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  • La ville, la nation et l'immigré: Rapports entre Grecs et Turcs à Bruxelles by Katerina Seraïdari
  • Meropi Anastassiadou (bio)
Katerina Seraïdari, La ville, la nation et l'immigré: Rapports entre Grecs et Turcs à Bruxelles [The city, the nation, and the immigrant: Relations between Greeks and Turks in Brussels]. Paris: L'Harmattan. 2012. Pp. 214. Paper €20.

Katerina Seraïdari has chosen Brussels, the symbolic heart of political Europe and seat of its central bodies, to study the relations between two foreign and immigrant communities, both originating on the margins of the European continent. Although its main theme is the relations between Greeks and Turks on an apparently neutral ground, the book raises many other questions. To what extent does a nation of origin keep its control over its expatriated communities? Do deterritorialization and distance from their respective fatherlands lead to some rapprochement between Greeks and Turks, traditionally considered as enemies and hostile to each other?

This book claims to adopt an anthropological approach. It relies on fieldwork carried out in 2009 and 2010 and is divided into two parts. The first one is mainly theoretical and conceptual, even if the author illustrates the theory through analysis of specific cases documented in the field, such as mixed marriages or cleanliness as a group's defining element. In the second part, more historical than anthropological, Seraïdari focuses on the origins of the immigration process. She studies alternately the first Greek shops, family reunification, the neighborhood and its functions, national products as identity markers, women's roles, and love affairs, as well as the attitudes of the local Greek and Turkish communities towards the European Union. Through this variety of topics, she provides a broad overview of these two parallel histories of Greek and Turkish immigration in Belgium. The author is very much interested [End Page 602] in knowing what happened at the very beginning of the migration from Greece and Turkey to Belgium and takes a historical approach to examining this phenomenon. This approach is in fact one of the major strengths of her book.

Among others strengths, the theme of emulation between communities deserves special mention. Unsurprisingly, Greeks and Turks, who arrived in the late 1950s (Greeks) and the early 1960s (Turks) to work under contract in the coal mines, entered into competition as soon as they settled in and founded viable enterprises. However, emulation is expressed also through the rights granted by Belgian authorities. For example, the recognition in 1974 of Islam as one of the religions of the country was considered also a recognition of Turkish immigration; the Greeks would have to be patient another decade (1985) for Orthodoxy to be officially recognized. For both Turks and Greeks, such a recognition meant that from that moment onwards their imams and priests were employed by the Belgian State.

Attitudes towards marriage—such a fundamental matter in locations of immigration—differed between Greeks and Turks in Brussels. According to Seraïdari, the Greeks are much more exogamous than the Turks and have practiced mixed marriages since the beginning of their settlement in Belgium, as recent studies based on the archives of the Greek Church in Belgium have shown (Georgopoulos 2008). However, there are different types of mixed marriages. In the Greek case, a mixed marriage is narrowly understood as a marriage with a national of another country and is not considered pejoratively. Mixed unions with Muslims—whether these are Turks, Moroccans, or others—are considered with reluctance, if not condemned. In contrast, Turkish marriages in Belgium are mostly arranged. Could it be otherwise in such a highly endogamous society? Religious endogamy (marriage with a Muslim), national endogamy (Turkish/Turkish), but also regional endogamy—the best spouse is the one originating from the same region/province in Turkey.

Such is the particular situation in Brussels. Unfortunately, Seraïdari does not take the opportunity to note that in other major areas of Turkish immigration (Germany, for example), mixed marriages, especially with non-Turkish (and/or Christian) women, are admitted and far from rare. They are admitted because they are not opposite to the Mediterranean pattern, according to which filiation is transmitted by the father, whereas women are imported...


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pp. 602-605
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