The representation of migrant youth and families in Turkish and British young adult novels

Dundar, Faruk (2021) The representation of migrant youth and families in Turkish and British young adult novels. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

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“Migration is a one-way trip; there is no 'home' to go back to" (Hall, 1987, p. 44). In this famous quotation, Stuart Hall points to how difficult it is to decide to migrate. When the people migrate from their country to a new country, they inevitably encounter many problems both in relation to their new country and their home country, because as migrants they can easily become strangers to both. If the migrant is a child or a teenager, it is obvious that they will experience these problems still more keenly.

If all migrants lived in a single country named ‘Migrantland’, the country would be the fifth most crowded country in the world. Unsurprisingly, therefore, migration is one of the most controversial and important geopolitical issues in our world, especially at present for Europe––which is for complex cultural and historical reasons the first preference destination for many migrants, especially economic migrants and asylum seekers.

This thesis aims to compare the fictional treatment of the common, shared issues of asylum seeker teenagers and economic migrant teenagers across a selected range of young adult literature texts. Four books from Turkish young adult literature were selected in order to analyse the images of modern Germany for Turkish economic migrant teenagers. The selected young adult British novels focus on the images of the UK for asylum seeker teenagers. It is important to note that this comparison includes innovative treatment of a literature––and indeed a historical and political phenomenon––little known to English-speaking audiences. As the thesis shows, the so-called Gastarbeiter phenomenon, by which from the 1960s onwards cheap low-skilled migrant labour was lured from poor, conservative, provincial regions of Turkey to the expanding hi-tech urbanised economy of (West) Germany, can be seen as a form of globalisation avant la lettre. The positive and negative effects of this economic, inter-generational migration to Germany on both Turks and Germans remain the subject of much controversy and have only in relatively recent times begun to receive public political and cultural recognition. The exploration in this thesis of YA Turkish fiction treating of this complex, difficult and layered experience is intended to open up new areas for literary-critical deliberation and civic debate.

Against this turbulent background of crisis and change, this study intends to do several specific things. First, it seeks to compare and contrast fictional representations of the spectrum of responses to migrants from receiving societies––especially, in the chosen novels, the portrayal of both positive and negative responses from local people to migrant teenagers, a group that is routinely the focus of much hostility and stereotyping in the migration debate. For reasons explained in the methodology chapter, the thesis seeks to do this by applying a comparative framework to the novels in question. So, on the one hand, the thesis presents and examines what could be described as xenophobic, racist and discriminatory behaviours towards Turkish teenagers in Germany and asylum seekers in the UK; but it also unpacks and explores local people's more nuanced and more positive approaches to migrants, through close consideration of key narrative patterns, characters, relationships and dilemmas in the novels themselves.

Secondly, using the narrated stories in each of the novels, the thesis tries to identify and tease out the critical differences and similarities between economic migrant teenagers and asylum seeker teenagers in the selected books. In this approach, these vital and often neglected differences between the types of migration occurring in 21st century global society are outlined, explained and interrogated.

Lastly, the study tries, through close readings of its key texts, to examine some of the common major themes imprinting and shaping the lives of both economic migrant teenagers from the Turkish-German guest workers experience and asylum seeker teenagers in the UK-post-imperial setting. The thesis argues that detailed engagement with these literatures opens up new insights into the lives of young migrants of a kind that commonly eludes both the formal sociological profiling and journalistic investigation and campaigning through which they are most often incompletely represented.

The findings of the study identify that the most significant factor, which affects the lives of both economic migrants and asylum seekers in their new countries is, in effect, globalisation itself. The accompanying clashes and exchanges between the modern cultures of indigenous Western people and the pre-industrial cultures of the migrants give rise, as we see, to many emotions, ranging from the toxic expression of xenophobia, racism, discrimination to the occasional manifestation of hope. It is the purpose of this thesis to examine this emotional spectrum in-depth and to fashion new tools for understanding it.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: migration, guest workers, asylum seekers, migrants' issues, comparative literature, comparative children's literature, young adult literature, narratology, imagology.
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PZ Childrens literature
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Farrell, Dr. Maureen and Davis, Prof. Robert
Date of Award: 2021
Embargo Date: 23 April 2025
Depositing User: Faruk Dundar
Unique ID: glathesis:2021-82140
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 23 Apr 2021 15:40
Last Modified: 23 Apr 2021 15:40
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.82140

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