Follow the Money.
Remittances as Social Practice 
(Funded by FWF and Tiroler Matching Funds; Duration 2016-2019)

 

Project Leader:

Univ.-Prof. Dr. Silke Meyer

 

Project Co-Workers:

Fatma Haron, MA: Narrating the Nation – How does the narrative of ‘New Turkey’ shape the self-image of Turkish migrants and their descendants in Austria? 
Work package 1

Claudius Ströhle, MA: Remittances and Exchange within Austria and Turkey. Objectivations of Economic Practices and their Impact on Transnational Participation and Belonging. Work package 2

 

Cooperation Partners:

Forschungsschwerpunkt „Kulturelle Begegnungen – Kulturelle Konflikte“

Forschungszentrum Migration & Globalisierung

Doktoratskolleg Dynamiken von Ungleichheit und Differenz im Zeitalter der Globalisierung

 

Links:

Heimat im Plural

 

 

Remittances, i.e. the portion of someone`s earnings sent from one`s migration destination to the place of origin, are a crucial part of transnational migration cycles. According to the official statistics by the World Bank of the year 2016, migrants were sending an estimated amount of 575.2 billion USD worldwide. 

This project aims to investigate the role of remittances in the history of worker`s migration and analyse their social impact and effect on migrants` everyday lives, social participation strategies and the politics of transnational identity. Rather than an economic transaction, we understand remittances as a social practice and search for their cultural meanings. Thus, the focus is to attain an insight into the economic, cultural, social and political exchange between the sending- and receiving regions from an actor-centred perspective.

Mostly, migration studies have tended to concentrate on urban centres; little is known about the conditions and effects of migration in small towns or villages. Therefore, our field of research expands from the village Fulpmes in Tyrol to the region of Uşak in Turkey. Approximately one fifth of the population in Fulpmes inhabits family ties in this region in Turkey, initiated by the pioneer migrants in the 1960s and 1970s. By studying the remittance practices and field in Uşak and in Fulpmes, we aim to follow a transnational perspective in which we can examine sending and receiving actors and practices in one field of analysis (Peggy Levitt/ Ninna Sørensen). Transnational actors in their daily routines and forms of participation create a social field that crosses national borders (Linda Basch). It is, however, important to note that transnationalism does not eliminate borders and their meaning. The transnational perspective is not a cosmopolitan one, it does not claim a postnational utopia. Rather, it acknowledges nations as a frame of references for actors while examining the daily dealings beyond this national frame.

Through this transnational angle and ethnographic approach, we follow remittance actors` everyday lives in Austria and Turkey, i.e. participant observation, qualitative interviews, discourse analysis. Thus, we claim to reconstruct the social function of exchange in transnational and transgenerational networks and contribute to a deepened understanding of migration as a key concept of a locally and globally organized society.

 

Work package 1: Fatma Haron, Narrating the Nation – How does the narrative of ‘New Turkey’ shape the self-image of Turkish migrants and their descendants in Austria?

Five decades after the beginning of work migration from Turkey to Austria, the people who came now form part of the Austrian society. Austrian Turks dwell transnational styles by living in Austria, participating socially, culturally and economically in Austrian society while maintaining strong ties to Turkey in sending remittances, visiting family and, in some cases, by planning remigration. One of those ties to Turkey is a political one: The current ruling party, Justice and Development Party, in Turkey represented for many the foster child as a secular Muslim society; however, been promoting a promising ‘New Turkey’ (White 2013) by breaking with the former secular Kemalist Republic and inducing the rising of an Anatolian bourgeoisie (Yavuz 2003) this new identity lead to severe concerns.

The focus is on money as well as social remittances, i.e. objects, values, social capital, ideas and narratives. With this perspective, the study investigates how the political change in Turkey and the discourse of a rising Islamic political identity is perceived in the Turkish diaspora communities in Austria. To what extend do the narratives of Turkishness shape the transnational identity of Austrian Turks? In addition, how does renationalisation take place at a stage of transnationality?

Claiming transnational identification as a form of social remittance, the epistemological concern is to understand and describe how self-images emerge through narratives. The research design combines approaches from discourse analysis and ethnographic fieldwork. With this triangulated methodology, different narrative positions and various forms of identifications are to be detected. It is a matter of concern to understand the developments on a political and social level and not merely reproduce the narrative of ‘New Turkey’, thus the ethnographic approach supports to accompany the daily routines of the actors and the attempt to see their positions through their eyes and with their own descriptions.

 

Work package 2: Claudius Ströhle, Remittances and Exchange within Austria and Turkey. Objectivations of Economic Practices and their Impact on Transnational Participation and Belonging. 

Initiated by young pioneer migrants from Turkey and proceeded through family reunion, summer visits, marriages, communication and media, Fulpmes in the Stubai Valley and the region of Uşak build a dynamic transnational social space (Thomas Faist). Most of the migrants and their descendants as well as returnees arrange their everyday lives not within the framework of one nation state, but of two (or more). Practices of exchange are organised by remittances, i.e. the sending and receiving of money, presents and daily objects, but also of ideas, values and social capital (Peggy Levitt). By focusing on the social and cultural meanings of economic practices, this study aims to read the exchange of remittances as a social practice of belonging and to look for its multiple objectivations: Houses built, flats furnished and gifts brought are materializations of habits, expectations, dreams and ideas of home. What if, like in the present transnational setting, houses built in the remote villages around Uşak are standing out because of their Austrian elements and flats in the Stubai Valley are furnished with Uşak carpets and items according to tastes of the originated region? Which story does a knife tell us, that is produced in a steel factory in Fulpmes and used during Kurban Bayramı in Uşak? Likewise, second and third generation youngsters started to establish businesses between Fulpmes, Innsbruck, Istanbul and Uşak. What social and transnational capital are they both using and creating?

To gain a deepened insight into the various practices and to avoid the jeopardy of ethnicisation and methodological nationalism (Nina Glick Schiller), an ethnographic approach, which includes a long presence in the field, is applied. By accompanying the actors in their everyday lives in different social and geographical places in Austria and Turkey, the study aims to contribute to a multi-layered and multi-placed understanding of economic practices as a transnational form of participation and belonging.