correspond to their personal assessments or
desires. All this contributes to developing particular behavioral strategies – both on the individual
and on the collective levels – aimed at achieving social prestige and at constructing a positive
public image. Such a context understandably leads to sensitivity in relation to some of the labels
attributed to them locally. This sensitivity does not necessarily mean rejection – the same terms
are unequivocally rejected in certain contexts and at the same time used by the re-settlers for
self-identification in other contexts. This suggests that the very terms of social categorization
are viewed as important instruments in achieving the strategy for constructing a positive and
prestigious public image.
Between two systems of social categorization
My discussion so far outlined to a certain degree the scope and depth to which the
experience of out-migration influenced the life strategies of Bulgarian Turks who settled in Turkey
in 1989. A key factor here is life across and on both sides of the border, i.e. the border is a core
(hidden or obvious) reference point in re-settlers’ behavioral strategies. The ambivalence of the
border as a contact zone, simultaneously linking and separating two political, cultural and social
spaces, two regimes of citizenship, national identity, etc. determines and explains the complex
attitudes to the social categories which describe re-settlers in the “old” and the “new” country. So
far I discussed examples of delineating certain categories on the Turkish side of the border. If taken
across theborder, these categories are subjected to ambivalent interpretations bymy interlocutors.
Let us consider, for instance, the reaction against the label “Bulgarians”. It was obvious that this
reaction was prompted by the undesirable categorization of the re-settlers on behalf of the locals
in everyday intercourses as not “pure”Turks, as cultural hybrids and socially unsettled. It however
cannot be taken as an absolute expression of an extreme position against their associations with
Bulgarian-ness and Bulgaria in general.
7
In the hot summer of 2010 I spent some time in the small shop of S., aged 60, in Avcılar
talking to the owner and some of his clients. Among the latter, there was a young retiree and her
7 In support of the latter, re-settlers mostly kept their Bulgarian citizenship and a significant number of them
also kept their Bulgarian passports with the changed names from the period of the “Revival process.”