Monday, June 13, 2011

Berlin Research Ideas

Right at the beginning of this quarter, we read a piece called Guests and Aliens by Saskia Sassen which describes patterns in global human migration from a sociological perspective. In the excerpt we read, Sassen mentions that contrary to popular belief, those who immigrate usually aren't overjoyed to do so. In fact, people would not choose to leave their country of origin if they did not happen. Sassen cites migration data from the European Union to back up these statements, saying "only 5 million EU nationals out of a total population of well over 350 million reside in an EU  country which is not their country of origin", despite the freedom to do so and the differences in quality of life and economic opportunities between countries. In light of this observation, it seems as if people who are reluctant to leave their home countries but do, based on complex and push and pull factors, might try and insulate themselves in some way from the culture they are joining. At the same time, a complex cultural dynamic between the new culture and the old culture emerges, and I am interested in characterizing and exploring this dynamic as it relates to the Turkish-German immigration issues we're focusing on in this program. Ideally, I will use semi-structured interviews to construct an ethnography of this culture. I want to figure out which elements of the culture people emigrate from become thematized and prioritized when forming a new Turkish cultural identity within the new German culture. I also would like to find out what elements of German culture immigrants choose to adopt into their own individual identity.

Not only would I like to interview our guest speakers and perhaps people I meet over the duration of the trip, but I would also like to interview our group of students. I'm curious to see what elements of "American-ness" we're eager to shed in favor of blending in with German culture and which elements we choose to assert even more. I would like to ask people about things they miss, behaviors they find difficult to curb, and other relevant questions, if of course they agree :)