Accepted paper:

Ethnographic insights from peasant lives in Istanbul


Emma Hoskins (Hull University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper explores relationships between imagined and experienced perceptions of Europe by migrants who have moved from eastern Turkey to Istanbul. Symbolic struggles and contradictory experiences are explored ethnographically through an examination of 'morality’, ‘knowledge’ and ‘quality’.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is drawn from ethnographic insights into peasant migrant lives on the Asian edge of Istanbul. Turkey has been 'on the edge' of Europe and oriented towards 'progress' since its inception as a modern nation in 1922. Still 'on the edge', yet tantalizingly close to Europe, Turkey as a nation state has oscillated between competing representations of itself, solidified by a sense of 'approaching modernity'. Istanbul is a living example of this state - 'a city of two halves': Europe and Asia, divided by the Bosphorous. Alongside government articulations of orientation towards Europe as 'progress', migrant peasants from the eastern hinterlands of Turkey fall into an ill-formulated but ubiquitous antithetical 'other'. This finds voice in middle class perceptions and articulations of the 'other' as undesirable and naturally inferior. In moving to Istanbul and becoming closer to Europe, it is incumbent on migrant peasants to deal with new challenges and questions and to articulate the changes that they are experiencing during an everyday social and physical exchange with people and systems. Living as a citizen in Istanbul, there is an ongoing negotiation between, and placing of, fellow citizens against an axis of 'modernity'. Against this backdrop, I address the daily articulations of 'morality', 'knowledge' and 'quality' by peasant migrants living close to 'modern' co-citizens, infrastructure and products. In so doing, I address the symbolic struggles with and contradictions between particular imaginings of Europe, Istanbul and lived experience. I examine the differences between romanticised and utilitarian perceptions of what it is to be a 'modern' citizen and the employment of strategies in negotiation of these.

panel W074
Neither here nor there: locating and identifying Europe