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In this episode, I am hosting Nilay Kılınç. We will discuss the transnational phenomenon of ‘return migration’ and further complicate it by adding onto a gender dimension. In Nilay’s research, the term return migration refers to the second generation Turkish-Germans migrating back to Turkey from Germany. Nilay urges us to consider return migration as a paradoxical concept, especially for the second generation. Born and raised in Germany, the second generation had minimal physical contact with Turkey, which had been usually in the form of short holiday trips. Their memories of Turkey were mostly shaped by stories they acquired from their parents. Thus, Nilay warns us to be cautious of seeing return migration as a smooth departure from Germany and a warm welcome in Turkey.
Nilay holds her PhD from the University of Surrey, wherein she wrote her thesis on the notion of ‘searching for self’ for the second-generation Turkish-Germans in their post-return lives in Turkey. She is currently a fellow at the Centre of Advanced Studies in Sofia, Bulgaria, researching about the highly-skilled Turkish immigrants’ ‘alternative diaspora spaces’ in Europe. Nilay has a BA in International Relations from Istanbul Bilgi University and an MA in European Studies from Lund University.
Nilay will situate today’s episode in her impressive ethnographic fieldwork spreading over eight years, eight cities of Turkey and including more than 120 interviews with returnees.
Nilay identifies six reasons for return migration: return as a search for self-identity, involuntary return through family decision, return for marriage or romantic relationship, return for education and career purposes, return as an adventure, and finally force return or deportation.
Nilay will share stories of three critical steps during a return migration; tales of returnees’ lives in Germany, their stories of returning, and their stories of establishing their lives upon returning to Turkey.
Each reason and each step of return migration generates gender-specific experience for returnees. Nilay will provide ample examples of differing gendered experiences of return migration. For instance, migration literature on the guest workers of Germany usually depicted women as dependent migrants coming into Germany via family reunification. However, the stories Nilay gathered during her fieldwork reveal that women were also autonomous migrants travelling to Germany in search of work.
Besides, return reasons and experiences of returning may differ according to gender. For example, Nilay notes that only men were deported from Germany as a result of committing crimes.
Finally, the localities in Turkey, where the second generation had settled play an essential role in the post-return lives of women. Settling in more conservative regions of Turkey, women experience clashes and hardship with strong hetero-patriarchal social life. However, Nilay shares remarkable stories of women transforming their immediate surrounding and carving out autonomous economic and social spaces within more conservative localities.