Fatma Haron | PhD Candidate,University of Innsbruck
“Where are you really from?” is one but not all kind of question that form the normality of individuals with more than one national identification. By national identification I do not refer to citizenship in this article. It is almost an obsession to find out that one single identification of a person. The question of what a human being is constituted of and shaped by expects clear answers. Since when did having an identity become normal? And why is it challenging when it does not fit with the “normal” single identification? Novalis already said, the complete human being lives in many places and with many human beings at the same time. These words I infer with transnationalism and identification.
In this article I will discuss the concept of many identifications that are connected through transnational networks and scrutinize how it is shaped through narratives and interpellation by the case study of women with Turkish origin in Tyrol. By de-centering the old understanding of identities in migration studies I analyse how the process constantly changes the sense of identification and how narratives play a crucial role. The empiric data for this research is acquired through ethnographic interviews with women in villages in Tyrol who have family ties to Turkey.
Narratives are shaping identifications
Any identification type that does not resemble an ordinary fit is challenging both the academic research but also the daily life. It also causes conflicts within individuals through the identification by the other and representation as Stuart Hall points out.
In modern societies national culture develops, and cultural identity and national identity seem like something everyone must have, although it is formed through representation and is not automatically acquired. The more facets and many identifications a subject inhabits the bigger the confusion gets, such as being an Austrian-Turkish, Turkish-Austrian or Telfer-Uşaker woman; I spare the other aspects such as being Muslim and Modern (at the same time!). The more stories are told about one’s identification the more unstable it becomes when it is not fulfilling the “expectations”, and is physically and culturally unstable (see Hall).
Yuval-Davis considers narration as a form of how identities are practised and constructed, thus the narrative approach is considered to theorize identification and not only the belonging to a group. It determines agency and subjectivity, as Spivak already mentioned. However, belonging is an emotional attachment within a dynamic process in everyday practice that seems to be naturalised and the positionality depends on the exclusion from or inclusion in certain groupings. But who decides the access to certain groups, and including or excluding one? Unfortunately in many cases not the minority group itself.
Which narration about Turkishness exists and conflicts with the identifications?
The dominant narration that misrepresents non-Europeans is very crucial, because it infers that the values of the represented migrant group, as Talal Asad describes it, are considered to be offensive to the Western ones. This narrative nourishes from the emancipation of the Western woman through victimization of the other woman. In this case, the non-Western Muslim woman with transnational ties to Turkey has to play the role of the victim as Mohanty says. The Muslim woman still has to negotiate her position within both the Turkish and Austrian community. The crisis arises because the identity depends on the other’s recognition and is forcing unity and stability. I see identity as anything but this.
The contemporary modern society we live in is in constant change, and so are the identifications. If we take one more step forward and take a look at transnational migrant societies, the concept of stable identifications becomes more obsolete before it can ossify. Within these unconsciously chosen categories, identifications are always in contrast to someone else’s identity. By de-centering this old fashioned question in migration studies it is in my interest to understand and analyse how these constantly changing categories work? When they change? According which setting and what narrative one identification increases or diminishes?
The rigid differentiations between many identifications is mostly between political or ethnic identity, whereas I understand them in a plural way; such as familial, social, generational, gender, status, political, religious, ethnic, national and translingual etc. These are transforming in a transnational space, which leads to the fact that some societies are not aware of this fast proceeding concept nor are they ready to acknowledge it. The reasons for this are the different experiences and comparisons. To be more specific: a young girl with Turkish parents who was born and grew up in rural Tyrol identifies with what she sees and compares herself to, namely the parents, peers, and friends. The friends can be Turkish and Austrian. The image of her is shifting according to settings, allusions and images of the other. The other in this case can be the parents but also the non-Turkish environment. She starts to become Turkish through all the existing narratives about Turkishness, no matter how she describes herself. In my interviews all women confirmed the narrative about Turkish women being traditional, practicing Islam, and thus opposing modernity and are victim to patronizing men. Therefore, in this case it portrays that a Turkish woman does not fit into the modern western society. However, she might identify herself as modern and also westernised and eventually part of the society that produces those narratives on her homogenous unfitting. This is where the confusion starts and leads to constant negotiation of self and differing from the other and the rest; and the endless striving for affirmation. In fact the women holds more than one identification but is expected to stick with one that she is told to. On the one hand the Turkish community asks her to ”be more Turkish and keep roots!” and on the other hand she is expected to ”try to be more Tyrolean!” while she admits that she actually wants to find her routes!
Which story about Turkishness can be changed and renegotiated? The difficulties of acceptance of many identifications are on many levels in the society but also in academic studies, since a certain type of one single identity is dominating the discourse. It is a very banal example that serves to emphasise the mechanisms of why it is rejected or why both the many identifications and the society struggle with this concept. Transnational many identities within the vast networks, multiple homes and identifications are moved, exchanged and evolved proceeding fast.
Therefore I ask how self-understanding is shaped through transnational lifestyles and narratives from Turkey and Austria about Turkishness.