“Consumption” of Past to Define Ethnic Identity in Real Time and Space: The Case of Turkish Georgians in Turkey and Germany

“Consumption” of Past to Define Ethnic Identity in Real Time and Space: The Case of Turkish Georgians in Turkey and Germany

Nino Okrostsvaridze, Elisabed Bzhalava
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-3115-0.ch013
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This research examines the strength of the Turkish Georgians ethnic identity in Turkey and Germany, issues of socialization with German society, and perception of “home” and “consumption” of the past to define ethnic identity. Consumption is not only a way of behaving, but it is also part of a way of life, which is defined by ethnic and religious identity, which itself defines consumer behaviour. A perception of self-identification, linkage with forefathers, and a search for a long-lost past are particularly necessary in foreign countries, and different reminders regarding the past and origin are considered to be the best means. Consumption of “past” and (re)construction of memories form a tight-knit ethnic unit in a foreign country, and institutionalization of own culture is so strong that many of the ethnic participants feel as if they were living in their own country. Ethnic “retailers” (communities, membership groups) provide the “emotional glue” that sticks ethnic participants together giving them a sense of identity.
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And yet, if everything is moving where is here? Doreen Massey

The contemporary world has been facing legal and illegal migrancy due to social, economic, political, and religious problems, or a combination of these. The number of migrants is growing every day. Mostly they are moving from the East to the West or to Europe. Movement includes not only the physical activity, but also the displacement of culture, traditions, and customs from one ethnical space to another. During migration, two different cultures – Eastern and Western – cross each other, as people take with them a part of the their culture. On the new soil they encounter unfamiliar culture and a new reality where the past and the present clash. This could be the reason for the migrants’ dual existence, dissatisfaction with the new reality and reluctance to accept it, which prompts them to lock themselves into traditions in order to protect their identity.

On the other hand, this new reality may win migrants over and create “new” people, “free from past”. However, before this happens, they may be overwhelmed with the following questions: Who am I? What is home? Is it the place where I was born? Or where I grew up? Where do I locate my community? Is home a geographical space, a historical space, or an emotional and sensory space? And when does it become my fortress, a strategic space I could call home? These questions are essential and meaningful in their lives.

Migration consists of three important and general issues: maintenance sense of identity, adaptation/ (re)socialization and assimilation. Our work addresses the migration of Turkish Georgians from Georgia to Turkey (Village Hayriye) and then to Germany (Gummersbach /Bergneustadt) in the 1960s. Three different cultural elements – Georgian, Turkish and German – influence their mode of life and affect their everyday perceptions of reality. The authors aim to study- Turkish Georgians as “consumers” of past and to answer the following questions: why and how they “consume” past in real time and space. However, before their present lifestyle is discussed, the past events must be briefly remembered. As Reshmi Dutt-Ballerstadt writes, “in order to intuitively and physically understand the trajectory of migrancy, the old route must be travelled” (Ballerstadt, 2010, p. xi)



Throughout career and especially since 2009 it has been the privilege and challenge to work toward contributing to study Turkish Georgians` identity and their ethnic, cultural memory. Field sites were Inegol (Turkey) and Bergneustadt/Gummersbach (Germany). The researches were conducted by experienced field workers, who studied migrants and migration problems in second and third countries.

The work is interdisciplinary and is based on the patterns from “immersion fieldwork”, “participant observation” since 2009 in Turkey and 2012 and 2019 in Germany. “Immersion fieldwork” means being there to observe and to learn, to be part of the community, family (which is not easy), to be integrated into kinship system with its network of obligations and reciprocity, to value the idea of “walking a mile in the shoes” (Madden, 2010) of others and attempt to gain insight by being in the same social space as the subject of research and to conduct typically face-to-face, direct research.

The intimacy of interaction and ease of communication would hardly be possible for non-Georgian researchers in Turkey and Germany. Because being Georgian for Turkish Georgians, is much more than just a trust. Issues of obligation, reciprocity, and the formation of friendship, impose serious responsibilities. The research is based on long-term process of “gradual building up of trust”. (O`Reilly, 2009, p. 175) During the field works the researchers used: questionnaires, full field notes, jottings, and diaries. It should be noted that, “science of anthropology owns not a little to the art of photography”, (Tylor, 1876, p. 184) during the field trips an impressive number of audio, video files, photo and documentary materials were recorded and compiled. Nowadays it is very popular cyber ethnography (external observe) which was very helpful during research process too.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Turkish Georgians: “Muhajirs” (Muslim Georgians) migrated from Georgia (Adjara region) to Turkey in 19 th century.

Consumption of Past: Using “things” or “objects” in real time and space to create emotional connection with ancestors, to build new “home” on the base of past and to define ethnic identity.

Culture-Specific Reminders: Foods, products, objects, etc. to make us feel ethnic identity.

Ethnic Identity: Domination of ethnic self.

Illusionary Perception of Home: Attempts to create and define positive connotation of comfort.

Ethnic Memory: Genetic /historical memory passed down from generation to generation.

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