World Congress for Middle Eastern Studies

Barcelona, July 19th - 24th 2010


Immigrant Associations: The Voice of a Community (429) - NOT_DEFINED activity_field_Panel

· NOT_DEFINED date: FRI 23, 9-11 am

· NOT_DEFINED language: English

· NOT_DEFINED description: Chair: Erol Taymaz (Professor, Department of Media and Communication, Izmir University of Economics)

Paper presenter: Nieves Ortega-Pérez (Assistance Professor, Department of Political Science and Administration, University of Granada, Spain), “Maghreb immigrant associations in Spain: an emerging political force”
From a multilevel government approach, the inclusion of immigrants’ political incorporation within the developing EU migration policy framework depends on the national politics, and how national governments think about social organization and political capacity of including (or excluding) newcomers. The Spanish political and administrative decentralization has made politics of integration be an area of responsibility shared by national and regional governments. However, considering that the immigrants do not have the right to vote in any elections and the official channels of public participation set up at national level of government are very narrow, the political incorporation is held and promoted by the local governments.
Since 2000 the relatively new immigration policy in Spain has opened a door towards the immigrants’ conventional participation within multilevel consultative platforms at national and regional level through the generally called Forums for the Immigrants’ Social Integration. However, facing those formal mechanisms, since the beginning of the 90s the local governments have offered a more flexible structures making possible and encouraging the political consultation, and at the same time participating in immigrant platforms. In this paper, I look at local politics and institutions in several Spanish cities. Local politics seem to me a more flexible level to manage migration and a way of affecting and transforming national policy, as well as a way of making available participation and political dialogue with migrant community as a part of civil society.
On the one hand, I try to figure out to what extend those associations have any influence on the local immigration policy, and which elements define this influence. On the other hand, I study the initial and current nature of those associations and consequently their effective or ineffective identification with migrant community like possible defining elements.

Paper presenter: Antonella Cassia (PhD Candidate, University of Arizona, USA), “Voices from the Diaspora: A Socio-Constructive Analysis of the Use of the Blogosphere and Social Network Sites among Muslim Immigrants living in Europe”
Migration is one of the most challenging issues of this century. At the present time, one hundred and fifty million people worldwide can be defined as migrants: of these, about fifteen million make today their home in the European Union and are Muslims. The analysis of web-sites indicates that there is a great deal of information about immigrants on the Internet, but there is relatively little discussion produced by immigrants. However the web has been working terrifically as a social organizing tool and over the past few years the web has experienced a growth in the use of blogs, and social networking sites. In particular Facebook, Myspace and other social networking sites represent a new challenge to the blogosphere. It is useful to understand why exactly that occurs. It is also necessary to note what makes Facebook different from a blog, and the different types of social action that each media form enables. This explosion in the popularity of blogging all over the world has been accompanied by a surge in the number of academic studies focusing on blogs. Although there are researches on Arab-American blogs, there is any systematic study on blogs written by Muslim immigrants living in Europe. This research is based on the socio-constructive media discourse analysis and qualitative content analysis of a sample of random selected blogs and social networking sites created and used by Muslim immigrants living in Europe. This paper explores the way these immigrants, often young, express or denounce their national identity in the global sphere. Looking at the Internet from the perspective of ‘voice’ and ‘space’, weblogs and social network sites are becoming politically influential, and they offer the opportunity for marginal voices to be uttered in the public sphere. These utterances can create a discursive space that eventually becomes a ‘safe’ place for the voices of those non-European immigrants who live in Western societies and whose identities have been challenged and questioned in particular following the 11 September 2001 terrorist attacks.

Paper presenter: Ergün Özgür (PhD Student, Marmara University, Organizational Behavior, Turkey), “The North Caucasian and Abkhaz Diasporas In Turkey”
In this paper the composition the Circassian (the North Caucasian) and Abkhaz Diaspora organizations, federations, foundations, civic initiatives will be mentioned. Moreover the connections of the Circassian and Abkhaz organizations with other organizations in the world will be explained. Then the Turkish-Georgian military relationships and the lobbying activities of the Circassian-Abkhaz Diaspora organizations, especially during the crises (wars etc) times in their motherlands will be discussed. The integration of the Soviet Socialist Republics was well organized but the disintegration of the union happened suddenly and left huge problems behind. After the collapse of the Soviet Union, the South Caucasian republics within the union have declared their independence and been recognized by the world community. Some of the autonomous republics within these republics have also declared their independence and wars have taken place (like Georgia-South Ossetia; Georgia-Abkhazia). They are not recognized by the world community and they stayed as ‘de facto’ independent states until 26th August 2008. The wars in the Caucasus (Abkhazia, Chechenya, South Ossetia) have strongly enhanced national feelings among Diaspora members. During these wars meetings were held, solidarity committees were founded, money was collected, and volunteers joined to armed militias. The collapse of the Soviet Union generated some possibilities to the North Caucasian (the Circassian) and Abkhaz Diasporas to visit their motherlands which contributed to a rise in ethnical identities. In terms of the preservation of the cultural peculiarities, the North Caucasians and Abkhazians have preserved their languages and folklore especially those living in the villages. But the usage of the cultural and linguistic practices among Diaspora members is diminishing because of the high urbanization rate, mixed marriages etc. But the youth Diaspora members’ claiming of their ethnical identity is rising. This may be because of the better democratic situation occurred in Turkey during the European Union integration process and also may be because of the possibility to establish connection with their motherlands. Meanwhile the Circassian and Abkhaz Diasporas live in a NATO member country, Turkey, in which the government is helping to the new NATO nominee country, Georgia, in terms of commercial and military means. The representatives of the Circassian and Abkhaz Diaspora organizations, civic initiatives and their members who are not happy with their government’s military support to Georgia, support which may have been used against their relatives during the wars (Georgian-Abkhazian (1992-1993); Georgian-South Ossetian (1991-1992 and 2008), are arranging activities to influence their government’s decisions.