Turks in Germany: A Panel on a Documentary Film

Submitted by Selim S. Kuru on

by Erin Kelleher

On November 13, the UW NELC Turkish and Ottoman Studies Program hosted a viewing of Ela Elisabeth Beken’s documentary A Piece of Germany as part of the 6th Annual Seattle Turkish Film Festival. The film focuses on the stories of adults who spent a significant portion of their childhoods in Germany because their parents had moved there from Turkey as migrant workers. Their families then moved back to Turkey in 1984 following to a German government effort to get these migrant workers to return to Turkey. In the film, those interviewed grapple with attempts to reconcile the German identity of their early childhoods with the Turkish identity forced upon them later in childhood.

The screening was followed by a panel discussion, featuring Beken, the director; Dr. Nurettin Beken, the movie’s score composer and associate professor of ethnomusicology at UCLA; Dr. Resat Kasaba, director of the Jackson School of International Studies; Dr. Selim S. Kuru, chair of the NELC department; and Dr. Niko Switek, a visiting assistant professor of German Studies.

The panel covered topics relating to migrant identity and the identity of children of immigrants, as well as the trauma of migration for children. Expanding beyond the narrow group of people that the documentary focused on, the panel discussed migration more broadly, including attitudes toward migrants in the current global political climate and how these attitudes vary in different countries and regions. They also touched on how to address issues related to global human migration, as well as issues pertaining to the estimated three million displaced Syrians in Turkey presently.

Erin Kelleher is a first year NELC MA student. Her research focuses on modern Near and Middle Eastern history.