Accepted Paper:

Irregular workers or ethnic kin? The moral economy of post-nineties labour migration from Bulgaria to Turkey  
Ayse Parla (Boston University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper will seek to demonstrate why the post-nineties labour migrants from Bulgaria to Turkey have remained 'outside the imagined community' despite their identification as ethnically Turkish.

Paper long abstract:

Unlike the well-known flight of more than 300,000 ethnic Turks from Bulgaria to Turkey in 1989, the slower but steady flow of irregular migration following the collapse of communism in Bulgaria in the same direction has received virtually no attention. Several ethnic Turks from Bulgaria, who did not initially join the politically framed migration wave of 1989, have begun to seek temporary work as labour migrants in Turkey. Unlike their 1989 predecessors who were officially welcomed to the "symbolic homeland" as the Turkish state's preferred category of immigrants, the post-nineties labour migrants enter Turkey as tourists on visa waivers valid for three months. In contrast to the 1989 political migrants who were greeted as "ethnic kin" (soyda┼č), the post-nineties migrants are perceived as handy "Bulgarian" labourers who meet the popular demand for domestic work, while officially, they seem to be by and large ignored. This official indifference/tolerance, which nonetheless goes hand in hand with migrants' legal vulnerability, seems to have resulted in a variant of what De Genova (2002) has termed the "the legal production of migrant illegality."

The post-nineties labour migrants from Bulgaria are "betwixt and between" not only with respect to their ambiguous status as (ethnic) insiders/ (immigrant) outsiders, but also with respect to immigrant classifications in the sense that they are left out from either the category "irregular migrants," or "return migrants." Noting this peculiar invisibility, this paper will 1) explore the ambiguous nature of such immigrant categories, 2) attempt to demonstrate why the post-nineties labour migrants from Bulgaria have remained "outside the imagined community," despite--or precisely because of--their identification as ethnically Turkish, and 3) consider the interpenetration of "discourses of compassion and of repression" (Fassin) in the treatment of migrants who are simultaneously insiders and outsiders.

Panel IW04
Diaspora and migration