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A Talk with Dr Nilay Kilinç in the latest CAS Newsletter

Dr Nilay Kilinç’s academic interests lie in the fields of Return Migration, Turkish-European Relations, High-Skilled Migration, Diasporas, Identity and Belonging. She completed her B.A. degree in International Relations at Istanbul Bilgi University, Turkey, and received an M.A. degree in European Studies from Lund University, Sweden. In 2017, she was awarded a PhD degree in Mobility and Migration Studies by the University of Surrey, UK. Dr Kilinç was Fellow of CAS Gerda Henkel Fellowship Programme 2019/2020.

OMNICULTURALISM – reconsidering the understanding of integration

A Talk with Dr Nilay Kilinç, CAS Fellow of Gerda Henkel Fellowship Programme

Q: Your long-term area of interest is migration studies – a field of upper relevance and controversy for modern-day Europe. What kindled your inspiration to bridge a B.A. in International Relations and a doctoral and post-doctoral research in Mobility and Migration Studies?

Dr Nilay Kilinç: Interestingly enough, I had reflected on this during the Covid-19 lockdown in Sofia. I had always thought, I chose to focus on migration studies, because it is a field where I can bring together politics, history and sociology for the topics I have been always interested in, such as identity, home and belonging. But, why at all I have been interested in all these?

Let’s go back to the year of 2000, when I was a theatre student at the Istanbul City Conservatoire. I got a role as a street boy in a musical which depicted the struggles of people living on the streets of Istanbul. I sacrificed my long hair for this role, which was a big thing for me at the age of 11, and lived as a boy for two years. The musical played on all stages of Istanbul, and at some point we went on a tour to Berlin. Our musical was included in a theatre festival in Kreuzberg. This was my first trip abroad, without my parents. In the hostel we stayed in Kreuzberg, I met some Turkish youngsters from Germany who were on a school trip to Berlin. Right away, they almost begged me, ‘Please give us one Turkish banknote and we will give you 100 Deutsche Mark. We are really curious about our motherland, we always feel longing.’ I was perplexed…

Kreuzberg in those years was not gentrified yet. I saw Turkish shops and restaurants everywhere, I could hear Turkish on the streets; there were many Turkish people around. The road sign even read as ‘Kreuzberg Merkezi’ (Centrum) in Turkish. I did not understand this place at all – in my family or in close circles, I did not know anyone who had migrated to Germany. Fast forward to ten years later, I wrote my MA dissertation at Lund University on the return migration of Turkish people from Germany to Turkey, and then my PhD thesis followed in the University of Surrey. I also directed a documentary about a Turkish-German man who was raised on the streets of Hannover and then got deported to Turkey due to criminal activities. He started a new chapter in his life in Antalya and he helps street kids with drug problems.

I think, my experience in Berlin was the first time I got aware of migration as a sociological phenomenon and somehow it directed my choices later on. In Istanbul Bilgi University, I was a student of Prof. Ayhan Kaya’s who inspired me to focus on the Turkish-German diasporic spaces. Later on at Malmö University, Prof. Russell King made it possible for me to research about return migration from Germany to Turkey. At the University of Surrey, I had the privilege to be supervised by Prof. Allan Williams whose work on highly-skilled migration & human and social capital further sparked an interest in me. Life works in mysterious and brilliant ways when we follow our hearts and open our eyes…

The complete text of the interview can be found on the pages of the Newsletter.