Volume 4, No. 3, Art. 23 – September 2003

Hülya's Migration to Germany as Self-Sacrifice Undergone and Suffered in Love for Her Parents, and Her Later Biographical Individualisation. Biographical Problems and Biographical Work of Marginalisation and Individualisation of a Young Turkish Woman in Germany. Part I1)

Fritz Schütze

Abstract: This article is divided in two parts; the second part (consisting of Sections 3, 4 and 5) will be published in the next issue of FQS. After asking what is typical or general in the life history of Hülya as a migrant worker in Germany and what is exceptional or unique (Section 1) the biographical processes of her life history up to the most central episodes of her conventional and estranging pre-arranged marriage and her way out of it through divorce after having stayed in Germany for several years will be delineated (Section 2). Before reaching this turning point Hülya not only undergoes the "common" type trajectory of a migrant worker—the trajectory of being a cultural stranger, of being void of language, of being exploited by hardest sorts of work—, but, in addition, her personal biographical development is retarded by the exceptional, but probably not totally untypical experience of being trapped within a situation of compulsory labour (resembling slave labour). For a long time she also feels obliged to remain in her trajectory position of an isolated migrant worker, since originally she had mainly meant to go to Germany in order to support her poverty stricken family back in Turkey with her earnings. Partly based on the fear that she will get self-alienated and "petrified" like the older women with whom she dwells and works together Hülya accepts a pre-arranged marriage (probably mainly negotiated by her mother) as the only way out of her predicament. But willy-nilly Hülya must learn that she—already embarked on her way to an individualized and emancipated existence—cannot live in such a superimposed arrangement, and therefore she distances herself from her husband through the biographical escape action schemes first of returning to Germany alone and then of pushing ahead her divorce. Hülya's way of rendering her life history (which Section 3 will focus on) is quite straightforward in most parts of her narrative. But it is obvious that she is ashamed to tell about her estranging marriage and her disreputable divorce. Dealing with this emotionally difficult turning point in her life history Hülya tends to report in a quite laconic and evasive way. But in doing so she realizes that her story line would get implausible if she continued narrating like this. Therefore she inserts a number of background constructions and argumentative explanations in her laconic line of narration. Part of the article is focussed on this "disorderly" kind of rendering. Then the 4th part of the article resumes the reconstruction of the biographical processes of Hülya's life up to the "presence" of the interview situation in 1986. Here the focus is on (a) Hülya's medical problems seen as a typical transformation of the migrant worker's trajectory of exploitation and self-alienation and (b) her processes of learning and metamorphosis in reaching the present biographical and social state of a highly individualized and emancipated woman. Part of Hülya's emancipation process is her disguised self-distancing from the ways of feeling and thinking of her late beloved mother and her expectations towards the life course of her daughter Hülya. (This is biographical work hidden even to herself.) The 5th section of the interview deals with Hülya's blend of biographical work and of collective identity work in existing as a "marginal personality" according to the early Chicago Sociologists' understanding of marginality as cultural hybridity. Pursuing this line of analysis the article finally deals with Hülya's use of the communicative scheme of argumentation, which becomes linguistically dominant in the coda part of her main autobiographical account and which remains dominant during the subsequent part of questions and answers.

Key words: trajectory of work migration, compulsory labour of work migrants, exploitation of work, migrants, self-alienation of work migrants, female emancipation and individualisation, pre-arranged marriage, parent child relation in work migrant trajectories, family trap connected to work migration of children, structural description in biography analysis, structural processes of biography, biographical action scheme, biographical metamorphosis, biographical trajectory of suffering, fading out of one's awareness

Table of Contents

1. Introduction: Common and Unique Features of Hülya's Life History

2. Biographical Processes in the Life History of Hülya. Part I: Biographical Processes up to the Life Episodes of a Pre-arranged Marriage and the Way out of it Through Divorce

2.1 The family trap (page 3, lines 14-46)

2.2 Hülya's biographical action scheme of work migration and of supporting her family through it (page 3, line 48, up to page 4, line 37)

2.3 The intake procedure for guest workers that Hülya is encountering (page 4, line 39, to page 5, line 50)

2.4 The biographical trajectory of compulsory labour (page 6, line 2, to page 9, line 2)

2.5 Liberation from the compulsory labour trajectory (page9, line 4, to page 10, line 18)

2.6 Intensification of the biographical experience of suffering in a self alienating trajectory of work exploitation (page 10, line 20, to page 11, line 37)

2.7 Hülya's pre-arranged marriage as an unsuccessful attempt to escape from the isolated migrant worker's trajectory (page 11, line 39, to page 12, line 16; page 14, line 17 to page 15, line 24)






1. Introduction: Common and Unique Features of Hülya's Life History

The interview with Hülya shows numerous aspects of life histories of Turkish migrant workers coming to Germany, which we consider as typical for the organised work migration to Germany in the sixties and early seventies. But it also shows features, which are unique and outstanding. Common structural features are, for example, the institutional processing of the workers by the recruiting, examination and selection strategies in Turkey and the intake and exploitation strategies by German firms (in Germany). Of course, all of these structural features are connected with deep experiences of extended suffering: of being dehumanised by the selection and intake procedures; of being alienated by not understanding the language and culture of Germany; of being hermetically isolated; of being the despicable marginalized stranger, who doesn't understand anything of importance to Germans; of being emotionally and morally disoriented by being a cultural hybrid; of doing hard industrial work which one is not used to yet; of feeling estranged from oneself; of getting sick by exhaustion; etc.—But there are some other features in the interview with Hülya that are not as common as the just mentioned features. These other features include:

  • Hülya comes to Germany in 1972, when she is extremely young (she just turns 17 years old, and she still is almost a child at the time of her arrival);

  • Hülya is a young woman, who migrates to Germany all by herself; and she continues to stay alone as a marginalized person during the entire fourteen-year period of her work and residence in Germany up to the time of the interview;

  • for one year—i.e., in her first year in Germany, when she is on contract work in a slaughter house for chicken—her work reveals not just the normal type of exploitation and estrangement features of the underprivileged migrant worker's occupational situation in general, but, in addition, the features of compulsory work as typical for concentration camp or slave labour organisations. This might be closely connected to her biographical condition of being an inexperienced, shy and very young woman, who does not speak the language and from whom, therefore, the employer and his plant organisation do not expect any type of systematic resistance;

  • nevertheless: during her long stay in Germany, Hülya emancipates herself from her rural family background and dares to speak for herself and thereby overcomes a disastrous biographical crisis situation; she acquires an emancipated and individualized personal identity;

  • but most important is the following extraordinary feature: Hülya's intention to come to Germany is linked to an unbearable material condition in which her family lives. She attempts to free her family from the burden to care for her as the dependent youngest daughter, and, in addition, she even intends to help her mother, father, and siblings—in so far as they are still dependent—out of their poverty-related predicament and of humiliating dependence on her oldest brother (who took over the family household) by earning enough money in Germany to support the family. [1]

Putting the common and the unique features of the life history of Hülya together: Hülya develops an attitude regarding the course of her marginalisation and cultural hybridisation, which shows many features of productive individualisation. The question is, how Hülya would acquire her remarkable competencies for individualizing biographical work taking into regard all the disastrous difficulties of her life history. [2]

2. Biographical Processes in the Life History of Hülya. Part I: Biographical Processes up to the Life Episodes of a Pre-arranged Marriage and the Way out of it Through Divorce

In order to understand the mixture of uniqueness and common features in Hülya's life history that is mainly patterned by her work migration to Germany, it is necessary to briefly recapitulate the biographical processes and the most important phases of these biographical processes in her life history. This shortened version of her biography is methodically grounded on the analytical procedures of text sort analysis, structural description, and analytical abstraction (SCHÜTZE 1983, 1984). Text sort analysis looks at the features of ongoing interaction in the interview situation and at the differential involvement of the communicative schemes of narration, description and argumentation in the informant's follow-up of the line of rendering of her or his personal experiences. Of particular interest in this stage of analysis are background constructions (SCHÜTZE 1992, 2001a), which deal with disorderly chunks of biographical experience, and argumentative commentaries (SCHÜTZE 1987, 1991a), which express biographical work of the informant. Structural description is the analytical procedure, by which the unfolding of the story telling in its formal textual features is articulated2) and at the same time the unfolding of biographical processes are sequentially followed up and delineated (SCHÜTZE 1981, 1984, 1991, 1994, 1995, 2001b). Most important is the analytical activity of "pragmatic breaching", which envisions the formal and substantive features of the autobiographical text as expressions of a recapitulation of re-enacting or even "re-enlivening (formerly) evolving biographical process structures that the informant has been involved in. One basic step in the analytical abstraction is the integrated follow-up of the sequential order and/or simultaneous conflict of the supra-segmental units of the narrative text; these lump together narrative units into integrated biographical contexts that reveal stretched-out biographical process structures. The aim is to reach an empirically grounded concept of the overall biographical structuring of the whole life history as told in the autobiographical narrative interview (SCHÜTZE 1981, 1991, 1994, 2001a). In this following article a full application of the analytical apparatus cannot be articulated. However, Section 3 of my article (Part II) at least gives a glimpse of it. In Sections 2 (Part I) and 4 (Part II) I articulate my understanding of the overall biographical structuring of Hülya's life history by lumping together the narrative units of Hülya's narrative. I use the supra-segmental sequential organization of Hülya's overall autobiographical narrative as a guide. But this is only possible on the base of a meticulous segmentation of the entire text into local narrative units or it would be impossible to differentiate between segmental and supra-segmental units. In addition, it would be impossible to appreciate the vague or even "oblique" ways of textual rendering of disorderly and hurting experiences, which she specifically expressed through background constructions dealing with her pre-arranged marriage and her divorce. [3]

2.1 The family trap (page 3, lines 14-46)

In the beginning of Hülya's life history there is her family's collective trajectory of being unable to autonomously support itself. Hülya's parents do not have the capacity to give a proper education to three of five children, still dependent on their support. Hülya's father became severely ill, fell into unemployment, and has not worked since. He was not able to upheld his own household, because he did not have health or invalidity insurance. Instead, the oldest son took over, and he now controls the household budget covering all dependant family members (including his father and mother). This might be a typical intergenerational relationship in a rural society with patrilocal succession (which goes back to ancient times). The oldest daughter is an exception to the difficult situation in which other family members live: she married a well-to-do farmer. Hülya's family including herself took the opportunity to work on the farm of the rich son in law during the summer season of harvest. [4]

The absence of the household autonomy of Hülya's inner family means humiliation for her father, mother, the bright youngest brother (who cannot go to university), and herself. Hülya cannot get a vocational training, although she has been successful in school. And nobody seems to be concerned about it—contrary to the concern about the educational situation of her youngest brother. Hülya is apparently expected to become a traditional housewife. (Later we learn that Hülya's father might possibly have had different ideas, but he had been removed from his former authority position as head of the family—page 22, lines 19-23.) In the early days of her life Hülya identifies intensely with her mother, who cannot reign her own household and, hence, is unable to function properly as a traditional housewife and mother. She suffers a lot and seems to be emotionally quite unstable. Hülya doesn't see any future perspective for her mother, for her father, for her brother and for herself. She witnesses the malfunctioning or even deterioration of the traditional rural family system in Turkey. It does not fit the modern requirements for the development of autonomous, individualized biographical identities which Hülya is oriented to; her father's advice probably plays an important role in this context.. Taking into account the absence of a protecting health and unemployment insurance system, one realizes that no welfare state or civil society serves as a substitute for the lack of protection and social solidarity meant to derive from the traditional Turkish rural family system. This explains Hülya's subsequent high appreciation for the German system of social security produced and permanently upheld by state and cooperative institutions. [5]

2.2 Hülya's biographical action scheme of work migration and of supporting her family through it (page 3, line 48, up to page 4, line 37)

Hülya develops the plan not only to escape from the family trajectory of heteronomous determination, of being dependent on the (probably not freely given) support of her very controlling oldest brother, of the humiliation of her parents and herself and of not having any developmental personal future for the family members and herself, but also to rescue her family from its predicament. Having seen Turkish guest workers in the neighbourhood coming back from Western Germany during vacation times, who seem to be affluent in their life style (page 3, lines 37-39), Hülya at first fantasizes about and then plans to embark on a labour migration to West Germany as soon as possible. Her fantasies can in part be ascribed to having been misled by the show-off displayed by migrant workers having come home; here we therefore have the opportunity to study the power of "pull" mechanisms of labour migration. [6]

There are two features of Hülya's action plan to go to West Germany as a guest worker, which seem to be special. First, Hülya is the youngest child of the family and it can legitimately be asked, why is she the only member of the inner family who develops and pursues the plan to rescue the family through labour migration? Being very young and female she seems to be the least fit family member for this type of rescue action—to be accomplished through hard corporeal work, which is associated with cultural alienation and social isolation. Second, although Hülya painstakingly attempts to give the impression that her family—especially her father and her mother—does not like to send her abroad, it is her father, who finally assists in the legal procedure of "making her younger" to the effect that she can apply in advance to the administrative guest worker program. One of her brothers—probably the eldest brother as head of the family—accompanies her to Istanbul, the location of the selection process in the administrative recruitment procedure for getting promising (healthy, bright, well educated, hard working) guest workers. He obviously is not only her protector and emotional supporter, but also controls her pursuit of labour migration. For example, he harshly criticizes her when she reacts with panic at the long needles used for drawing blood for the compulsory blood tests. [7]

One gets the impression that it is not just Hülya, who pushes through her biographical action scheme, but also that the family is indeed quite supportive—perhaps even pushy—regarding her pursuit and realisation of the plan. Though being the youngest child, she appears to be the least embedded and least rooted within the family structure and social structure of rural Turkey; she therefore is the one most "available" for uprooting and migration to Germany (from where she serves as the supporter of the family from afar). In addition, as the youngest child she can least be helped in getting a good education and a proper vocational training at a time when the material position of the family continuously deteriorates. [8]

2.3 The intake procedure for guest workers that Hülya is encountering (page 4, line 39, to page 5, line 50)

Hülya undergoes the institutional procedure of being tested, examined and selected for "guest work" in Germany. This procedure resembles the intake procedure of being drafted into, or incorporated within, an army—especially taking into account the medical examinations and mental ability tests administered to the applicants. But it also shows some additional features of checking and scrutinizing that are harsher than any army intake procedure: scrutiny resembling that given a horse or slave to be sold. In addition, a phase for the presentation of the work to be done in Germany and for the signing of the contract is built into the institutional selection procedure for guest workers, for example, for activities of advertising and of formal contract reciprocity. [9]

The selection and contract procedures are formally controlled by the national Turkish work administration agency. But they seem to be more effectively moulded by the interests and interventions of German firms that plan to hire Turkish personnel. Two facts reveal the low efficacy of official Turkish control during the intake procedure and later on (when Hulya has worked in Germany for some time). First, Hülya had just turned seventeen when she underwent the selection and intake procedure and her age is not checked carefully. Second, the Turkish labour administration agent visiting Hülya's firm (page 8, line 32, to page 9, line 2) does not—unlike Gogol's "auditor"—seem to do autonomous checks of the circumstances under which the Turkish labourers work and live. He obviously does not check if somebody of the Turkish work personnel is actually missing—in this case Hülya, who is severely ill at the time (due to an accident at work) and has been hidden from his eyes by being placed in a waiting room for a whole day with the false announcement that she was seeing the physician. [10]

Generally speaking, a systematic collusion between the public Turkish labour agency and exploitative German firms apparently had been established to the disadvantage and detriment of the selected and hired guest workers. [11]

2.4 The biographical trajectory of compulsory labour (page 6, line 2, to page 9, line 2)

During her first year in Germany, Hülya is trapped within the dynamics of a prisoner's or slave worker's trajectory of confinement and forced labour. When Hülya arrives at Germany, she experiences not only the normal type of immigration trajectory (RIEMANN & SCHÜTZE 1991) but also the much harsher ones of confinement and compulsory labour. [12]

In Hülya's case, the normal type of an immigrant's trajectory means that for a certain while she would not be able to proceed under the auspices of her biographical action scheme of labour migration—earning surplus money in support of her family back home in Turkey. Or more generally speaking, in the course of a normal immigration trajectory expectation patterns—following up the action scheme of establishing oneself within the new life situation in a circumspect way, earning "real money", and improving by this one's own material life situation—are impaired or even eliminated for a while. This is so, since everything within the new life situation turns out to be different from how it had been expected prior to the journey and immigration. The experience of being culturally and socially strange to the new life situation, that is, of having to live and proceed under conditions that are unknown, would for a while overwhelm and impair the immigrant's capacity to follow up her or his own line of intentions and orientations by circumspect action. For a while, the immigrant would only be able to react to the overpowering conditions of the strange, very urging new life predicament. For example, she or he would be forced to follow up the conditional relevancies of the new situation with its unexpected necessities. At the same time the immigrant would also be isolated socially. Especially due to the language barrier, she or he would not be able to communicate with others and would feel alone. In addition, she or he would be disoriented by the falsification of her or his own cultural and social expectation patterns brought into the new cultural and social situation (SCHÜTZ 1964a). The immigrant would feel self-alienated by her or his incapacity to follow up former intentions. [13]

Then, in the course of the normal type of immigration trajectory, the immigrant would need some time to learn the ropes of the new social and cultural situation—acquiring the language, managing to get in contact with others, communicating with them, and understanding the regulations, conditions and action possibilities of the new life and labour situation. All of this would be quite difficult initially. But after some time, the immigrant would be able to recover her or his own action capacities for following up the old overall action scheme of earning surplus money and to improve her situation. For example, Hülya could really start to support her family in Turkey, and in addition to this she could develop a new biographical action scheme (e.g. to establish her own autonomous existence in Germany). Of course, to a certain extent, she would remain a cultural stranger. She still would compare her old cultural expectations with the new cultural orientations that she has learned in between (SCHÜTZ 1964a, 1964b). But as such an "enculturated" stranger she surely would be able to act autonomously again. In addition, as a cultural hybrid (BHABHA 1994) she increasingly would envision certain opportunities for orientation, reflection, deliberation and action that are not open to autochthonous members of the immigrant receiving German society. On the other hand, she would still suffer from being positioned between the two cultures and societal bodies as a marginal personality (STONEQUIST1961). [14]

As mentioned above, Hülya's new predicament of confinement and compulsory labour is more severe than the normal type of life situation of an immigrant. She gets deprived of her passport by having it stored in the administration bureau of the recruitment firm, and she does not receive a permit of residence for the whole time span of her work in the firm; her permit of residence does not include the five days of extra work which are required from her after the expiry of her contract and she is not aware of the specific legal requirements, she only learns about them later on. The firm does not explain to the newly recruited foreign workers what their civil liberties and work rights are, and nobody else—for example, the Turkish labour administration or German institutions such as the German labour administration, German unions, controlling public bodies (e.g., the Gewerbeaufsichtsämter) or representatives of the German employer organisations (like the Industrie- und Handelskammer)—does this either. Hülya insinuates—and she seems to be correctly assuming—that the firm deliberately takes advantages of the ignorance of the newly recruited workers, since after the year of official contract nobody likes to stay in the firm, and, instead of this, the firm recruits new personnel in Turkey that too is exploited and systematically deprived of its work rights and civil liberties. The firm does not proceed legally, but it is remarkable that it can enact these practices in such a systematic and effective manner. Striking structural similarities exist to slave labour in Nazi firms and concentration camps3) or—maybe this comes closer—to prostitution into which unsuspecting young women from Eastern Europe have been trapped who are lured and often "imported" to Western Europe. [15]

Hülya has to live in a small room with four others young women in some sort of army barracks situation. She has to work from six o'clock in the morning to ten o'clock at night: in addition to her normal work at the chicken slaughter house assembly line, she cleans the workplace together with three other women without receiving any substantial payment. The safety regulations in the factory are poorly enforced. Hülya gets injured twice, and her medical predicament is exacerbated by the negligence of the factory physician. In both cases of accident Hülya does not receive proper treatment and is forced by the factory physician or the shop steward to work until late at the night. The management of the firm knows that the treatment by the factory physician is inadequate: it would not have hidden the injured and ailing Hülya from the eyes of the Turkish labour administration inspector. [16]

Hülya assumes to be forced to stay in the slaughterhouse for the first year in Germany. She does not have her passport. She is in debt to the firm, since it issued her an advance payment to her at the beginning of the contract. Hülya thinks that there is no legal escape from the contract and that it is totally impossible to change from one firm to the other during the first year, the contract year, as guest worker in Germany. (The slaughterhouse officials do not correct this assumption when they refuse a slightly premature ending of the one-year contract.) It is a nightmare for Hülya to imagine the "worst case scenario": being forced to go home without ending the contract and returning to Turkey as a failure. (The company probably knows that its Turkish employees do not see a feasible escape from the situation by returning home to Turkey. Pride, self esteem, reputation and the moral state of being righteous would be overwhelmingly at stake.) [17]

The compulsory work situation has three features of biographical impact. First, it isolates the persons in the same predicament from each other. At the beginning of Hülya's stay there is no solidarity of mutual help and consolation between the newcomers and the other dormitory dwellers and co-workers. Second, it is a life and work situation of extreme humiliation: Hülya knows about her exploitation—too much and too hard work and far too little pay—but she cannot change it. Her central biographical problem is to be forced into a situation that is unjust and unfair. Moreover, her situation makes little sense with respect to her former biographical action scheme of supporting her family in Turkey. She realizes that her suffering is not only an everyday burden, but also does not matter in terms of future biographical developments and perspectives. Hülya feels and fears to be seen as a grumbler after she has been injured by the two work accidents and complaining about them and the pain involved. Her me-images (MEAD 1934) are impaired. She would like to be seen as a hard efficient worker and she feels to be approached like a malingerer. Third, Hülya is forced to postpone learning German and being socialized into German culture, because there is no chance of having private social contacts with Germans (even buying groceries is difficult, since she has to work from 6 to 22 o'clock). There is no time and little energy left to attend any type of language lessons. (It is remarkable that neither the employer nor the labour administration or the union provide related opportunities or support.) In addition, there might be an emotional barrier to learn the language and culture of a society in which such a despicable systematic work situation of unfairness, loss of biographical sense, and personal humiliation is possible. It is remarkable that Hülya learns German and gets into German culture only eight years later, when she seriously considers building a life in Germany rather than in Turkey and after going through a pre-arranged marriage and her divorce. The delay of learning German and getting involved in German culture might be due not only to a lack of opportunity but also to a systematic attitude acquired in this early occupational "hell" of enforced, exploiting and isolating work. This means that work arrangements do not always have a socializing impact on acquiring the competence to do collective identity work (dealing with the neighbourhood, with networks of acquaintances, friends and voluntary associations, with the cultural region, with Germany and Turkey as nation states and their productive relationship to each other, with civil society and the welfare state, with public discourse arenas, with Europe and the universal world society as frames of moral and political orientation). The contrary can also be true. If work situations are experienced as disastrous, they can retard the biographical development of competencies for collective identity work (including learning pertinent languages). [18]

2.5 Liberation from the compulsory labour trajectory (page9, line 4, to page 10, line 18)

Nearly at the end of her first year of contract work, Hülya is visited by remote relatives living in Hamburg, who have been asked by her own inner family to look after Hülya. In this concern of her own inner family, especially her parents, might be implied their consideration of how Hülya would be able to find another job at all, since an extension of her first job contract seems to be unbearable for her and should be avoided by all means. (However, Hülya does not consider this question as the implied intention of her inner family in turning for help to their remote relatives in Hamburg.) The remote relatives from Hamburg immediately realise how deplorable and despicable Hulya's present work situation really is. They attempt to immediately take her with them. But the factory management insists that Hülya would have to fulfil her contract up to the last day; it even requires Hülya to work five days longer than that stipulated in the contract, since her actual employment after coming to Germany started only five days after her arrival at the factory location. These five days are actually quite important in legal terms, because for them Hülya and her roommates don't have a permit of residence, since the one year permit expired five days earlier. By accident the brother of one of the roommates realises the lack of a valid permit of residence for the five young women, including Hülya, when he attempts to take his own sister with him to his place of residence. (Not having a valid permit of residence at one's disposal would mean the danger of being extradited immediately when checked by the police by chance or when getting into contact with the governmental work administration or with other possible employers.) The circumspect brother of Hülya's roommate can manage to get a hearing for the five young women with an understanding and professional agent of the governmental work administration in a neighbouring city. This is the first German state representative mentioned by Hülya who fulfils his civil servant duty by professionally criticising and controlling the dehumanising work exploitation practices that are illegally imposed on guest workers. He checks the legal status of the five young women for their entitlement to work in their former firm of employment and the lack of correct administrative practices of its management to deal with that legal entitlement and the occupational and civil rights implied in it in a direct phone communication with the firm management. He criticises the disgusting administrative and legal performance of the firm management right away and outspokenly. And then, without any bureaucratic delay, he issues the permits of residence to the five young women. [19]

In the course of her liberation from the former compulsory work situation, Hülya also becomes aware of the social base of sisterly solidarity and mutual love between her and the other four roommates who now have to part from each other. Only now, in retrospect, she can understand and appreciate the mutual emotional support and practical help of her and her roommates for each other as an important experience in her life. Only now she realises the value of friendships apart from the family. This is in contrast to the solidarity platform of the traditional Turkish family, which step by step deteriorates under the impact of societal modernization, or at least does not produce biographical welfare to its individual members. This realisation of the value of private friendship is an important early step of biographical work that Hülya, in the following years, will do so impressively. Hülya now notices that a network of private friends is extremely important in a situation of isolated life as a migrant worker separated from her own family of origin. Hülya starts to understand—and later on she realises even more closely (see, e.g., the coda part of Hülya's autobiographical narrative of the main story part of the interview on page 18, lines 1-5)—that in the future the networks of private, individualised friendship might become a new platform of social solidarity in life situations of social isolation and individualisation. This new solidarity platform might substitute for a malfunctioning or even deteriorated platform of solidarity provided by the traditional rural family in Turkey. (In her biographical insight, Hülya's deliberation resembles the analytical assessments of the early Chicago sociologist of the impact of rapid modernisation, especially industrialisation and metropolisation, on the biography constructions, social relationships and solidarity bases of modern men and women, especially on work migrants and immigrants with their "marginal personalities" [THOMAS & ZNANIECKI 1927, PARK 1967, STONEQUIST 1961]) [20]

With the help of her remote relatives from Hamburg Hülya gets a work position in a metal processing firm in a small town near Hamburg. This might not be the work she would have liked most. (First, the remote relatives tried to get her into a big hospital as a nurse assistant or cleaning woman, but she was not accepted.) But looking at her formulations in the text of her autobiographical rendering (e.g., page 17, lines 12-16) it becomes clear that Hülya develops a biographical identification with hard industrial work she would like to do with circumspection, effectiveness, trustworthiness, dependability and biographical pride—very much similar to the value features Max WEBER (1988) has conceptually connected to the orientation pattern and cultural tradition of the protestant work ethic. Probably Hülya does not like to be conditioned by a network of social relationships that may be difficult to handle in her own family of origin. Instead, the industrial work situation can be handled without much complicated communication and negotiation. [21]

Having been rescued from the life and work situation of compulsory work, Hülya intensely expects from the future to find situations that she can shape herself and that allow her to have some biographical rest to start learning to live in Germany. Not to find such a new life situation would be extremely disappointing to her. After a first step of biographical work she seems to be ready for a biographical metamorphosis (SCHÜTZE, 1991, 1994) of education, learning, acquiring new cultural orientations, i.e. she yearns to leave behind the depressive predicament of a self-alienating trajectory experience, of being the ignorant cultural stranger and of being forced into a exploitative compulsory work trajectory. [22]

2.6 Intensification of the biographical experience of suffering in a self alienating trajectory of work exploitation (page 10, line 20, to page 11, line 37)

Contrary to her own biographical expectation, the trajectory experience of extreme work exploitation does not vanish when Hülya enters the metal packaging and metal processing firm. This amounts to a very complicated biographical problem constellation, since Hülya has allowed herself to open up to new hope because she could finally manage to escape from the forceful trap of compulsory extra labour in the slaughterhouse for chicken. Now, in contrast to the experience of this extraordinary form of exploitation, Hülya must encounter the "normal type" of a biographical trajectory of occupational exploitation of migrant workers in Germany. She has to do hard bodily work and gets a typical disease from it: tendovaginitis and the swelling of her operating arm, through which she pursues her industrial work tasks. (She has to continually push heavy levers for closing the lids of tin cans.) After two years of this extremely strenuous work she has to change her work place in order to avoid having her work disease become chronic and to escape from this mechanism of corporeal transformation of her entrapment predicament of exploitation trajectory. But—as typical for the fateful mechanisms of a full-blown trajectory dynamics—she falls out of the frying pan into the fire, i.e. she has now to lift roughly 800 cardboards a day onto pallets. The total exhaustion of her body partially conditioned by this causes Hülya to become dangerously underweight, although a mental state of depression is also part of the structural conditions for her weight loss. The latter of course is a second phenomenon of corporeal transformation of the work exploitation trajectory and of the biographical experiences of severe suffering connected to it. [23]

The private accommodation situation of Hülya is difficult, too. She has to live with three other persons in a small room, and at least one or two of these other persons are on different shifts. In addition, all of these other persons seem to be much older than Hülya.. She always must keep quiet if she is present in the room. Only later she can live with other young women, albeit they are from countries other than Turkey, and since she is still not able to speak German, that means that there cannot develop such warm feelings of mutual sisterly support and solidarity, which she had experienced being with her young Turkish roommates in her first place of residence when she worked in the slaughterhouse. The life situation of Hülya is sharply exacerbated by the future projection of her own life and personal development looking at the example of the older roommates of her accommodation room and of the other older Turkish guest workers in her new firm. Looking at the psychosocial features of these persons she envisions a "natural history" of deterioration of the personal identities of those guest workers getting older in Germany who are totally isolated, do not allow themselves to conduct their own private lives and therefore are just work and salary oriented. In Hülya's view, these old and worn out guest workers became personally isolated exactly by losing the social ties of family and friendship networks in their country of origin. In addition, from the point of view of Hülya, their ability to relate to interaction partners in Germany with feelings of solidarity, sympathy and understanding permanently deteriorated, too, because they did not understand that a substitution of the lost family ties by other social relationships (e.g., of getting married in Turkey or Germany, of engaging oneself in Turkish and/or German voluntary associations, of finding Turkish or German friends) would be pivotal. In Hülya's view, it seems to be that they necessarily became selfish, de-cultured and extremely materialistic. It is the perspective of Hülya that today, at the end of this process of "natural history", the old and isolated migrant workers envision themselves and their work partners just as good or bad machine operators, i.e. as just biotic, corporeal parts of the machine system, according to the rhythm of industrial work. [24]

One has to take into account that here Hülya is using a common Turkish contrast set of categorisation regarding life in rural Turkey (with all its expectation features of idyllic landscape, of freely given and trustworthy solidarity and emotional relating to each other), on the one hand, and regarding the life under the condition of industrial work (e.g., cf. MAURENBRECHER, 1985), on the other. But she doesn't assume that this difference is just imposed by the clash of the mental forces of two different cultures, but that it is caused by the overall life course and life situation of the isolated and exploited migrant worker, which conditions the deterioration of their personal identities and culturedness. Hülya overcomes the common German image that almost every migrant worker—especially those from Turkey—comes in "family packs" to Germany. She draws the attention to the very fact that many migrant workers—and that is a structural feature of the life of one important category of them—are utterly alone in their German life situation and become even more isolated during their time of permanent stay in Germany (because they are stigmatised, confined to their own living quarters and self-restrained since they are not willing to invest in social relationships to home-national, other-national and German partners in Germany having in their mind the plan to return to their country of origin anyway). Hülya has—as stated already—a "Chicago Sociology" type of perspective on work migration to Germany, being progressively forced into structural processes of social isolation and individualisation (THOMAS & ZNANIECKI 1927, PARK & MILLER 1921, ZORBAUGH 1929). [25]

One of the riddles of the autobiographical narrative interview with Hülya is the fact that she marks the biographical suffering related to her second work position as even more intense than the biographical suffering in the slaughterhouse for chicken. Comparing the work organisations of the two positions the second one does not have the characteristic features of the compulsory work situation as the first one has. One can find compulsory work situations in prisons, in institutions of enforced prostitution and slave trade with women and children as well as in concentration camps. All these institutions exert an extremely dangerous impact on bodily existence and biographical identity. It is remarkable, that Hülya herself reveals that she was always reminded by the outfit of the mass shower room of the dormitory connected with the slaughterhouse for chicken—it was actually an old school building—to the gas chambers of concentration camps (page 9, line 48). But nevertheless, the biographical suffering in the second work position and in the accompanying accommodation situation seems to be even worse. Hülya marks the working-through of this suffering as one of the important "switch stations" of her managing her migrant worker trajectory. She delineates that experience and the biographical suffering connected to it as a "hard blow" for her (page 11, line 5); she cries all the time (page 11, line 20), and the janitor admonishes her that her permanent crying would finally kill her (page 11, lines 20, 21). [26]

There are three reasons for the utter bleakness of Hülya's second work trajectory experience: First, Hülya had hoped to escape from the trajectory trap of exploitative and alienating work when leaving the slaughterhouse for chicken. Understandably, she had assumed that her first work situation in Germany would be extraordinary through its open illegality and coercion. Now she has to realise that even under correct legal conditions the dynamics of the trajectory of exploitative and alienating work, in which migrant workers in Germany can be entrapped, goes on and on. She also has to acknowledge, that this trajectory dynamics and its organisational structural context are an overwhelmingly well organised system, and that her chances for escaping them are small. Second, in her second work position and the housing connected to it Hülya feels even more isolated than in her first work and dwelling situation, since she lost her young solidarity group of sisterly Turkish roommates. Third—and this is the most important reason—Hülya envisions, looking at her future life course, how her own biographical identity could develop, when she would permanently remain as an isolated migrant worker in Germany. She looks into the mirror image of older women who underwent the isolated migrant worker trajectory for extended periods of their lives. She realises the mechanisms of becoming alienated from one's own identity connected with that isolated migrant worker trajectory. Of course, she stresses in her argumentative commentary (page 11, lines 8-15) that she is different in terms of her essential features of identity "lay-out" as inherited from her family and home culture. But when she explains that she is "still sentimental, sensible today" she insinuates that she has already gotten hardened, too (page 11, line 12). It is a nightmare for her to imagine, that she could become just a working machine and—connected to it—could get utterly selfish and materialistic like the older women with whom she lives. She realises the danger of losing her own biographical identity by a systematic process of self-alienation connected to the isolated migrant worker trajectory. Now she knows that she has to make a serious attempt to change her life situation drastically. This is her next step of biographical work: to analyse the isolated migrant worker's trajectory and to decide to hinder such a gloomy development by searching for a way out. [27]

2.7 Hülya's pre-arranged marriage as an unsuccessful attempt to escape from the isolated migrant worker's trajectory (page 11, line 39, to page 12, line 16; page 14, line 17 to page 15, line 24)

Not earlier than almost two years after her coming to Germany Hülya is able to go on a vacation to Turkey. Only then her mother fully realizes how much her daughter has suffered: she is only a shadow of herself, having lost 40 pounds. And Hülya, in turn, realises how much her mother, too, has suffered from her being abroad: she became severely ill immediately after Hülya's leaving for Germany. During her stay at home mother and daughter—perhaps the whole family—must have understood that Hülya would not have a realistic chance to become affluent in Germany and that her worker's existence in Germany might be connected to too much suffering. And note again, that immediately before, while still in Germany, Hülya had detected for herself the danger of becoming estranged from herself by permanently remaining entrapped in the isolated migrant worker's trajectory in the future. The double insight of Hülya, on the one hand, and of her family on the other, and the communicative exchange about it between Hülya and her family, especially between Hülya and her mother, must have been followed by thinking about a marriage for Hülya during this first stay at home, although she doesn't report it. [28]

During her next visit to Turkey, two years later (in 1976), Hülya gets married to a relative belonging to the maternal part of her own extended family. Hülya explains that she did not love her cousin ("...well, that was ...no...marriage with great love"—page 11, line 49). And at the same time she conveys two other tacit considerations that don't really fit well with each other: that there was no alternative marriage candidate available and that she generally was not in the mood to get married at all ("..., but I didn't love anybody so much either or something."—page 11, line 49, 50), since she was still exhausted and suffering from her trajectory experience of an isolated migrant worker who did not find the time even to think about young men. And in addition, such a traditional pre-arranged marriage was not developmentally adequate for her anymore, having already started to do the biographical work of one's own life historical personalisation and individualisation. The young couple remained together only for one week (page 14, line 40). Hülya gets a first impression even at the wedding ceremony that her husband would not be the right partner for her: "Well, we didn't quarrel and so on, but I had...right at the...we..." (page 14, line 39, 40). "But I knew this /eh/ right a way /eh/ that we didn't harmonise. That it wouldn't end well, even if I would return home forever" (page 14, line 49—page 15, line 1). And during the one week of living together Hülya realises the difference between a relative who is a nice, morally proper man and a husband to be loved: "Well, you just expect something different from relatives and /eh/ something different from your husband and ...He was .../eh/ not like I had ...imagined." (page 14, line 42, 43) [29]

It becomes clear from Hülya's way of storytelling that her return to Turkey in order to get married was originally meant to stay in Turkey and live with her husband there (page 11, line 39, 40). This assumption about her original plan is in total accordance with her biographical insight into the migrant worker's trajectory of exhausting exploitation, of getting culturally alienated and of losing one's own personal identity—an insight, she could win by looking into the mirror image of the older women living with Hülya in the same dormitory connected to her second job. Hülya envisions her marriage as a biographical action scheme of escaping from the exploitation and self-alienation trajectory of the isolated migrant worker. [30]

But due to her experiences on the marriage day and in the following week of living together, Hülya develops the action plan of returning to Germany for one year; two years are not allowed by the parents by law and by her own mother. Hülya gives as the official explanation for her action plan of returning to Germany that she would like to earn the money for and buy electrical household equipment and other household goods in order to let her future children learn about the former migrant worker's life of their mother (page 12, line 8-16). Both reasons given are not false; to the contrary, they are biographically plausible, and they underline the life historical and individualized attitude of Hülya to her own life. But on the other hand, these two reasons, why Hülya should return to Germany again, disguise and rationalise Hülya's new distance towards her legal marriage partner. The change of her mind—first she plans to stay in Turkey with her husband and not to return to Germany, and then she develops the action plan to return to Germany to earn additional money in order to buy household equipment—is only understandable by assuming that she has second thoughts about her marriage and wants to stay apart from it for a while in order to reconsider it. [31]

After her return to Germany Hülya becomes severely ill for a year, and when she comes home again to Turkey one year later, she is still so weak that in the beginning of her time there she can only stay with her mother. Not earlier than during her last week in Turkey she finally visits her husband, who lives quite far from Hülya's parents. Hülya's in-laws feel insulted by her late visit to her husband, and he himself blames her for not having visited him immediately after her arrival in Turkey and for not returning from Germany even earlier. Hülya is very disappointed that he does not ask her about her health situation and her suffering at all. Such a deeply felt attitude of compassion would have been the only road for rapprochement and transgressing the conventional expectation patterns of traditional gender relating and family life. But it is obvious that Hülya's husband is trapped into the mold of traditional male conduct. [32]

Hülya returns to Germany again not keeping the promise to stay with her husband. After some argumentative letter exchanges during the following year she decides to get a divorce from him since she acknowledges that he as a very traditional man with his conventional ideas about male pride is totally unfit to serve as an understanding husband of an individualised young woman having lived alone for a long time. Hülya follows up her action scheme of getting the divorce, although her in-laws and even her own mother implore her to stay in the marriage. Through her autonomous action scheme of getting the divorce Hülya emancipates herself from traditional rural Turkish family culture with all its responsibilities and expectations. She pursues this against the deep wishes of her own mother. The dissent and emotional cleavage between mother and daughter must have been very difficult for Hülya since she loves her mother so dearly, and she always kept a close emotional bond with her. But here, on the other hand, she has to notice and to accept a dramatic difference of the outlook on life between mother and daughter. [33]

To be continued


1) Having been sick for a longer time I did not have the opportunity to write my article about the interview with Hülya at the same time as the other contributors of the FQS issue on Doing Biographical Research. But I had promised Gerhard RIEMANN and Katja MRUCK to write this article; and I wanted to keep my promise.—I was not participant of the earlier discussions of the interview with Hülya, and I did not read the other contributions yet in order not to get influenced in my own analysis. <back>

2) These include narrative units, sub-segmental phenomena (like background constructions and descriptive detailing) and supra-segmental meta-units of sequential biographical contexts dealing with biographical process structures (like biographical action schemes, biographical trajectories of suffering, biographical processes of identity metamorphosis and the pursuit of institutional expectation patterns of the life course). <back>

3) It might be seen as an exaggeration to state structural similarities between compulsory labour in a concentration camp and Hülya's overload of work in the slaughterhouse for chicken. One could argue, that Hülya always had the legal right to quit her work contract and to work somewhere else or—at least—to return to Turkey without a proper annulment of the contract. And in fact, by physical force nobody endangered Hülya's life at all.—But, on the other hand, decisive is the fact, that Hülya did not know about such alternatives. She mistakenly assumed that she was forced to remain in her work position in the slaughterhouse for chicken and, in addition, that she had to carry her overwhelming burden of work. The management of the slaughterhouse systematically reckoned with the ignorance of the newly recruited workers and was, thus, able to organize a hermetically closed system of exploitation of its neophytes. In addition, there seemed to be at least some bit of vague collusion of German state institutions, public agencies and professional bodies with the management of the slaughterhouse: the union, the agency for factory safety and health control, the governmental job centre, the chamber of industry and commerce, the local medical doctors and local hospitals tended to look away, to circumvent the ominous establishment, to keep quiet and to leave the inmates in all their ignorance about their work rights, health rights and human rights in general. Although this collusion of German official institutions, bodies and professional actors was vague, it was—in fact, on a quite systematic scale—morally irresponsible nevertheless. (In this regard Hülya is especially critical about the local union; see page 9, lines 14, 15) Hülya was not forced through physical violence to do all the extra work—and at least formally she probably even got some extra pay for it, although it was, then, factually reduced from her regular pay again. But she was systematically manipulated to mistakenly assume that there was no alternative from doing that extra work. In exactly this sense she was forced to do the extra work; and in this sense, too, the management of the slaughterhouse had successfully set up a modern organisational arrangement for compulsory work: it accomplished it through a cunning strategy of making use of the ignorance of its dependants from foreign countries. <back>


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Fritz SCHÜTZE is a sociologist and works as a professor of sociology at the Department of Sociology of the Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg, Germany.


Fritz Schütze

Institut für Soziologie
Postfach 41 20
39016 Magdeburg, Germany

E-mail: mail@fritz-schuetze.de


Schütze, Fritz (2003). Hülya's Migration to Germany as Self-Sacrifice Undergone and Suffered in Love for Her Parents, and Her Later Biographical Individualisation. Biographical Problems and Biographical Work of Marginalisation and Individualisation of a Young Turkish Woman in Germany. Part I [33 paragraphs]. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung / Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(3), Art. 23, http://nbn-resolving.de/urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0303232.

Revised 6/2008

Copyright (c) 2003 Fritz Schütze

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