A Linguistic Ethnographic Approach To Everyday Interactions Between The Local and Refugee Women In A Turkish Town


Author: Hasret Saygi (Maltepe University Research and Application Centre for Street Children , Istanbul)
Speaker: Hasret Saygi
Topic: Language, Community, Ethnicity
COMELA 2020 General Session


Abstract

This linguistic ethnographic research explores everyday interaction between the refugee and local women sharing the same neighbourhood in a Turkish town, and analyses how they construct and negotiate their stances and identity positions specifically with regard to their religious identity in their face-to-face meetings. The main data, the audio-recorded spontaneous interaction data in Turkish, were collected from the social events regularly organised by a group of local women in order to socialise and recite the Quran together, and the participation of the Iraqi Turkmen refugees was made possible by the researcher. This 18 months of fieldwork conducted for a doctoral project shows that in line with the hegemonic identity politics in Turkey, Sunni-Islamic conservatism and Turkish nationalism are the two main discourses laying the foundation of the local women’s constructed stances and developed social relations with the refugee women. The interactional data reveal that thanks to these religious events, by skillfully capitalizing on their Quranic literacy and knowledge in Arabic, the Iraqi women, who are not even given a chance to fail due to their refugee identity, can reframe their relations with the local women, and position themselves in a different light. In this way, they can challenge the imposed foreign identity, and achieve solidarity based on a shared religion. On the other hand, the reciprocal intimacy built momentarily while engaging in a shared religious activity cannot be sustained when the frame is shifted; therefore, it can only result in the emergence of “brief moments of tight but temporary and ephemeral groupness” (Blommaert, 2017, p.35). This situation is largely explained by the Iraqi women’s state of refugeeness which may overshadow other social identities they claim for themselves.

Reference
Blommaert, J. (2017). Durkheim and the internet: On sociolinguistics and the sociological imagination, Working Papers in Urban Language & Literacies (Paper No. 204). London: King’s College.

Keywords: linguistic ethnography, refugees, identity construction, social relations