Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin - Südosteuropäische Geschichte

Thomas Schad

From Fellow Muslims into Fellow Nationals? Migrants from Yugoslavia to Turkey between demographic engineering and trans-national figurations in İstanbul and İzmir (1945 – 1990)

In the longue durée of decline of Ottoman rule in Southeastern Europe and the subsequent, ongoing process of nation-building, migrations of Muslims from the Balkans to Anatolia have been a significant factor in shaping the societies of the emerging post-Ottoman nation-states. Embedded in this broader context of “demographic de-Ottomanization”, this dissertation project focuses on the course of migration from the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia to the Republic of Turkey (1945-1990), and aims to shed new light on widely held assumptions about Muslim migration in the region.

Behind the veil of nationalist discourses following the bloody wars of the 1990s, Socialist Yugoslavia appears as a deviant sample in comparison to its neighbor states. The de jure and de facto recognition of eighteen national minorities (narodnosti) and six nations (narodi) – comprising the world’s only nation of Muslims (Muslimani) – demands special attention for understanding why some Muslims migrated to Turkey, while others did not. But whereas most of the existing scholarship on migration from Yugoslavia to Turkey delves into the role of both states’ citizenship and migration policies as decisive push- and pull-factors, this dissertation also questions dysfunctional aspects and limits of regulatory migration policies. Thus, a broader set of interdependencies is correlated, as proposed in Norbert Elias’ sociology of figurations: beyond the state, a whole set of considerations could have had their stake in the process of migration – like preexisting kinship ties, economic reasons, linguistic distinctions, or everyday discrimination. By tracking migrants’ life-stories in qualitative interviews and private archives, primary experiences of migrants are given preference over classical archive studies, and the perspective is shifted from states-as-actors to migrants themselves.

Interviews are conducted with methods of multi-sited ethnography in transnational social spaces, such as (post-) migrants’ non-governmental associations, neighborhoods and city districts in İstanbul and İzmir known as hemşehrilik settlements (shared origin), like Bayrampaşa, Pendik and Bornova. According to the core assumptions of transnational migration studies, migration isn’t necessarily a one-way process, finally ending in a homogenous, self-centered and stable national society. Avoiding the shortcomings of such a methodological nationalism, the role of cross-border connectivity of different migrant groups in transnational social spaces will be explored, in order to understand the multifacetedness of migration from former Yugoslavia to Turkey. One of the leading research interests is to contribute to a deeper understanding of notions of identities and selfhood in modern Turkish society and beyond.

This dissertation is part of and publicly funded by a scholarship of the Berlin Graduate School Muslim Countries and Societies.

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