Accepted Paper:

Disputed brotherhood: Central Asian experiences in Turkey?  


Meltem Sancak (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology)

Paper long abstract:

It has become a truism to stress Turkey's character as an immigration country, which it is already on a significant level for many years. This presentation is focusing on Central Asians in Turkey where they form a large group of migrants in recent years. This started in the early 90's as petty traders between Turkey and their home countries while in recent years they became a part of many Turkish households from childcare to nursing or, increasingly, as marriage partners. The exact numbers are unknown but most originate from three former Soviet Republics, namely Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.

Although it started as a highly gendered migration, with dominantly women making their way to Turkey, in recent years men have also became a part of this journey, either independently or joining their wives and partners already there. The majority are undocumented or illegal migrants spending from months to several years in Turkey. More and more work beyond the domestic sector, trying to survive in Turkey and to support those left behind in their home countries. To some extent, Turkey has replaced Russia as the main destination for Central Asian migrants for economic reasons and out of the fear of xenophobic attacks.

The situation in Turkey, however, has also changed significantly with this New Year event in a nightclub in Istanbul where a perpetrator originating from Uzbekistan killed dozens in a terrorist attack. As a consequence, migrants from Central Asia increasingly became targets of verbal but also physical abuse. But the Turkish state discourse "kin people" from the "Turkic Republics" was never corresponding to everyday practice, neither in Central Asia nor, and increasingly less so, in Turkey. This presentation aims to give a picture of the circumstances and perceptions of migrants who were seen as kin but now are incrementally undifferentiated as "others" in the present Turkish context

Panel ANT-02
Migration between hope and despair: paths of mobility inside and beyond Central Asia