AYTEN ALIBABA AND DR JO ANGOURI
University of Warwick
Where is home? The significance of the homeland and the family in Turkish Cypriot women
This paper focuses on the concept of home and belonging in modern diasporas and reports on preliminary data from an ongoing project with the Turkish Cypriot community in the UK. The paper aims to problematise the multiple meanings associated with the notion of ‘home’ and the ‘fitting in’ process in relation to the home/host traditional dichotomy. It draws on the narratives of eight women of Turkish Cypriot origin who followed their husbands on a quest for a better life in London. The paper takes an ethnographic perspective and discusses the complexity of belonging and the multiple homes that emerge in the narratives. It also pays special attention at the importance of the gender order as enacted in the data.
While in traditional diaspora studies the home and homeland is time and space bound, recent research emphasises the fluidity of the concept. In line with recent research, we argue that diasporic communities maintain a symbolic relationship with a particular locus, nation and/or country, which is often conventionally labelled as the ‘homeland’. Those relations form part of the complex matrix of ‘belonging’ in diasporic communities which is negotiated in interaction. Home is material but is also constructed through and associated with feelings, practices, and values attached to a particular space and place as well as sharing with family and loved ones.
In this paper we draw on narratives and observation data and discuss the ways in which belonging is indexed through constructions of home. We discuss the gender order that emerges in the data and the powerful/powerless role of women in this context. The analysis of the data shows that most of these women construct their journey to London as a decision imposed to them while at the same time construct self as primary responsible for the family and the new ‘home’. In the first generation data, a gender order emerges with the women being mainly home-bound and without enough resources to access the language of their new ‘homeland’. This creates a divide between those who access the wider societal order and those who are excluded and remain confined within the diasporic context. Belonging in the data is in a state of flux and fluid, indexed indirectly through the multiple and often contradictory positions the participants take in different contexts.
We close the paper with the implications of the findings for future research on new diasporas and issues in relation to the theoretical framing of the concept.