Conceptions of homeland and the question of return: A study among Munchen residents with Turkish background

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Sleesman, Eileen R.
Sleesman, Eileen R. 2011. Conceptions of homeland and the question of return: A study among Munchen residents with Turkish background -- Lambda Alpha Journal, v.41, p.38-52
The beautiful city of München (Munich) located on the Isar River and within view of the Alps is the capital of the prominent southeastern German state of Bayern (Bavaria). München’s culture, however, is understood differently by those who visit and among those who reside and attempt to find their place and home within it. To some, München is known as the most northern city of Italy because of its leisurely pace and warm, hearty reputation, but to others it is a city of stereotypical “Germanness” due to its significance in history and the arts and because of its emphasized cultural symbols. Coloring impressions of München, especially those of foreigners and outsiders, certainly is its renowned two hundred year tradition of Oktoberfest and the six major and ancient breweries calling it home. München identity is propagated by images of the brick, onion domed Frauenkirche, the gothic Rathaus, and afternoons spent in secluded, restful Biergartens complete with pretzels, weißwurst, men in lederhosen, and women in dirndls. There is, however, another side of München which is less commonly known to visitors and vacationers but forms the context of many residents daily experience and reality. München is Germany’s third largest city of 1.37 million within the city limits and 5.48 million in the metropolitan area (Munich 2010:1), and among its inner city residents, 24 percent are non-German nationals and around 300,000 foreigners reside in this diverse city (2010:4),7 many of these are Turkish. Turks are the largest non-German ethnic population in all of Germany (Levinson 1998:37) and are at the center of many discussions regarding immigration, migration,and integration as well as questions of cultural definitions and implications for both personal and national identity. After doing some preliminary research and interviews with University students, a travel agency, and some shop owners, what became most interesting, and easily investigated in areas I already frequented in München, was determining the significance and meanings associated with Turkey for German residents with Turkish family background. In order to make this argument, I begin with an overview of Turkish Migration to Germany and a summary of relevant literature and present discussions focusing on an anthropological study among returnees to Turkey which served as a theoretical point of comparison throughout my work. I describe my positionality and the context and process of this study, and follow this with a discussion of the ideas informants formed of Turkey and contrast them with conceptions of Germany. To discover this information I posed open-ended questions, asking them to describe Istanbul and what they thought about it and then to do the same for München. I considered the words they used and the comparisons they made to decipher their understanding of the two places and discern the extent to which they revealed an affinity and connection to one and not the other. Next, I explore questions of belonging and what it means to be home, turning to the push and pull factors that guide settlement decisions. Finally, I suggest options for further investigation into ethnic and social backgrounds and their potency in forming societal affiliation and national identification.
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