Internationalization series webinar explores religiosity & migration

The first installment of California State University, Monterey Bay’s (CSUMB) internationalization series was hosted by the College of Extended Education and International Programs (EEIP) and the Academic Committee on International Programs (ACIP) on Sept. 24. 

The event highlighted assistant sociology professor Tolga Tezcan, who holds a doctorate in sociology and social policy and currently researches Turkish migration to Western Europe. Tezcan wrote a chapter in the recently-published “Handbook of Culture and Migration” titled “Contextualizing religiosity and identity in the case of Turkish immigrants in Western Europe,” looking specifically at transnational marriage; this work was the cornerstone of Tezcan’s presentation. 

Tezcan decided to cover this topic after looking at several types of migration, namely return migration, for Turkish immigrants. 

“When I browsed data and then interviewed people, I realized that religiosity is always [a] significant factor in what I am studying,” Tezcan said. “And the reason is that national identity and religious identity are so interwoven in Muslim community.” 

His research addresses the change in religiosity immediately after migration, as well as two years into settlement.

Tezcan focuses on the marriages between the children and grandchildren of past Turkish immigrants (called receiving partners) and current Turkish immigrants (called migrating partners).

“Marriage migration has presented a new form of migration in Western Europe,” Tezcan said. “All the old international migration theories were based on guest workers, but now we are mostly dealing with marriages.” 

Not only is transnational marriage one of the only viable avenues of migration, but it is seen as a way to ensure traditional continuity in the migrant community. 

Tezcan compiled the survey data of around 1,200 Turkish spouses from 2010-2011 and 2012-2013 to examine their religiosity as it relates to their integration into Germany and the Netherlands, as well as the desired religiosity of partners. 

He found that desired and reactive religiosity had much to do with who holds power in the relationship. For instance, receiving husbands preferred a migrating wife that was more religious because it better guaranteed that the husbands could keep their patriarchal status, and receiving wives preferred less religious husbands for the opposite reason. 

The religiosity of migrating husbands and wives after two years of settlement also differs. Migrating wives became less religious over time, due to their contact with the surrounding culture. Migrating husbands, on the other hand, became significantly more religious to cope with the hardships of their move. 

“Facing lower network support and a greater dependence on the in-law family places [migrating husbands] in a position where they rely more on mass networks,” Tezcan said. 

Such as religion, the resettlement of spouses can either be a secularizing or theologizing experience, depending on how empowered they feel by the transition. 

“What makes transnational marriages sociologically relevant lies in its multilayered set of discussions,” Tezcan said. “Not only is it concerned with cross-border mobility, but also with family integration [and] gender, ethnic, and religious group identities.”

In a Q&A session following the presentation, he connected the current migratory patterns of Turkish immigrants to the history of American pilgrims, insofar as religion serves as a symbol of identification. He also shared tentative research suggesting that the main factor of compatibility for transnational marriages is class – the lack of which could lead to divorce. 

Tezcan’s thorough analysis calls attention to the global attention placed on migration and ethnic identity. 

The next installment of the internationalization series will take place on Oct. 22, and will feature sociology professor Angie Ngọc Trần in a discussion of economic migration between Vietnam and Malaysia. 

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