Turkey in Seattle Oral History Project

Submitted by Rick Aguilar on

The Turkey in Seattle Oral History Project started in the 2017-2018 academic year, directed by our MELC faculty, Melike Yücel-Koç. The project records, archives, and preserves the stories of immigrants from Turkey who reside in the Pacific Northwest Region. 

Turkey in Seattle seeks to understand the immigration experience of Turkish Americans and their descendants in North America, and how they form their identity as immigrants in the United States. It focuses on the interaction of cultural and structural forces that reshape the lives, experiences, and identities of the first and second generations of immigrants.

The ultimate goal of this project is twofold: (1) to archive the stories of immigrants who came from the Turkish Republic to the greater Seattle area; and (2) to create a digital library with the materials collected from these immigrants. This project aims to reach any person that falls into the category of emigrating from the region of Turkey to the Seattle area, no matter what their race, ethnicity and/or religion. It aims to be inclusive and diverse.

The study covers the immigrants from Turkey who came to the Pacific Northwest region from the 1950s to today, and it focuses on the following subcategories about immigration:  (1) Socio-demographic Profile (Education, Work, Personal & Family Life in Turkey and in US); (2) Immigration Story; (3) Identity & Language Identity; (4) Observations about Life as a Turk in North America; (5) Adjustment Issues;  (6) Change in Gender Roles as an Immigrant Woman in US; (7) Plans for the Future.

This project was launched on November 12th, 2022 at the University of Washington, introducing the work to the public for the first time. The launch event featured a cocktail hour reception, attended by many participants in the study as well as many other people from the Turkish American community in Seattle. The evening started with an introduction from Dr. Selim Kuru, followed by a project overview and unveiling from Dr. Yücel-Koç herself. Her remarks were followed by a short documentary, which was constructed from five of the participants’ interviews by graduate student Cara Reed-Ferrara. Following this, many of the projects’ participants were able to stand up and interact with the audience.

You can access Dr. Yücel-Koç’s work online here: https://depts.washington.edu/turkeyinseattle/.

The website hosts the recorded interviews from the participants, as well as a digital library that has been carefully curated over the years, and contact information for potential participants to volunteer to contribute to the project. The project has many interns, most of whom are UW students taking internship credits from MELC.

MELC is especially grateful for the support it has received for this project from the Turkish American Cultural Association of Washington (TACAWA). If you’re interested in working on this project or contributing financial support for it, please email yucelm@uw.edu.

Melike Yücel-Koç