Page 9 - MIGRATION

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7
MIGRATION, MEMORY, HERITAGE: SOCIO-CULTURAL
APPROACHES TO THE BULGARIAN-TURKISH BORDER
Fieldwork highlighted the need to revisit
categories
and
terminology
and urged the
re-assessment of such key words as migrant, settler, border, citizenship, and ethnicity. A case in
point here is naming the communities researched: the team used the formal public discourse.
The fieldwork carried out revealed that the Turks from Bulgaria who have settled in Turkey
have an ambivalent attitude towards the categories that Bulgarian and Turkish societies use to
denote them. In some situations, they do not accept the word ‘emigrants’ and this reflects the
assumption that telling them apart means lowering their social status. In other situations, the
denotation ‘emigrants’ has been perceived as positive and interpreted as a sign that Bulgarian
society and the Bulgarian state are interested in this group of migrants. The other group that
was researched demonstrated a similar attitude towards the labels used to denote them.
Although a refugee status is granted only to the Bulgarians chased out of their native land in
1913, the label has been consistently applied to the settlers from Southern Thrace in the
several migration waves because people from the group do not accept to be called ‘emigrants’.
The contributors to this collection of essays have their own approaches to the target groups we have researched
and they use either 'out-migrants' or 'resettlers' to denote them. The term 'out-migrant' lays the emphasis on the place
of origin and seems closer to the Bulgarian point of view encoded in the Bulgarian word 'izselnitsi'. 'Resettlers', on the
other hand, highlights the arrival though still reminiscent of a departure; it is comparable with the Bulgarian 'preselnitsi'.
Fieldwork and research issues
Settlements close to the political border between Bulgaria and Turkey were naturally our
choice of fieldwork sites. In order to achieve our research goals, we had to carry out observations
in settlements of various types and sizes in Bulgaria and in Turkey, and we had to re-evaluate the
importance of the so called “multi-sites fieldwork” (G. Markus), which accounts for the larger share
of empirical data. Multiplying the observation sites gave us the chance to apply a comparative
approach to analysis, reinforced the representativeness of the data and tendencies, and expanded
the range of observations towards various practices and processes amongst the representatives of
the target groups.
Fieldwork sites on the other side of the border. Edirne
– a major fieldwork site. There
were different reasons for the choice of the town, among them location, demographic profile, and
the specificity of its historical, economic and cultural development, which define it as an important
centre in the historical region Thrace, a bridge between Eastern andWestern culture.
The town is significant to us with its institutions and its residents among whom there are
ethnic Bulgarians and Turks who have moved from Bulgaria and settled there at different times.
Since 1996, the Balkan Turks Solidarity and Culture Association has been functioning there. Along
with similar structures and settlements from European Turkey, it gave rise to the Federation of
Balkan Turks based in Edirne. Our observations on how institutions function gave us a chance to
research the symbolic capital and strategies for social investment in the immediate aftermath of
settling there, as well as in the present.
Another research perspective is provided by the traces of Bulgarian presence in the town
(the
St. George
church, the
Sts. Konstantin and Elena
church, the Bulgarian cemetery, the
Dr Petar
Beron
school for boys) with regard to the social actors who take an active part in constructing and