Quest and Query. Interpreting a Biographical Interview with a Turkish Woman Laborer in Germany


  • Nevâl Gültekin Fachhochschule Frankfurt am Main
  • Lena Inowlocki Fachhochschule Frankfurt/M.
  • Helma Lutz Universität Münster



biographical analysis, relation between trajectory of suffering and agency, critique of common sense notions in qualitative-interpretive social research, women's labor migration from Turkey to Germany


Hülya, a young woman who came to Germany from Turkey at the age of 17 in pursuit of a better life looks back at the age of 31. In her biographical query she relates her experiences to a social commentary on the hard and inhuman conditions of contract labor. At the same time she is critical of the common sense notions that suffering and social problems are the main consequences of labor migration. In our analytical query of "doing biographical analysis" we discuss how we interpreted Hülya's narrative and commentary in socio-historical context and also in relation to the discourse on migration from Turkey. We looked for terms to analyze agency and suffering within biographical accounts without giving priority to either of them. Referring to the analysis of another case and to the concept of "twofold perspectivity" we describe how both suffering and also pursuing one's potential are negotiated in biographical quests and queries. URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs0303200


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Author Biographies

Nevâl Gültekin, Fachhochschule Frankfurt am Main

Nevâl GÜLTEKIN, Ph.D., studied sociology and education at J. W. Goethe-University, Frankfurt/M. Her dissertation is published as "Bildung, Autonomie, Tradition und Migration. Doppelperspektivität biographischer Prozesse junger Frauen aus der Türkei" (2003, Opladen: Leske + Budrich). From 1984 to 1996, she founded and directed an intercultural counseling and education center for women in Frankfurt/M. Presently, she is a self-employed social and educational researcher, author, and counselor. She is also lecturer at the University of Applied Sciences in Frankfurt/M. Her main areas of research are: migration, biography, gender and intercultural issues, youth, and education.

Lena Inowlocki, Fachhochschule Frankfurt/M.

Lena INOWLOCKI, PD, Ph.D., sociologist, is a substitute professor in the Department of Social Sciences at J. W. Goethe-University, Frankfurt/M. Her main research interests concern biography, adolescence, and generations in families, focusing on issues of right extremism, migration, interculturality, transformations of religious practice and traditionality. She is a board member of "Biography and Society" (RC 38) of the International Sociological Association and on the extended board of the German Sociological Association's section of biographical research. Her publications include: Sich in die Geschichte hineinreden. Biographische Fallanalysen rechtsextremer Gruppenzugehörigkeit (Frankfurt/M: Cooperative Verlag, Reihe Migration und Kultur, 2000); Traditionalität als reflexiver Prozeß: Großmütter, Mütter und Töchter in jüdischen Displaced-Persons-Familien. Eine biographieanalytische und wissenssoziologische Untersuchung (Habilitation thesis, Otto-von-Guericke-Universität Magdeburg, April 2001); Kritische Theoriebildung zu Antisemitismus, Rassismus und Reaktionen auf Einwanderung (in Alex DEMIROVIC, ed., Modelle kritischer Gesellschaftstheorie. Traditionen und Perspektiven der Kritischen Theorie. Stuttgart: Metzler Verlag, 2003); INOWLOCKI, Lena, HERRERA VIVAR, Maria Teresa & HERRSCHAFT, Felicia (in print). Intercultural perspectives and professional practice in the university: what's new in Germany. In Ursula APITZSCH, Prue CHAMBERLAYNE & Joanna BORNAT (Eds.), Biographical analysis and professional practice. Bristol: Policy Press.

Helma Lutz, Universität Münster

Helma LUTZ, PD, Ph.D., is reader in education and social sciences at the university of Münster, Germany. Her research interests concern issues of gender, migration, ethnicity, multiculturalism, nationalism and racism. She directs the research project: "Gender, Ethnicity and Identity. New domestic servants in a globalised world", funded by the VW-Foundation (2001-2005). She was a member of the curriculum group of the project area "Migration" at The International Women's University, Hanover, 2000 and co-ordinator and lecturer for the thematic area: nationalism, racism, ethnicism. She has been Vice-President of the Research Committee "Biography and Society" (RC 38) of the International Sociological Association and Vice-President of the German section on biographical research of the German Sociological Association; she has widely published on female migration; gender, ethnicity and difference; nationalism, racism and gender in Europe, including: Women in Transit: Between Tradition and Transformation. Special issue of the European Journal of Women's Studies (7)3, 2000 (co-editor with Kathy DAVIS); The New Migration in Europe. Social Constructions and Social Realities (co-editor with Khalid KOSER, London: MacMillan, 1998); Crossfires. Nationalism, Racism and Gender in Europe (co-editor with Ann PHOENIX and Nira YUVAL-DAVIS, London: Pluto Press, 1995). Unterschiedlich Verschieden. Differenz in der Erziehungswissenschaft (co-editor with Norbert WENNING, Opladen: Leske und Budrich, 2000).




How to Cite

Gültekin, N., Inowlocki, L., & Lutz, H. (2003). Quest and Query. Interpreting a Biographical Interview with a Turkish Woman Laborer in Germany. Forum Qualitative Sozialforschung Forum: Qualitative Social Research, 4(3).