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In today's global economy, international and domestic labor migrations are commonplace. The ebb and flow of capital, unemployment, wage levels, job security, levels of technology, and skills within and across countries, as well as war and natural disasters, contribute to high levels of labor migration. As of the early 1990s, about 100 million people lived outside their country of citizenship. However, this accounts for less than 2% of the world's population (Bloom & Brender, 1993, p. 21). The more significant labor migration has been internal rural-to-urban migrations, which have changed the demographic face of most, if not all, countries during the twentieth century.
In addition to the economic and political changes that are both a cause and an effect of these migrations, family relations have been affected as well. Numerous studies have documented the effects of migration on the migrants themselves in terms of acculturation, setting up new communities, and reestablishing kin networks. (1) An increasing number are focusing on the impact migration has on gender roles of single or married migrants. (For instance, Khaled, 1995; Kocturk, 1992; Tienda & Booth, 1991; Vandsemb, 1995 present some general findings.) A few have begun to focus on elderly migrants (Becker & Beyene, 1999; Goldberg, 1996; Kamo & Zhou, 1994; Olmedo, 1999; Thomas, 1992), but there has been little, if any, research highlighting the effect the migration of families has on the nonmigrant kin. Since it is most often young men or young families who migrate, the nonmigrant kin are frequently the elderly who remain in the rural areas and/or in the country of origin. Many scholars have been understandably concerned with the benefits of remittances for the sending country or the remaining individual family members, but intergenerational conflict, filial expectations, familial power structures, and general well-being are of equal concern to the aging kin.
This paper initiates exploration of this phenomenon and gives voice to this group of nonmigrant elderly through a case study of elderly villagers in north central Turkey, all of whom have had adult children migrate to other countries or to larger cities in Turkey. The paper briefly describes the nature of migration in Turkey and the effect it has had on village life in general. Then, through interviews with one group of village elders, the paper illustrates the frustrations the elderly feel as they try to render coherent the inevitable contradictions they experience between old and new circumstances and between competing values.
2. Narration as a way of balancing contradictions
Bruner (1986, 1996, 1999) and Randall (1999) argue that "narrative intelligence" is one of a number of types of intelligence for which humans have varying capacity. Aging may enhance or detract from that capacity. McAdams (1996) suggests that the "elderly person looks upon his or her life as something that has been and must now be reviewed or evaluated as a near-finished product, a story that may be accepted (integrity) or rejected (despair) but which can no longer be substantially changed" (p. 136). Yet, since no one knows exactly when his or her life will end nor whether the story will be in the genre of comedy, tragedy, adventure, etc., we are at the same time, as Polkinghorne (1988) proposes, in the middle of our stories, needing to be ready to revise as new events occur.
Kierkgaard said that we live life forward but understand it backward (Bruner, 1999, p. 8). Yet, in practice, narration is not so linear; it is rather cyclical or perhaps even chaotic, because we also periodically attempt to tell our stories into the future. That is, we envision or attempt to foresee our futures (we may even hire fortunetellers or prophets to do it for us!), and in so doing, we build hopes, expectations, and fears of the future. When the actual events finally occur, they may not conform to the imagined denouement. Major social transitions, such as demographic changes caused by waves of migration, inevitably lead to disruption in established ways of doing and thinking family relations. In addition, therein lie the contradictions, the imbalances, or imbroglios that compel us to narrate, to restore order, and to negotiate the inevitable disappointments.
The literature on narration appears to hold the assumption that narrative is driven by the need to create coherence and restore order (Linde, 1993). Stories are therapeutic means of coping with disruptions and healing discontinuities (Becker & Beyene, 1999; Mattingly & Garro, 1994; Turner, 1980). However, the state of coherence and order is not always successfully attained. Sometimes narrators die before they reach such a conclusion, and sometimes, just as married couples must often agree to disagree, narrators must reconcile themselves to live with contradictions. This is neither impossible nor unusual; most collective and individual cultural discourses embody competing and contradictory values simultaneously. People draw upon one discourse in some situations and, apparently without much incongruity, call upon a contradictory discourse in other circumstances.
In the migration context discussed here, older nonmigrant kin must restructure their daily lives to accommodate the loss of proximal emotional support, status and role certainty, and the labor that the presence of more youthful family members had provided. They must also restructure their values and expectations to accommodate the contradictions involved in such major physical and cultural transitions that are the result of economic change and mass migrant flows. The act of speaking their stories or articulating the myriad of changes may bring some consolation and relief or shed new light through new interpretations, but it is not uncommon that the narrators reach no satisfactory resolution as they maneuver through this minefield of changes.
I first became aware of the familial impact of these changes through young adult Turkish migrants living in the United States, friends who expressed some guilt that they were failing to take care of their parents as they had assumed they would do if they had remained in Turkey. Then, in 1992, I visited a village, which I am calling Sirna, in north central Turkey. This was the birthplace of one of my migrant friends. I noticed that there were very few young people and children in the village, and the topic of how life had changed was frequently apparent in our conversations. Their statements of pride in their children's accomplishments were interspersed with complaints of or disappointment in their children's failure to meet their filial expectations. In the intervening years, I researched migration and Turkish family life further, and then, in 1999, I returned to Sirna to conduct interviews.
As a case study, this paper looks at migration from the perspective not of the migrants but of their elderly parents who remain in the rural areas of sending countries or sending regions within a country. Narratives were gathered through informal semistructured interviews of families in this small village during the summer of 1999. I was able to interview about 20 of the households in Sirna, which is equivalent to about one-half of the households residing in the village in 1999. Since I was interested mostly in the perspective of the elderly, I concentrated on households containing people at least 50 years old. Interviews were generally conducted through informal group conversations or with individuals in their homes. As a woman, I had easier access to women, and even in mixed company, women were more likely to speak to the questions I posed. Since I do not speak fluent Turkish, I had to rely on a translator (a person who had grown up in the village and was trusted by the villagers) to ask many of the questions and interpret their answers for me. Questions focused on the number, gender, and residence of their children, what life was like in the village when they were younger, their contacts with their nonresident children, and their expectations and concerns for late life. I found that while most of the elderly were faring relatively well, they expressed disappointment in unfulfilled late-life expectations, difficulty reconciling these expectations with the new circumstances, fear for their emotional and medical future and the future of their village, and concern for the loss of the traditional venue for status among elderly.
3. Turkish migration patterns and its impact upon villages
In terms of international labor migrations, Turkey has primarily been a sending country. As of 1995, it is estimated that more than three million Turks reside abroad (Goldberg, 1996). Approximately 93% lived in Europe (mostly in Germany) and about 5% lived in Arab countries (Omran & Roudi, 1993, p. 24). The stream of Turkish labor to Europe began in the 1950s as Europe rebuilt after World War II. Recruitment agreements between Germany, the Netherlands, Belgium, Austria, France, Sweden, and Turkey were all signed in the 1960s, encouraging a flow of male workers. Family reunification flows accounted for much of the migration in the 1980s due to more restrictive immigration policies and repressed economic conditions in Europe (Goldberg, 1996).
As with most other countries, however, it is the rural-to-urban migration that has accounted for the largest part of population shifts in Turkey. Between 1950 and 1980, Turkey's rural population increased 60%, but Turkey's urban population quadrupled. It is estimated that about one-fourth of Turkey's population (based on 1980 figures) migrated to the cities (Tunali, 1996, p. 31). Population statistics by province from 1985 to 1990 indicate continued rural-to-urban population shifts. Much of this shift has not only been from rural areas to cities but also from east to west. (2) The northern and eastern regions of Turkey are largely mountainous, more rural, and less developed than the western half of Turkey, where the largest cities are located. These regional inequalities increase the potential for large migration flows (Tunali, 1996, p. 34). The population of Eastern Anatolia (3) as a whole dropped by 468,503 between 1985 and 1990, and Central Anatolia's population dropped by 150,106 during those same years, whereas Istanbul, Ankara, Izmir, and Bursa (all cities located in the West) had population increases (State Institute of Statistics, 1999).
These shifts are reflected in a labor sector shift as well. Before World War II, only 20% of Turkey's population were in formal wage labor; 80% lived in the countryside and was mostly in agriculture (Ilcan, 1994, p. 554). By 1980, the percentage of Turkey's population employed in formal wage labor had increased to 45% (Tunali, 1996, p. 32) and to 57% by 1996 (State Institute of Statistics, 1999).
These national populations shifts are consequently reflected in a north central mountainous district I am calling Raaza, which has 131 villages, of which Sirna is one. Since 1985, every single one of the 131 villages has experienced a population decline. Sirna's population was 498 in 1985. (4) By 1998, its population was 209. Despite the more than 50% decline in population, Sirna remains one of the largest villages in the district because such declines have been typical of all the villages in the district. About 86% of the villages have had population declines of 50% or more and 23% have had at least a 75% decline. Therefore, even in the district of Raaza, the urban proportion of the population is larger than the rural. The population of the town of Raaza is 16,670, while the population of all 131 villages combined is 12,841 (Mahirogullari, 1996). Given that these demographic changes are occurring nationwide, it would not be unreasonable to assume that the findings stemming from this small case study are being repeated on a wider scale.
4 Sirna's community and elderly living …