EuroStorie research seminar: Nilay Kilinç 19.2.2021

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Time: Friday 19.2.2021 13:00-14:00

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Nilay Kilinç: European, European-er, European-est: Turkish Highly-Skilled Migrants’ Narratives on Identities and Ethnic Hierarchies across Europe


This research explores the highly-skilled Turkish migrants’ everyday life experiences in three spheres: a) work places, b) wider social community (vis-à-vis ‘the dominant Other’ in their respective European city) and, c) wider Turkish diaspora community. The research focuses on their narratives on self-identity in relation to collective identities (e.g. ‘Turkish’, ‘Muslim’, ‘European’, ‘highly-skilled migrant’) and analyses how they blur or sharpen the boundaries of in/out-group status based on their experiences, social statuses, professions and lifestyles. In this respect, the narratives of the respondents reveal that the Turkish highly-skilled migrants are aware of the ethnic hierarchies and this makes them reflexive about questions such as, “what does it mean to be Turkish?”, “who is a European?” and “how is belongingness shaped?”.

The research data is collected from Germany, Sweden and Netherlands wherein the Turkish community is one of the largest migrant group which is highly heterogenous in terms of ethnicity (e.g. Kurdish, Alevi, Balkan etc.) and migratory history (e.g. labour migration, political refuge, highly-skilled migration etc.). Furthermore, the study scrutinises how the highly-skilled Turkish migrants produce ‘alternative diaspora spaces’ and which specific places in cities act as spaces of contact or division. The findings suggest, 1- Highly-skilled migrants consider themselves cosmopolitans who are urban, modern, secular; yet they feel that they are not considered as ‘Europeans’ by their dominant Others; 2- Highly-skilled Turkish migrants experience cultural rejection from the older Turkish diaspora groups, 3- Due to cultures of rejection, they look for ways to culturally integrate themselves to the wider European society and advance their work and social networks through career and hobby-related venues, cultural NGOs, and neighbourhoods wherein cosmopolitan ways of being and living are tolerated/encouraged.

About the speaker

Nilay Kılınç is a social anthropologist who works in the field of migration studies. She is a postdoctoral researcher at Helsinki Institute of Urban and Regional Studies, University of Helsinki, undertaking her research project on highly-skilled Turkish migration in the Nordic region. She holds her PhD degree from University of Surrey (the UK) and wrote her PhD thesis on lifestyle-motivated return migration of Germany-born Turkish second-generation migrants to Turkey. She developed the research project on highly-skilled Turkish migrants in Germany, the Netherlands and Sweden through her postdoctoral fellowship position at Center for Advanced Studies – South Eastern Europe, University of Rijeka (Croatia) and Gerda Henkel Fellow position at Centre for Advanced Studies Sofia (Bulgaria). Previously, she has worked on forced return migration and wellbeing after deportation as a part of her Pontica Magna Fellow position at New Europe College, Bucharest (Romania) and guest fellow position at Leibniz ScienceCampus – Eastern Europe - Global Area, University of Leipzig (Germany).