The identity role of food in the process of socialization for migrant communities

Today, nobody knows precisely the population of Istanbul. The official statistics range between 12 and 13 millions of inhabitants whereas any researchers don’t hesitate to give the number of 17 millions. One thing is sure: for several decades Istanbul became one of these metropolises which are over 10 millions of inhabitants and asks a geographical question: how to grasp a urban space as huge as Istanbul? Started from the 16th century, its demographical growth really begins in the 1950s. Between 1950 and 2000, the urban population of Turkey is multiplied by nine whereas the effectives of Istanbul are multiplied by ten, becoming an “Anatolian metropolis” this way. Obviously these demographical changes are not without any consequences: for these new city dwellers, the assimilation to a new urban space is not simple. The inscription in a “foreign” space deeply changes the migrants’ ways of life which creates complex – sometimes opposite – strategies to become integrated.
Within this scope, food appears as a way to understand the processes of integration and can be read as a metonymy of the adaptations due to the migration. Actually, food creates particular geographical spaces which become social markers producing distinction between human beings and communities. As a spatial movement of people and as a cultural transfer, migration has consequences in the food field. The analysis of food practices as a geographical object allows us to understand the general questions linked with migration and how the Anatolian migrants try to appropriate their reception place. The wish to keep local meals, to buy local products or, on the other hand, to forget the local culinary particularities is interesting to understand the food field but goes beyond it and asks the question of the migrants’ adaptation in a new place.
To understand these cultural adaptations I decided to focus on two “exemplary” internal migrations in Istanbul, the ones from the provinces of Gaziantep and Siirt. If the adaptation of these recent internal migrants had not been a cultural clash, it doesn’t mean the arrival in Istanbul had been easy or migrants forgot their regional identity. Today, they keep on living their social lives in precise districts where food is used to protect what they perceive as a regional culture. “Ethnic” shops selling local products, restaurants making local food, regional festivities … Regional networks are created to organize the migrants’ life. These practices are the witnesses of a particular relationship with urban place and can be seen as a way to understand the internal organization of a broken up and divided urban space.

BIO | Pierre Raffard, University Paris 4-Sorbonne
After a master in Geography (University Paris 4-Sorbonne) showing how the initiatives of the city of Gaziantep to promote its regional cuisine was connected with the recent evolutions of the South East Anatolian region, he is carrying on a PhD in the same university concerning the role of food in the process of integration for migrants from Gaziantep in Istanbul.
His actual researches concern the link between geography and food and its study as a tool to understand the regional differences in Turkey and in the Turkic world.

 

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