Dienstag, 14. April 2020

Why we all want to watch the 'Other'

Why do I find it interesting or relevant to do research on today's Turkish diaspora? In general, I am curious towards behavior of different human beings. When I imagine nowadays what I would like to do most, I think to myself how nice it would be to just sit in a café and watch people, to just "wander with no purpose". If you can't leave the house, what do you do to watch people? Just check out the rising numbers of people streaming disaster movies à la Roland Emmerich. Many are interested in watching how other people deal with catastrophes and strange situations. But there is also deeper level that motivates us to watch others or why I am a 'professional watcher', an ethnographer: to find out about ourselves.

For perceiving the other as the 'Other' (with capital 'O' to mark that I am not supporting any form of 'othering' but somehow I have to use it to formulate my arguments), he or she has to be quite close to me. So close, that I understand this person as part of my environment. Only then, the stranger is strangely not so strange anymore. In psychoanalysis one identifies with the stranger as one's specular image, therefore the 'Other' becomes a mental surface for one's own projection (Rommelspacher 2002: 9).

Although the relation between oneself and the 'Other' is so intimate, the picture of the foreigner or the migrant often is quite stigmatized in Germany. Those exclusionary attitudes developed with xenophobic politics in Germany prior 2000 and prove to be quite persistent. No matter how many people support refugees and practice tolerance, there are strong discriminating voices and right-wing groups today, continuing the exclusionary politics from the late twentieth century. Back then, xenophobic debates led to a change of the basic law in 1992 through the conservative coalition of CDU/CSU (Christian Democratic Party/Christian Social Union) and FDP (Free Democratic Party). This limited opportunities for asylum seekers significantly (§26a German Asylum Law). Until today Germany has the lowest rate of giving citizenship to immigrants in Europe and a double citizenship is not available for most (ibid: 154).

Since today's media, society and - unfortunately to smaller extend - politics, try to raise attention towards the growing dangers of right-wing and nationalistic forces, the steps taken in 1992 seem shocking from a contemporary perspective. However, those exclusionary political structures did not change much. If one does not have the German citizenship, one is excluded from many freedoms for 'Germans', like the freedom of assembly or free choice of a profession (ibid: 160).

It is no surprise that it is hard to identify with 'German' structures for people with a different passport, since they don't even have equal basic rights. The pandemic will deepen those divides, because many Turkish-Germans don't receive the same support as 'legal' Germans do. The leftist news platform 'taz.gazete' tells about the case of a man who does not have the chance to choose his job freely and therefore I is forced to work "informally". As a result he does not receive governmental financial support in the pandemic (Paydaş 2020).

My initial question was, why I am interested in researching about the Turkish-German community. Well, one the one side I am just curious and on the other, I think it will teach me a lot about the society I live in and it's history and last but not least about myself.

Rommelspacher, B. (2002). Anerkennung und Ausgrenzung: Deutschland als multikulturelle Gesellschaft. Frankfurt am Main, Campus Verlag.

Paydaş, E. (2020). Prekariat in Zeiten von Corona. taz.gazete. Berlin.

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