Accepted paper:

The long way home: on the road to Armenia


Salim Aykut Ozturk (University College London (UCL))

Paper short abstract:

This paper presents an ethnographically rich description of the journeys on migrants' buses between Istanbul and Armenia.

Paper long abstract:

Contemporary Istanbul is home to some 20,000 undocumented migrants from post-socialist Armenia. This paper initially aims to provide ethnographic data on the bus journeys that connect migrants ( in addition to shuttle-traders and ordinary tourists as well) between Istanbul and Armenia. Each bus journey between the two countries lasts around 40 hours in average, going through contested geographies of Eastern Turkey, and contemporary post-socialist Georgia. On each journey, it is possible to observe how Armenian passengers relate to the post-Genocide landscape of Turkey and the current political situation of Armenian citizens of Georgia. Each journey makes it possible to come with parallel analyses of not only current nation-state histories in Turkey, Georgia and Armenia, but also Armenians' conceptualizations of Armenian past, history and the Armenian homeland. Similarly, each journey also provides important contexts to observe changing citizenship, immigration and border regimes in each nation-state setting, and in return the migrants' responses (i.e. tactics and strategies) against those nation state practices. Based on fieldwork between 2011 and 2013, the paper proposes to critically engage with the ways through which dichotomies such as here vs. there, home vs. away, now vs. then, Armenia vs. non-Armenia, and legal vs.illegal (in relation to smuggling goods and legal status of migrants in Turkey) could still be applicable to a context constantly on-the-move.

panel P54
Road biographies