Turkified?!

For the football context, it is relevant that in Austria Turkish migrants and postmigrants are amongst those who experience the most negative media attention compared to discourses on other migrants and postmigrants. Wiebke Sievers, Ilker Ata^ and Philipp Schnell emphasise how ‘Muslims in general, and Turks in particular, have often been described as unwilling to integrate into Austrian society’ (Sievers et al. 2014, p. 264; cf. also Hodl 2010). They summarise that ‘[the] context is characterized not only by public discourses marking Turkish immigrants and their descendants as others, but also by a delayed interest on the part of the Austrian government in integrating immigrants and their descendants’ (Sievers et al. 2014, p. 268). When the authors talk about the concept of ‘integration’[1] they are not referring to the ‘duty’ to assimilate to a so-called ‘Austrian culture’ but to the failure of the Austrian government to create equal chances of access to education, work and political participation (ibid., p. 267).

An insightful article was published in the German magazine Der Spiegel by Ozlem Gezer (Spiegel Online [Gezer, О.] 2013).[2] The article is called ‘“Thrkified” Why I Can Never Be A Proper German’. In this article, Gezer reflects on her childhood and youth in Germany, growing up as a daughter of Turkish migrants. She critically discusses different prejudicial, discriminating and racist questions that friends, boys, or teachers have been asking her all her life. These questions include the most dominant prejudices against Turkish migrants and postmigrants: violent fathers, oppressed women, being religious, not eating pork and most importantly not being a ‘proper German’.

Making the point that she was indeed ‘Thrkified’ by other Germans rather than by her parents or other migrants and postmigrants from Turkey, she impressively shows how ethnicising practices, or in this case more specifically Turkifying practices, put her life in a narrow corset of identifying possibilities. The article stems from the German context but it is also applicable for the Austrian case and particularly for the context of this research. This is due to the fact that I was socialised in the German context and therefore to a certain extent look at (Turkish) migration processes from this perspective. Also, the problems that Gezer addresses in the article are very similar to those that were described to me in some interviews during my research.

The contexts and framework of Turkish migration to Austria and of Turkish migration to Germany are in some parts comparable and in other parts rather different. Whereas many examples from the German context also work for the Austrian context and the other way around, there are some decisive peculiarities that need to be carefully attended to. Similar are, for example, the reasons for migration from Turkey. Both in the German and in the Austrian case many Turks initially came to both countries in the 1960s as work migrants or so-called ‘guest workers’ to support the growing German and Austrian economies (Ozba§ et al. 2014). One of the differences is the historical context in Austria and its impact on Austrian society today. Sievers et al. (2014) summarise that particularly in Vienna Turks have been constructed as the ‘Oriental enemy’ due to the two Ottoman Sieges in 1529 and 1687. In Austria, they are referred to as the Turkish Sieges and taught to school students as such, which has conserved them in public discourses and collective memory until today (Sievers et al. 2014, p. 264). This is why ‘[t]here are strong popular associations outside the realm of political discourse that can be effectively tapped into to animate public rhetoric’ (Gingrich 1998, p. 105).

When I first entered my research field I wanted to look into the practices of fans that are at a distance to their fan object: the football club. Typical anthropological serendipity, seen as a research tool (Rivoal and Salazar 2013, p. 183), led me to fans of Turkish football first (Chap. 3). After a while I decided to further narrow my perspective and to focus on Galatasaray and Fenerbah^e fans in the city of Vienna. I often avoided saying that I was searching for Turkish fans, because I wanted to meet people that supported one of these two clubs. Calling Galatasaray and Fenerbah^e fans simply ‘Turkish fans’ would not have represented the plurality of people in the research field. At the beginning I was trying to focus on club affiliations rather than national affiliations. To emphasise the club aspect of one’s fandom seemed to be the ‘appropriate’ way to approach people. Nevertheless, the club level and discourses about national affiliations are strongly interwoven. Many fans in my research field simply called themselves ‘Turkish fans’. This is also due to ethnicis- ing practices in the diaspora context (Chaps. 4 and 5).

Darius Zifonun works with the term ‘imagined diversities’ (Zifonun 2008, p. 54) referring to Benedict Anderson’s ‘imagined communities’ (Anderson 1983) to underline how plural affiliations of an individual, in Zifonun’s case to the FC Hochstatt Turkspor, dissolve (ethnic) selfattributions. Also in my research field, plural affiliations to various social groups were omnipresent in the interviews: being a fan, left-wing/ conservative, Turkish, Austrian, Viennese, a sportsman/sportswoman, a student, man/woman et cetera. Nevertheless, describing oneself as a ‘Turkish fan’ was very common. The self-perception and particularly selfrepresentation as ‘Turkish’ in the football context is an important part of the fan performances among the Galatasaray and Fenerbah^e fans that I accompanied. This construction is then again situated in a nexus of ascription and self-ascription (Hall 1999, p. 92) between me and my interview partners. It is therefore crucial to include an analysis of these reciprocal processes in this book.

Even though I intended for my research not to be yet another study on ‘those migrants’ it was easy to fall into the same traps that many have fallen into before. These traps include culturalisations or ethnicisations, victimising, and generalisations of migrants and migration processes. Practices of culturalisation and ethnicisation, for example, diminish the complexity of social life to the constructed categories of culture and ethnicity. These are highly critical practices to maintain differences, social boundaries and hierarchies in a society with the simple argument of ‘culture’ or ‘ethnicity’ (Romhild 2007; Schiffauer 2002). The Spiegel article illustrates the problem vividly. It can be understood as an example of all those ‘traps’ that I did not intend to fall into.

In order not to ask one of those questions that ‘stupid Germans’ would ask, I sometimes did not dare to ask questions my interviewees might have considered ‘wrong’ and consequently I often remained silent. I was sometimes blocking my research when I did not ask a question that would have been necessary to understand certain practices. Finally this tiptoeing behaviour on my side led to situations where my interview partners made fun of me because of me being exhaustingly politically correct (Chap. 3). This was then again, however, helpful to the analysis and also deepened the social relationship with my interview partners. Nevertheless, due to the fact that I had read articles like Gezer’s and was as a result so concerned about culturalising my research field, I was even more naively surprised when I encountered self-ethnicising and self-Turkifying practices to such a great extent in interviews and during participant observations (Chap. 5).

Sceptics, including myself and my interview partners, were initially critical about why yet another German was conducting research on ‘the Turks’ and on top of that in Austria. Now I can simply answer to that: Why not? As long as the conflicts and prejudices that occurred during the research are reflected and explicitly included in the analysis of this study, this constellation can offer interesting insights about a society. The irritations I caused in the research field led to complex social encounters and will be discussed throughout the book. So is the research field politically charged? The field certainly does provoke a great set of emotions and other reactions - an ideal starting point for an anthropological analysis.

  • [1] The concept of ‘integration’ has been under critique in public and particularly in academic andcritical political discourses for its entailed normative and consequently hegemonic meaning (cf.Kramer 2008 2008).
  • [2] The English version of the article was published in the online version of the magazine, SpiegelOnline.
 
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