“The Central Asian Migrant Experience”: Workshop Summary


An international group of scholars, migrants, and advocates came together at Boğazici University, Istanbul for the workshop “The Central Asian Migrant Experience in Turkey and Russia: Comparing Political Subjectivities, Diaspora Politics, and Citizen-State Relations” in January 2014.

This workshop examined the subjective and social experiences of politics and citizenship for migrants between the five Central Asian republics and Russia and Turkey. Key questions addressed at the workshop were:

  • How does migration influence notions of political engagement and citizenship? In particular, how does migrating from Central Asia to Turkey or Russia change an individual’s ideas about political leadership, nationalism, religiosity, and belonging? For example, have migrants developed different ideas about governance, authoritarianism, freedom of speech, or the relationship between religion and state?
  • What new group alliances and imaginations of Muslim-ness, Turkic-ness, or Soviet-ness emerge, and how do these developments affect local and national political movements and lived geographies?
  • How should we trace the historical dimensions of emerging political sensibilities, and the role of states in encouraging remitting, transnationalism, and political participation?


While researchers have explored Central Asians’ experiences of inclusion and exclusion in Russia and Turkey, little is known about how travel to those countries affects Central Asians’ political ideas and activities in their home countries. Additionally, many key questions regarding citizenship, religiosity, family, and gender require further exploration. In this report we describe key areas highlighted in the research presented at the workshop and our subsequent discussion, as well as ideas for future research and information on ongoing projects and networks.

Susan Rottmann and Eva-Marie Dubuisson at Boğazici worked together with Jeanne Feaux de la Croix (then of Zentrum Moderner Orient [ZMO] currently at University of Tubingen) to organize a multi-day series of research presentations, roundtable discussions, and brainstorming sessions around key themes. Sponsored by Marie Curie actions as a part of the European Union 7th Framework Programme, Boğazici University, ZMO, Orient Institut Istanbul (OI) and the Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul (SRII), the workshop was an opportunity to build networks and dialogue across contexts and countries.   We would also like to thank the Kyrgyz Friendship and Culture Association of Istanbul.

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Participants (listed in order of presentation):

Lale Can, City College of New York: “The Political-Legal Status of Central Asian Pilgrims in the Ottoman Empire”

Jeff Sahadeo, Carleton University: “Central Asian Migration to the RSFSR: Opportunities, Challenges, Legacies”

Ayşe Akalin, Istanbul Technical University: “The Regularization of Turkmen Caregivers in Turkey”

Meltem Sancak, University of Zurich: “Migration as a Way of Life”

Tomas Wilkoszewski, Orient Institut: “’We are from the Cradle of Turkishness: Contested political discourses among Uighurs in Turkey”

Assel Rustemova, Gediz University: “Explaining the Transformation of Immigration Policies in Russia: Cracking Down on Uzbekistan and Tajikistan”

Sophie Roche and Izzat Aman, University of Heidelberg: “Political identity building and religious consciousness among Tajik migrants in Russia”

Rano Turaeva, Max Planck: “Regulating informal economies in post-Soviet Central Asia”

Serguei Abashin, European University: “The Role of Migration in Domestic Political Battles in Russia”

Madeleine Reeves, University of Manchester: “To ‘Do-Up’ a Passport: de facto dual citizenship”

Peter Finke, University of Zurich: “Repatriation and Return in Kazakhstan”

Ainura Assamidinova, American University of Central Asia: “Best practices in assisting labor migrants from Kyrgyzstan in Russia”

Sener Akturk, Koç University: “Regimes of Ethnicity in Post Soviet Central Asia and the Caucasus”

Barbara Pusch, Orient Institut: “Methodological Nationalism and Transnationalism”

Hans-Ake Persson, Roskilde University: “Homeland, Hostland, Diaspora”

Tsypylma Darieva, Friedrich-Schiller University: “Transnational Perspectives in Central Eurasia: Between Long-Distance Nationalism and Diasporic Cosmopolitanism?”

Birgit Schlyter, Director Swedish Research Institute in Istanbul: “New Network for Research on Migration, Identity, Communication and Security in Turkey and Eurasia”