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Citizenship Studies
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Labor migration, ethnic kinship, and the conundrum of citizenship in Turkey
Ayşşe Parla
a a

Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences, Sabancıı University, Istanbul, Turkey Available online: 24 Jun 2011

To cite this article: Ayşşe Parla (2011): Labor migration, ethnic kinship, and the conundrum of citizenship in Turkey, Citizenship Studies, 15:3-4, 457-470 To link to this article: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/13621025.2011.564809

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postnationalism Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 Introduction ‘Don’t let there remain any illegal Turks in Turkey’. class. I seek to resolve this seeming tension between. A related link on the same website urges all the undocumented Turkish migrants from Bulgaria to initiate legal proceedings. final version received 17 January 2011) This paper explores the ambiguous purchase that claiming Turkish ethnicity has in Bulgarian Turkish migrants’ attempts to access formal and social citizenship.2011.informaworld. If you were from Uganda. The advice presented on the website is complemented by the association president’s less official. the failure of most of these claims to materialize in practice by addressing the question of social and economic capital. you could obtain a residence permit saying you own property here. which appears to eliminate ethnic privilege. 3 – 4. Sabancı University.’ to include questions of class-based exclusion. and the conundrum of citizenship in Turkey Ayse Parla* ¸ Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences. on the other hand. ethnicity. 15. arguably the most active migrant association concerned with the post-90s Bulgarian Turkish migrants who reside and work predominantly in the precarious condition of illegality/legality induced by immigration policies and the citizenship regime in Turkey. On one such visit in June 2009. no one else will do it for you’. ethnic kinship. and a month after the passing of the new Citizenship Law.564809 http://www. June 2011. 457–470 Labor migration. social class makes a significant difference in determining who qualifies as a citizen and has access to social citizenship. the emphasis on Turkish ethnicity continues to play a significant role in the migrants’ attempts at inclusion. I thus argue that we need to expand the current terms of the debate on the inclusiveness of citizenship in Turkey.Citizenship Studies Vol. and. reiterated during my several ¨ ¨ visits to the association on Saturdays when he holds ‘halk gunu’ (literally translated as ‘people’s day’). which revolve around ‘denationalization’ and ‘postnationalism. on the one hand. Although ethnic belonging continues to be an important facet of citizenship. But despite being of Turkish descent you cannot *Email: ayseparla@sabanciuniv.1080/13621025. preferably for citizenship. I suggest that despite the new Citizenship Law. Turkey (Received 15 February 2010. runs the slogan featured on the website of the Balkan Turks Culture and Solidarity Association (BTSA). the continuing significance of ‘Turkishness’ in migrants’ discursive claims. albeit still carefully gauged and staged remarks.com . one of the migrants in the room asked whether the right given by the previous Citizenship Law that allowed those of ‘Turkish descent’ to apply for citizenship after two years of residence will be rescinded by the new law. Nos. The president replied with dramatic bitterness: ‘That is correct. Keywords: labor migrants. social citizenship.edu ISSN 1362-1025 print/ISSN 1469-3593 online q 2011 Taylor & Francis DOI: 10. Istanbul. interpellating the intended audience of migrants as it reminds them that if ‘you don’t take action on your own behalf.

or of increasing ‘denationalization’ or ‘postnationalism’ in Turkey. I suggest that despite the new Citizenship Law. social class makes a significant difference in determining who qualifies as a citizen and has access to social citizenship. I posit this argument through an examination of the discursive practices of the migrant associations who urge migrants to press their claims through appeals to ‘Turkish descent. This is how much “hatır” (care. Referring to the Turkish context. and (2) does so by urging that we need to widen the terms of the debate to include measurements other than multiculturalism in assessing the relative inclusiveness of citizenship in Turkey. worth) you have in the eyes of the state. Finally. the common thread uniting them is not just a normative commitment to a notion of membership that supersedes an ethno-nationally defined core identity.458 A. as the association president would have it.’1 This article explores the evidently ambiguous purchase that claiming Turkish ethnicity has in the migrants’ attempts to access both formal and social citizenship. Soysal (1994) has famously deployed the term postnational citizenship to highlight that regardless of formal citizenship. this paper (1) cautions against too hasty a diagnosis of the denationalization of Turkish citizenship. I seek to resolve this seeming tension between the continuing significance of ‘Turkishness’ on the one hand. the components of which might at first glance appear to be in tension. In doing so. Notwithstanding the various shades of difference in how these scholars deploy the terms postnationalism or denationalization.’ prefers the term ‘denationalization’ to capture a similar tendency she identifies as ‘portray[ing] the presence of multicultural identities in Turkey’. On the one hand. By exploring the entanglements of class and ethnicity in determining access to membership and social rights. Kirisci (2009) uses the term ‘postnationalism’ interchangeably with ‘multi¸¸ culturalism’ to describe a movement away from the historically dominant emphasis on the ethnic underpinnings of citizenship and toward an increasing recognition of multicultural ˘ realities. but also an empirical claim that the condition of postnationalism/denationalization is in fact reflective of facts on the ground whether the context is Europe or Turkey. I posit a two-tiered argument. and its tenuous efficacy on the other by arguing that the migrants’ failure to profit from the privilege of claiming the dominant ethnicity is less the result of the loss of ‘hatır’. the fact that such appeals result occasionally in temporary legalization and rarely in citizenship serves as a critical reminder that regardless of denationalization/ Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 . Rather. which appears to eliminate ethnic privilege – and which thereby seems to lend support to recent claims of ˘ ‘postnationalism’ (Kirisci 2009) or the ‘denationalization’ (Kadıoglu 2007) of Turkish ¸¸ citizenship – the emphasis on Turkish ethnicity continues to play a key role in the migrants’ attempts at inclusion. The fact that as undocumented labor migrants. the ambivalent value of claiming Turkish ethnicity hinges on the question of social and economic capital.2 Acknowledging the crucial contribution of this body of work for going beyond national criteria in determining belonging. Parla unfortunately get the permit.’ On the other hand. their singular shot at formal and social citizenship is through appealing to their Turkish descent points to the abiding significance of ethnicity in regulating access. Although ethnic belonging continues to be an important facet of citizenship. I point out that most of these claims fail in practice. migrants in Europe increasingly have more social rights deriving their legitimacy from discourses of universalistic personhood and transnational norms of human rights. The case of post-nineties Bulgarian Turkish migrants constitutes a particularly apt case study for pursuing my analytic frame. Kadıoglu (2007) heeding Sassen’s (2002) distinction between ‘postnationalism’ and ‘denationalization. I contend that it underemphasizes the role of social class. However.

the post-90s labor migrants like Zeycan are on the whole not able to access this legal privilege. along with other circular labor migrants from Bulgaria. Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 . according to which (only) those of Turkish descent and culture qualify for migrant status. with some hesitation. However. distinguish Zeycan from the previous waves of Bulgarian Turkish immigrants.3 However. had decided to join us. and a M. Despite encouraging rumors.7 During our first visit. another prominent member of the association came to greet us.’ Halil Bey said. in May 2007. In addition to pursuing the claims of migrants with citizenship who came prior to or in 1989. allowing Bulgarian passport holders a maximum of 90 days of stay in Turkey for every six-month period. We lost all that land. When I met Zeycan in April 2008. has been engaging in circular migration between Bulgaria and Turkey since 1998.A. Instead they maneuver in the face of changing visa regimes. in international law. I thus suggested. just as it does for formal citizens (Wallerstein 2003. ‘takes a radical stance on behalf of all these people: we demand citizenship for all of them. that Zeycan seek legal aid from the most established Balkan migrant association in Istanbul. Until 2007. the BTSA (henceforth BTSA). fugitive). ¸ Zeycan. including those who are ‘kacak’ (‘illegal. Into the third hour of our wait for the president. Halil Bey addressed himself squarely to me and to Zeycan’s employer. Holston 2008). she would lapse into ‘illegality’5 and she dreaded the fines she would have to pay at the border when she eventually returned to Bulgaria. Zeycan had benefited from the relatively privileged visa regime to which Bulgarian passport holders were subjected: between 2001 and 2007.6 the president also files applications and lawsuits on behalf of irregular migrants in return for not insignificant fees glossed as ‘donations’ in the association parlance. concerned with Zeycan’s predicament. with occasional but temporary legalization periods due to ‘amnesties’. she would lose her current job.D. like other previous amnesties. too. After the lapse of 60 days and Zeycan receiving no reply. After a cursory nod at Zeycan. I had already been conducting ethnographic research among irregular migrants from Bulgaria since January 2007 and knew well the dearth of governmental or nongovernmental bodies that offer legal advice to irregular migrants. access to full citizenship continues to be differentiated not only in terms of ethnic/cultural identity. At the Migrant Association. exacerbated in the face of the most recent visa regime. If she abided by the new regulation and went back. that is. we visited the association for the second time. and who. If she overstayed. free resident permits given by the Turkish state to encourage migrant votes whenever there are elections in Bulgaria (Kaslı and Parla 2009). which reinforce their irregularity. but also in terms of social class for migrants (Bosniak 2006. 2008 Zeycan. the latter were allowed to stay in Turkey on visa waivers valid for three months. who works as a nanny for an upper-middle class family in Istanbul. a man in his forties whose attire and attitude indexed high social capital. had seized the opportunity for a six-month free resident permit. fine. holds office hours every Saturday. a new visa agreement came into effect. The latter were granted citizenship on the basis of the Turkish Settlement Law. Calavita 2006).Citizenship Studies 459 postnationalism. which professes to concern itself with the plight of all Balkan immigrants. Zeycan was at a loss. ‘Our association. but now. The association’s president. who has a ¸ J. this permit turned out to be nonrenewable. granted right before the 2007 elections in Bulgaria.’ but more literally. the president wrote up a petition to the Turkish Ministry of Interior for the renewal of the six-month permit as well as a petition requesting special immigrant status for Zeycan on the grounds of her ‘being of Turkish descent and culture’.4 The vicissitudes of maintaining legal status.

Parla we are losing these people as well. Zeycan was to petition for the immigrant status reserved for those of ‘Turkish descent and culture’. ‘No. As I was examining the document he was alluding to and feeling hopeful on behalf of Zeycan. I asked her quietly: ‘If someone were to ask you. He believed that the intervention had been undertaken by the Ministry to avoid having a precedent.’ And she subverted the very terms in which Halil Bey had formulated the ‘either/or’ question: Mecca or Turkey. ‘Now look.460 A. ‘I mean I’d be curious. covering her mouth in a gesture that playfully alluded to Halil Bey’s presence nearby. “would you prefer to go to Mecca or Turkey. But despite his attempts to hail them as ‘our people’. This entitled her. he said. The confrontational tone is evident in Halil Bey’s informal remarks as well as in the association’s recourse to the law – BTSA is currently the only association Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 . but that is it. as it signals the demise of Ottoman ambitions for western expansion and sustainable statehood.’ she said. He referred to the loss of the territory in the Balkans. These people have protected their ethnic and religious identities for centuries. When we left the association. ‘Of course we would try to go below that. it turned out that Zeycan’s petition had not been processed by the Ministry. the president informed us. approximately $3500 at the time and more than five months of wages for Zeycan. the president showed a price list and pointed to an item that read 4. ‘But I don’t want to live in fear as “kacak”.000 YTL.” would you really say Turkey?’ Zeycan began to laugh.8 And I would never give up my Bulgarian passport.’ After dodging the question a few times. Halil Bey underscored once again the timeless allegiance of Bulgarian Turks to their symbolic homeland. the BTSA stands out in terms of its more contentious ` stance vis-a-vis the state. His reference to the lost Balkan lands was coupled with an urge to substitute nostalgic yearning with proper pragmatism: ‘these people’ are desirable subjects to be incorporated into the national body.’ and she added.’ he offered ambiguously. “Turkey”. The president proudly told us that he had several such standing applications filed with the Ministry. I wouldn’t. Though none had been finalized yet. As Halil Bey turned to engage someone else in conversation. a status that eventually leads to citizenship. she began to nudge me: ‘Ask him how much he wants for the lawsuit. Halil Bey only acknowledged the presence of Zeycan and other migrants present with the occasional interjection: ‘These ladies here will confirm what I am about to say’. so the state owes the Balkan migrants a historical debt. “would you prefer to go to Mecca or to Turkey?” they will instantly tell you. he was hopeful. to initiate a court case against the Ministry of the Interior. as the father state.’ Throughout this well-rehearsed performance I had witnessed on other visits.’ When we were finally received by the president. a loss that looms as one of the largest traumas in the transition from the Ottoman Empire to the Turkish Republic. there are not many Turks in Bulgaria who go to Mecca in the first place. ‘Anyway. especially given that in one case. At the same time. Halil Bey thus connected the current mission of the association – filing for citizenship for all migrants from Bulgaria – to its vision of history and historical territory. And the state – the state is losing its image as the brother state. I asked Zeycan what she planned on doing.’ In one swift breath. Concluding his speech. Zeycan resisted easy interpellation. ‘It is too much money. if you were to ask these people of ours.’ she said. ‘it is not like we are transfixed on Turkey.’ ¸ Institutional claims for inclusion ¨ ¨ ˘ As Ozgur-Baklacıoglu (2006) pointed out in her meticulous review of various Balkan immigrant associations in Turkey. yes. so I’ll think about it. the ministry had granted citizenship to the claimant before the case came to court.

10 for example. is also a lawyer. the report carefully elides any mention of economic motives that might have played a role in migration. not demanding property or land from the state. like immigrants of other nationalities. Comparing the strategies enacted by BTSA with those of other migrant associations demonstrates that while the BTSA might be unique in terms of its confrontational attitude. and despite formal equality before the law. ¨¸ The BAL-GOC report correctly identifies the major tribulations encountered by the migrants.9 The president of the local Izmir branch of the other most ¨¸ visible migrant association. however. the difficulties of acquiring Turkish citizenship. It is emphasized that these people also Turkified the region and spread Islam. and they gave it their all to defend the state against attacks and to conquer new territory. Izmir BAL-GOC has prepared a detailed report outlining the problems faced by migrants from Bulgaria. the report. they do not have many ties left with Bulgaria. and residence permits.5% of the children acquire Turkish language skills. the following criteria qualifies one for ‘munferit gocmen’ (‘individual immigrant’) status: ‘being of Turkish descent. leading ‘our people’ to continue to migrate to Turkey. In fact. the justifications for seeking aid from the state for the plight of the immigrants are remarkably similar to those propounded by the representatives of the latter.000 immigrated to Turkey as the result of ethnic repression in Bulgaria. merely for economic reasons. often articulated as the main motive by the post-nineties immigrants themselves (Parla 2009). Instead it locates the migrants strictly in the Turkish homeland. BAL-GOC. ‘evlad-ı fatihan’ (‘children of the conquerors’). namely. In addition to appealing to the Settlement Law. The report then gives an overview of the forced migrations that began subsequent to the demise of the Ottoman Empire and continued up to this day.11 Rather than being couched in the language of demands and rights. . is to lay bare the grounds on which the association appeals to the state for the legalization of migrants from Bulgaria. only 1. hence earning the tribute. which was delivered to the Ministry of Interior Affairs for their consideration. the report states that despite the transition to democracy. work permits. . They have not come to Turkey. the legal course of action undertaken by the president is supplemented by the wider discursive construction of Balkan migrants as bearers of the Ottoman legacy and as desirable subjects whose inimitable allegiance is assumed to be to Turkey. Turks are still discriminated against. the report concludes with a vehement disavowal of either the role of economic motives or the existence of continuing attachments on both sides of the border. and having a first degree relative who is a Turkish citizen’. Although the report strikes a far more conciliatory note when compared to BTSA. . The preface to the report recounts the history of the migrations from the Balkans to Turkey: the Muslim Turks. constituted the warriors of the ‘akıncı ocagı’ (‘raiders’ hearth’). which they are professed to have longed for throughout their exilic residence in Bulgaria: ‘by settling in our country they have ended this yearning . While highlighting the social and political discrimination against the Turkish population in Bulgaria. the instrumentalization of ethno-national belonging is a discourse widely subscribed to by ˙ other associations as well. simply identifies problem areas and offers suggestions for alleviating them.’ Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 .’ The concluding assertion for why these people ought to be given citizenship rests on that potent mixture of purity of motives with purity of origin: ‘The people discussed above are the grandchildren of those who originate from ¨ ¨ Anatolia and have settled in the Balkans and they are Turks through and through (oz be oz ¨ Turk).Citizenship Studies 461 that files lawsuits on behalf of the migrants from Bulgaria. who were settled in the Balkan territories conquered by the ˘ Ottoman Empire. Instead of taking ¨¸ ˙ legal action. According to the latest Settlement ¨ ¨¸ Law of 2006. when 300. What is more relevant for my purposes here. In addition to highlighting the big exodus in 1989.

dentists.15 The wording for most of these regulations explicitly made clear that ‘ethnic Turks’ were favored over other nonTurkish citizens. Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 Inclusions. the valorization of Turkishness. which allows no room for other human desires and motivations besides ethno-nationalist sentiment. and their relation to citizenship in its proper historical context. the kind of rhetoric that they believe will have the most persuasive power hinges on pure Turkishness and allegiance to the Turkish homeland to the exclusion of ties to Bulgaria. doctors. we need to situate the concern with roots and descent.14 The discursive and spatial construction of Turkishness was echoed in and reinforced by the citizenship laws and regulations of the period. Critical work on citizenship in Turkey (Parla 1991. 148) who writes that the unionist policies were aimed at ‘the gathering together of Ottoman Muslims at the expense of ethno-religious minorities and sought to expel unreliable elements from the border regions’. Aktar 2000. One group of policies simply privileged the citizens deemed to be of Turkish ethnicity over those identified otherwise. Utterances like Zeycan’s – ’yat kalk ˘ ¨ Turkiye mi. Serbian. nonetheless couch their demands or pleas in almost exactly the same terms. such as the 1924 law exempting ‘ethnic Turks’ from customs fees for imported ships. Soner Cagaptay cites the ¸ ˘ elimination of the Armenian and Greek populations between 1912 and 1927 as moves toward ethnic homogenization and nationalization. In his extensive archival study on how Turkish national identity came to be defined. the term deployed was . including Bosnian. as evinced in Zeycan’s own gesture of covering her mouth as she pronounced those words. which differ in terms of their ` positioning vis-a-vis the state as well as in their legal strategies. midwives.’ I would like ¸ ˘ to juxtapose these acts of exclusion and inclusion following Canefe (2002. Regardless of what they may actually know or think about the post-90s migratory flows from Bulgaria to Turkey. such as government employees. In some of the earlier regulations. The ‘deservingness’ of migrants gets premised on a legacy of conquest that harkens back to the fourteenth century from which a continuous line is drawn to the present. while others stipulated Turkish ethnicity as a prerequisite for certain occupational posts. ¸ ˘ p. Greek. Alongside of spatial strategies to homogenize the population. who entered the shrinking territory of the empire. ‘was experienced as a result of the Ottoman Muslims. figuratively and literally. Kurban ¸ ˘ ˘ 2004. Albanian and Bulgarian Muslims and others. but instead of glossing this as ‘another change. Parla The repeated denial of economic motives or transnational ties. Yegen 2004) has challenged the official hegemonic view of inclusion as being predominantly based on territory and as merely contingent on the performative speech act – ‘how happy s/he is who says I am a Turk’12 – and has exposed how the terms of belonging in Turkey have been historically predicated on ethno-national criteria. exclusions.13 Following Cagaptay.462 A. Cagaptay 2003. p. and inclusive exclusions In order to grasp why the two major migrant associations.’ he continues. and nurses. which continued by expelling many of the remaining minorities through the forced population exchanges between Greece and Turkey in 1923 (Keyder 2005). degil yani’ are muted in this vision. however. Hence the immigrant communities arriving from the Balkans were officially conferred the title ‘ethnic kin’ (soydas) and were incorporated into the homeland against the ¸ submerged history of those declared to be internal enemies and ousted. in addition to ‘protesting too much’. are also telling in terms of what the association leaders believe to be the effective emotional and ideological register as they appeal to the Turkish state. Yıldız 2001. fleeing the land lost in the Balkans’ (Cagaptay 2003. defined as an ethnic/racial identity reached its apex in the early Republican period. 172). ‘Another demographic change in this period.

Jews. ‘those not of the Turkish race but tied to Turkish culture. It seemed more straightforward to mark ‘the others’. In an often cited Parliament discussion around the law regarding customs exemption. 1312. an amendment to the 1992 law. Tatars. ¸¸ While the rejoinder of the MP in the exchange cited above exudes confidence. Finally. and those deemed to be most ‘digestible’ were the tens of thousands of Muslims coming from the Balkans.’ carried out its vision both by relocating the local population along ‘security’ concerns. which regulated the settlement of Ahıska Turks in Turkey granted citizenship to those Ahıska Turks who apply within three months and who held a residence permit issued before January 2009. clues to the thorny question of who possessed ‘pure Turkishness’ are ¸¸ manifest in the immigration policies of the period (Kirisci 2000). As aptly analyzed by Kirisci. Circassians.17 Indeed. even if able to prove self-support’ would need approval of the Ministry of Interior for a visa. which aimed to ‘develop the Turkish population qualitatively and quantitatively.Citizenship Studies 463 ‘Turkish citizen.’ followed by other minority groups such as the Kurds. ‘Those belonging to the Turkish race’ could obtain an immigrant visa right away without the approval of the Ministry of Interior granted that they did not ask for financial support. In January 2009. who possessed ‘pure Turkish ethnicity’ was not so obvious. 8). the statistics provided by the General Directorate of Population and Citizenship reinforce the argument that those deemed to be of Turkish descent continue to have the competitive edge in the acquisition of citizenship: the two groups who acquired Turkish citizenship on exceptional grounds in the last decades were ˘ Iraqi Turks and Bulgarian Turks (Kadirbeyoglu 2010). Having emerged from ¸¸ the two major wars. etc. p. and by encouraging the migration of those deemed to be most assimilable. Albanians. however. Others point out that in practice ‘citizen’ included only those of Turkish ethnicity. Notions of assimilability took on a gastronomic inflection in the discourses of the early nationalists. The Settlement Law of 1934. for example. the First World War and the War of Independence. but declined to accept the settlement of groups such as ˘ Christian Orthodox Gagauz Turks and Shi’a Azeris’ (Kadirbeyoglu 2009). the Uygur Turks benefited from a special regulation that enabled legalization. for example. More recently. the newly found Republic had a serious population problem. making them the foremost recipients of Turkish citizenship. the Council of Ministers has the ultimate say. the Settlement Law has played a key role in determining who was to be included in Turkish citizenship. Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 . Turkey provided refugee and immigrant status to groups such as Muslim Bosnians. ‘In accordance with this law. Immigrants accepted to Turkey have been predominantly from among people considered to be ‘of Turkish descent and culture’ and they were settled using the Law on Settlement since 1934.16 These migrants were naturalized in accordance with Law No.’ which has led some of the more generous analyses of Turkish nation – state formation to locate egalitarian politics in citizenship practices at this formative ˙¸ period (Icduygu et al. As to who qualifies as being of Turkish origin. The 1934 Settlement Law reserved the category ‘immigrant’ (gocmen) to those who are ‘of Turkish origin’ and ‘close to Turkish culture’ and the 2006 Settlement Law continues this bias. as Kirisci (2000) has ¸¸ ˘ underlined and as Kadirbeyoglu states in her comprehensive report on changing conceptions of citizenship in Turkey. the Armenians and Greeks constituted the most visible ‘foreigners. 1999). an MP asked for the following clarification: ‘Are we calling the Armenians and the Greeks Turkish?’ He was conclusively answered: ‘They have never been Turkish’ (quoted in Kirisci 2000. and Alevi Arabs. The pivotal role historically played by an ethnic conception of citizenship in determining degrees of immigrant belonging is perhaps most evident in the contemporary fact that the legal term for migrant continues to be synonymous with ‘being of Turkish ¨¸ descent’.

p. that is. The new law on citizenship has a temporary article. Second. ‘This seems to allow for indirect positive discrimination of those of Turkish origin even with the new law’ (2010.’ Furthermore. the changes we see in the Turkish legal context are in fact parallel to those in Europe: It would not be realistic to say that a concern with ethnic ties is entirely absent from citizenship laws in Europe where cultural matters. 18). which continues to accept as immigrants only those either with Turkish origin and those deemed to be ‘tied to Turkish culture. then. substitute for the overt emphasis on ‘ethnic ties’. without having to wait for five years once their immigration procedures are completed. First of all.464 A. other means of legalization leading up to citizenship. the documents requested for citizenship applications continue to smuggle in the ethnic bias through the back door. Evocative of Navaro-Yashin’s (2007) innovative study of the emotive dimensions of bureaucracy and the politically charged affectivities generated by legal documents in circulation. ‘Aysel describes how “the officers” [at the Foreigner’s Department] faces change when they see my name on my passport. a strategy deployed by other migrants as well in part because it eases bureaucracy on the Bulgarian side. primarily by citing the (Turkish) names of the mother and the father. Third. who has been engaging in circular migration between Bulgaria and Turkey for five years now. What. The application requirements specify that it is to the advantage of those of Turkish descent to submit a ‘soy belgesi’ (document of origin). the discrimination against those who do not have Turkish origin in the naturalization procedures.’ Aysel. at least on paper. then things are all right again. now with these changes. has kept her Bulgarian name on her passport. a document that ‘proves’ the applicant’s Turkish origins. ‘But when I explain why I was not able to take back my Turkish name. One recent regulation brought about ¨¸ through the lobbying of the migrant association BAL-GOC exempts Bulgarian Turks who are able to obtain residence permits from having to obtain work permits. Is the elimination for the privilege for those of Turkish origin not an example par excellence that Turkish citizenship is indeed becoming de-ethnicized? I suggest that a more comprehensive glance forestalls too quick a judgment of the law to comprise a transformative change. these immigrants may be naturalized exceptionally. plus ca change plus c’est la meme chose? ¸ I have tried to show why it makes not only political but also legal sense that migrant associations continue to couch their demands in terms of claims to Turkishness.’ without having to fulfill the five years of residence requirement. and tell them I have the document [of origin] that shows my mother’s name and my father’s name. one would need to assess the new Citizenship Law in conjunction with the 2006 Settlement Law.19 Finally. those who were of Turkish origin could naturalize ‘exceptionally.20 Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 . of the new Citizenship Law that was accepted by the Assembly in May 2009 and alluded to by the association president in the opening vignette? According to the previous law. continue to privilege ethnic identity. which states that the residency requirement for those of Turkish origin will continue to be only two years until 2010. Parla ˆ Toward post-nationality. this is not to single out Turkey in contradistinction to European nation-states. which have seemingly done away with such undercurrents of discrimination. we see a fading of the former and a foregrounding of the latter. The new law thus seeks to eliminate. such as residence or work permits.18 ˘ As Kadirbeyoglu concludes. According to the legal scholar Lami Bertan Tokuzlu. or. but will increase to the standard five years thereafter.’ While I demonstrate how a concern with ‘soy’ continues to be smuggled in through the back door. we should heed the gap between formal law and its practice. for example language proficiency exams or tests measuring potential for integration. Our citizenship laws used to include both ethnic and cultural ties.

even without formal belonging. even after the granting of formal citizenship (Volpp 2003. Beyond the persistence of exclusions predicated on perceived difference in ethnic/cultural terms. or when they receive rights and benefits from a state or make contributions to the development of a state and the life of people within it. 205). However. through showing that migrants. OK?’ Saniye repeated that she had not come for the special package given to the 1989 migrants. Ewing 2008. but wanted to inquire about . At the Social Security Office. I turn to the extent to which such practices of social citizenship may be said to exist for the Bulgarian Turkish migrants in Turkey. other scholars evoke the differential access the entire history of citizenship in the West has entailed. the fact that the notion of cultural ties ultimately serves a similar purpose as the overt emphasis on ethnicity is systematically manifested by critical scholarship on immigrant incorporation and naturalization in Europe and the United States. she ended up on the rather baffling list of 900 migrants whose current permits were exchanged with special one year permits through a last-minute circular (genelge). In the next section. Before Saniye opened her mouth. Whether the term deployed is a literal one such as ‘differentiated citizenship’. Zeycan’s older sister Saniye chose to risk illegality and continued to work in Turkey. The staff at the Service of Loans immediately asked Saniye whether she had arrived as part of the 1989 forced migration. (Holston 2008) or more metaphoric such as ‘phantom citizenship’ (Sawyer 2001).Citizenship Studies 465 Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 Indeed. we visited the social security association in Istanbul to inquire about Saniye’s possibilities for some form of insurance. to extend her residence permit. As Bulgarian nationals are not allowed to I purchase property in Turkey. The employee did not know whether this was possible and called the manager. who ultimately decided to go back to Bulgaria and suspend her migration routine for the time being. The new criteria for access. ‘For one thing. the unifying concern is with the ‘unequal distribution for resources in capitalist societies [that] renders many formal citizenship rights largely empty’ (Bosniak 2006. Such a concern has resulted in more attention being given to ‘social citizenship. Saniye invested in an apartment in the neighboring industrial city of ˙zmit. stating that social security services covered only the 1989 migrants. couched in terms of ‘cultural compatibility. just forget about loans. make claims for inclusion and increasingly possess rights that approximate those of the citizens (Hollifield 1992. the apartment was bought under a relative’s name.’ which in turn. BTSA. or alternatively and in a more positive spin. they are said to be social citizens’ (p. Shortly after. the manager said.21 Immediately afterwards. has destabilized the strict separation between the citizen and the foreigner/migrant. Saniye explained that she wanted to apply on her own initiative. Balibar 2004. 2009 Unlike Zeycan.’ continue to discriminate on the basis of ethnicity and on the basis that the loyalty of certain members remain suspect. Silverstein 2008). 30). ` Suarez-Navaz 2004. p. either through showing how some citizens are not able to benefit as much from formal citizenship. In their ethnographically grounded explorations of how those who do not formally belong to the nation make claims for inclusion. for ¸ ˘ example. if you are not an ‘89 migrant. which had been declared to be nonrenewable. Through a combination of persistence and luck. Glick-Schiller and Caglar (2008). Soysal 1994). define social citizenship for migrants in the following way: ‘When people without official membership make claims to belong to a state through collectively organizing to protect themselves against discrimination. she petitioned via the same association.

An employer may simply register with social security an employee who has a work permit waiver. Bulgarian nationals are not able to own property in Turkey. there is a concern with minimal security. When related this incident. and then continued to pay her insurance fees every month. the Bulgarian Turkish migrants are subjected to the 90 days of stay within the six months rule and are not able to renew their three-month permits. The spectral quality of paying for insurance without any insurance that it will materialize recalls the situation of another migrant woman we had encountered at the Foreigner’s Department. Subsequently. They have no job security and primarily work without permits. or they might. illustrate the dearth of channels for irregular migrants to press claims that may result in practices of social citizenship. which so far have been futile. but also the ‘irregular migrant’ in the discussion of social citizenship for migrants. They might. even if she did fulfill the requisite years for retirement. Parla Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 ˘ personal insurance (Bag-Kur) she herself wanted to pay for. as Saniye does. First. you need to apply in your place of residence. however. the manager said. instead of approximating formal citizenship rights through the pursuit of social rights as in Glick-Schiller and Caglar’s (2008) ¸ ˘ comparative case-study of migrants in New Hampshire and Halle. Thus. ‘No. therefore. The ‘solution’ offered by the association president is a partial one as he himself acknowledged.466 A. While among the post-90s migrants from Bulgaria. which exempt them from having to obtain work permits are only temporary. my concern in this article has been those irregular migrants who engage in circular migration and whose intentions of settling in Turkey are ambivalent. but since she had still not been able to obtain citizenship. he said. The exemption from the work permit. While Marshall insisted on everyone’s entitlement to ‘a modicum of economic welfare and security.22 For that. like Saniye. which is based on the principle of mutuality. unless you have citizenship. In both cases. The employer need only initiate the procedure and deposit the first month of the fee. would ever result in the right to social security. It is also important to break down the generic category of not only ‘the migrant’. When we asked if a residence permit was sufficient for applying. what we observe for the Turkish context is a strict divergence between social rights and formal citizenship rights. also expires with the expiration of the residence permit. Resident permits for Bulgarian Turkish migrants. you cannot apply’. Supposing a migrant initiated the process during her ‘legitimate’ three-month period. and assuming that they are able to enlist the help of their employer. only those who currently have residence permits can resort to this strategy.H. According to the Property Law. The chiasm between formal rights and social rights Saniye’s efforts. which is most likely below that ‘modicum of well-being’ so famously and ambiguously put forth by T. she would subsequently have to ‘prove’ her uninterrupted residence. She had been paying her social security for years. the president of BTSA pointed to one possible way of circumventing the system. except for the unique list of 900 people. However. be undecided about the prospects of settling. Marshall in his pioneering formulation of social citizenship. They are not able to get insurance even if they want to pay for it themselves. be oriented toward Bulgaria and engage in circular labor migration only to save some money to take back home. it was not certain whether all her payments. except for the list of 900 migrants Saniye managed to be on. the proof of which would be impossible (or a de facto admission of illegal status) without a valid residence permit. the worker may continue the payments regardless of employment. like Zeycan. there are those who are adamant about permanent settlement in Turkey. to the right to share to the full in the social heritage and to live the life .

being poor with little consumption power. some form of insurance to count ¸ toward retirement. which in turn. this paper has explored the significance of how labor migrants like Zeycan and Saniye engage with citizenship in Turkey. it is telling that the single ‘right’ Saniye was able to gain as a result of her efforts was to benefit from the March 2009 regulation. Calavita (2006) perhaps takes the emphasis on the significance of class to its furthest when she states that it is not being an immigrant (with its markers of ‘ethnic’ difference) per se that results in marginalization. p. that unrealized modicum of well-being currently constitutes ease of travel. Others. are not within the reach of labor migrants like Saniye and Zeycan who work in the predominantly informal domestic care sector. legality – in terms of both travel and work and residence – is extremely precarious short of formal citizenship. Furthermore. which exempted Turkish immigrants from Bulgaria from work permits: A right gained through recourse to ethnic privilege rather than as a migrant’s labor right. given the expenses and difficulties of obtaining residence and work permits. Irregular migrants like Saniye seek citizenship not necessarily because formal membership is their ultimate goal. the state has an implicit interest in keeping these migrants irregular in order to ensure a vulnerable and dispensable workforce. I have also suggested that we need to broaden the terms of the debate to include social class in assessing the inclusiveness of (Turkish) citizenship. like Zeycan. Migrant associations plead with the government to ease the bureaucracy and cost of granting resident permits to the irregular migrants from Bulgaria on the basis of their Turkishness. Conclusion Heeding Yalcın-Heckmann’s (2007) concern for the overemphasis on citizenship as ¸ hybrid and multicultural identity processes and the need instead to focus on labor migration and the informal economy. does not secure full belonging and access and is conditional upon the possession of other forms of social and economic capital. can only be sought by the labor migrants from Bulgaria through appeals to ethnic kinship. therefore. However. In this piece I have argued that the Bulgarian Turkish labor migrants constitute an apt example for showing the necessity of considering simultaneously the persistence of ethnicity as a mark of difference/privilege and the significance of class to achieve at a fuller understanding of the migrants’ access to membership and social rights. I argued that the emphasis on the dominant ethnicity continues to be relevant by looking at the claims for inclusion on the part of the group that has historically occupied the most privileged status within the hierarchy of migrant ‘otherness’ in Turkey. or in Zeycan’s words. but rather. I have argued that expanding the terms of the debate on the inclusiveness of citizenship in Turkey to include questions of class-based exclusion along with ethnic identity helps in explaining the seeming paradox of why the post-90s labor migrants from Bulgaria have difficulty in accessing the privileges of ethnicity. 69). as is the case across other countries in Europe and the United States. and the possibility of property ownership. What I have tried to underscore in this article is that the only way to access social rights is through formal citizenship. explore the possibilities for formal citizenship because. as encouraged on the association website with which I opened this paper. not to live in fear as kacak (fugitive). a move that might pave the way for .23 Even ethnic privilege.Citizenship Studies 467 Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 of a civilized being’ (Marshall 1964. Market rule may thus override ethno-national preference even for the group that has historically been accorded the most privileged position in the echelons of migrant desirability. but because there is no possibility of making any claims for social rights without it. Furthermore. Filing lawsuits for citizenship. for the irregular migrants that people this paper.

as well as the critical input of Lale Yalcın-Heckmann and the two anonymous ¸ reviewers for this journal. Parla recognizing the complementary logics of nationalist sentiment and market rule in what only appears to be manifestations of increasing denationalization in the Turkish context. 5. My use of quotation marks each time I deploy the term illegal signals both the normative problems evoked by this terminology and the empirical concern that the boundary between legality and illegality is rarely clear-cut in practical terms. ¨ Although Kemalists claim that it was Ataturk who single-handedly laid the tenets of Turkish nationalism. Available from: http://rega. html. 7. I gratefully acknowledge Zeynep Kaslı’s indispensable work as the project’s research assistant. Yıldız Technical University where earlier versions of this paper were presented. ‘A comparative analysis of informal networks among Bulgarian Turks. ¨ This paper is based on ethnographic research funded by two TUBITAK projects. or migrant (GOC). . juxtaposing the shorthand for Balkan (BAL) ¨¸ ¨¸ with Gocmen. Columbia University and at KIM. ˘ ¨ Yat kalk Turkiye mi yani? Hayır degil. For detailed information. falls short of his postnational criteria (Kirisci 2009. org. 603– 604) for a detailed list and discussion. the official founder of the Turkish Republic. It is important to note as well the migrations from the Caucasus prior to that. see the bilateral agreement between Turkish and Bulgarian governments. he acknowledges that the second realm. 3. I greatly benefited from the ¸ feedback provided during seminars at the Center for the Critical Analysis of Social Difference. The first one. 2).balgocizmir. which were promised but not granted in time by the state or problems with retirement pensions.tr/sorun. 13. pp. Iraqi Turks and Moldovans’ was conducted with Didem Danıs and Mine Eder between January 2007 and June ¸ 2008. See Kaslı and Parla (2009) for a detailed account of various visa regimes and their relation to ¸ EU harmonization.468 A. Acknowledgements The research for this paper was funded by two successive grants (grant no. namely the ‘reform process triggered by aspirations of membership to the European Union’. p. 9. These claims mostly involve cases of ‘migrant residences’. began in January 2009 and is ongoing. which include the valorization of Turkishness as a core identity. 11.asp [Accessed 1 April 2011]. 106K162 and 108K522) ¨ from TUBITAK.gov. It ought to be noted that Kirisci tests his diagnosis of postnationalism in two different realms: ¸¸ while for the first realm. See also Danıs and Parla (2009) for a comparison between discourses of the Balkan Turks ¸ associations with the Iraqi Turks associations. The identification of an ethno-cultural core was already in the making before the establishment of the Republican regime (Deringil 1998). the Scientific and Technological Council of Turkey. the equivalent of approximately $70 based on the exchange rates on 25 December 2009. he finds evidence of more postnationalism/multiculturalism. 15. Mardin (1962) describes how the motherlandblood-religion triplet comprised the center around which Turkish nationhood was formulated by the young Ottomans and the young Turks of the late-Ottoman era.tr/eskiler/2007/05/20070509-3. 12. In his pioneering study. The full report under discussion may be reached through the link http://www. 10. 14. 4. Downloaded by [Sabanci University] at 23:21 21 September 2011 Notes 1. critical historians have cautioned against the Kemalist denial of the Ottoman legacy. that of migration policies. 8. the fee for filing a petition the association demands was 100YTL. ¨ Dictum of Ataturk. 6. See Cagaptay (2003. While I find Kirisci’s analysis of the problems of migration policy ¸¸ ¸¸ very important. ¨¸ The acronym BAL-GOC is a composite word.basbakanlik. his exemption of this latter realm from his overall positive diagnosis of increasing postnationalism/multiculturalism in Turkey does not affect my argument regarding the shortcomings of the postnationalism framework deployed. The second project entitled ‘The legalization practices among Turkish immigrants from Bulgaria’. ¸ ˘ 2. In December 2009.

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