There are more than 700,000 Bulgaristanlı migrants residing in Turkey. Immigrants from Bulgaria who are ethnically Turkish, they assume certain privileges because of these ethnic ties, yet access to citizenship remains dependent on the whims of those in power. Through vivid accounts of encounters with the police and state bureaucracy, of nostalgic memories of home and aspirations for a more secure life in Turkey, Precarious Hope: Migration and the Limits of Belonging in Turkey (Stanford UP, 2019) explores the tensions between ethnic privilege and economic vulnerability and rethinks the limits of migrant belonging among those for whom it is intimated and promised—but never guaranteed.
In contrast to the typical focus on despair, Ayşe Parla studies the hopefulness of migrants. Turkish immigration policies have worked in lockstep with national aspirations for ethnic, religious, and ideological conformity, offering Bulgaristanlı migrants an advantage over others. Their hope is the product of privilege and an act of dignity and perseverance. It is also a tool of the state, reproducing a migration regime that categorizes some as desirable and others as foreign and dispensable. Through the experiences of the Bulgaristanlı, Precarious Hope speaks to the global predicament in which increasing numbers of people are forced to manage both cultivation of hope and relentless anxiety within structures of inequality.
This interview is part of an NBN special series on Mobilities and Methods.
Ayşe Parla is Associate Professor of Anthropology at Boston University.
Alize Arıcan is an incoming Postdoctoral Fellow at Rutgers University's Center for Cultural Analysis. Her research focuses on urban renewal, futurity, care, and migration in Turkey. Her work has been featured in Current Anthropology, City & Society, Radical Housing Journal, and entanglements: experiments in multimodal ethnography.