I’m from Turkey, but not Turkish! An Ethnography of Transnational Zazaki Alevis in Berlin

Graduate Research Grant
Grant Year

This project investigates the processes at play when minority populations engage in the negotiation and expression of their ethnic identities as a result of domestic and international migration. More specifically, I attend to the daily experiences and cultural expressions of Turkish-origin Zazaki-speaking communities in multicultural urban areas in Turkey and Germany. The central question of my dissertation research asks: How do members of the Zazaki-speaking diaspora actually identify themselves? Collective ethnoreligious and national identities available to this population include Kurdish, Zaza, Muslim, Alevi, Sunni, Turkish, and German, among others. But what is then the role of language and religious practice in identity formation and negotiation? To answer these questions, I complement ethnographic methods (participant observation and semi-structured interviews) with visual and spatial mappings of Zazaki neighborhoods in Istanbul and Berlin. This case study sheds light on the saliency of language and religion to a collective sense of personhood, and on how linguistic and religious rights are incorporated (or not) in the fostering of plural and more democratic polities.