The formulation of Turkish immigrant subjectivities in the German region of Swabia

2005 2005

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Abstract (summary)

This dissertation investigates and analyzes the process of subject formation among Turkish immigrants of the second and third generation in the southwestern German region of Swabia (Schwaben). The study shows how Turkish immigrants find salient ways to formulate their subjectivities in deliberate contradistinction to a straightforward Cartesian model.

In the ethnographic section of the dissertation four Turkish immigrant narratives are presented. In discussing these cases, it is shown that Turkish immigrant existence in the region of Swabia is characterized by a fascinating diversity and differentiation. This existence is thus a far cry from the homogenizing imaginaries that persist about Turkish immigrants and Turkish-German culture in German mainstream society. Of particular interest here are the skillful and often ingenious ways in which immigrants reconcile their seemingly antagonistic desires for remaining in touch with their Turkish heritage and traditions and a claim to belong to a present or future (German) modernity. There exist manifold ways in which Turkish immigrants in Swabia can, for instance, utilize forms of regional, national, and transnational identification to achieve a reconciliation of modern with traditional ways of life. Analysis of the immigrants' situation in Swabia suggests that forms of regional identification have recently gained significantly in importance. Identification at the regional level apparently offers immigrants the most accessible inroad into mainstream societies of their new homelands. The emphasis lies here on demonstrating the diversity of possible ways available to immigrants to achieve these goals.

The analysis of the ethnographic material at hand focuses on the salience of recent models of subjectivity and the substantial critiques these models have furnished of the traditional way Cartesian subjectivity has been conceived. It is argued that many of these critiques offer valuable and indispensable qualifications or modifications to the homogenizing force of the cogito approach that has come to be the hallmark of modernity. This study also shows, however, that the ideal image of the Cartesian subject cannot be simply eliminated from our registers since it serves as a negative counter-point against the backdrop of which more heterogeneous versions of subjectivity can be formulated. For Turkish immigrants in Swabia, this means that their subjectivities are formulated beyond, but in constant (negative) reference to, the demands placed on them by German mainstream society to adopt a homogeneous, cogito -driven form of subjectivity in order to prove their claim for belonging to ‘the right kind of’ modernity. Instead of giving in to these demands, the immigrants complement their modern subject formations with key elements that are located beyond the grasp of modernity—thus subverting German claims that they prove their belonging to the modern world in a particular way.

In the final analysis, the study thus suggests that we need to retain the conceptual image of Cartesian subjectivity because it continues to serve as a salient model for many in today's allegedly postmodern world. However, many contemporary subjects—such as the Turkish immigrants of Swabia—refine the model of Cartesian subjectivity in their desire to account for important pre- or postmodern elements in their lives. Descartes' cogito as a main pillar of modern subjectivity is thus in need, today, of important amplifications that pay tribute to the rapid changes in a globalizing world that, not just in the case of Europe, has simultaneously rediscovered the importance of regional identities. (Abstract shortened by UMI.)

Indexing (details)

Cultural anthropology;
Germanic literature;
0326: Cultural anthropology
0311: Germanic literature
0422: Philosophy
Identifier / keyword
Philosophy, religion and theology; Social sciences; Language, literature and linguistics; Germany; Immigrant; Subjectivities; Swabia; Turkish
The formulation of Turkish immigrant subjectivities in the German region of Swabia
Lanz, Tilman
Number of pages
Publication year
Degree date
School code
DAI-A 66/06, Dissertation Abstracts International
Place of publication
Ann Arbor
Country of publication
United States
9780542197888, 054219788X
Cole, John W.
University of Massachusetts Amherst
University location
United States -- Massachusetts
Source type
Dissertations & Theses
Document type
Dissertation/thesis number
ProQuest document ID
Database copyright ProQuest LLC; ProQuest does not claim copyright in the individual underlying works.
Document URL
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