Katerina Seraïdari

junior fellow
EURIAS cohort 2012/2013
discipline Anthropology
Associated member of the École des hautes études en sciences sociales and the LISST-Toulouse

Research project

Building Social Relationships through Commercial Transactions: 
Turkish Grocers and their Multicultural Clientele in Brussels

 

Belgium signed an immigration agreement with Greece in 1957 and another one with Turkey in 1964, within the framework of Belgian policies aiming at attracting an adequate number of mineworkers. About 12.000 Greeks and 37.000 Turks live nowadays in Brussels. Brussels is a typical city of immigrants and the most important gateway for international migration in Belgium: in 2001, 31.7% of Brussels’ inhabitants were born abroad. The fact that the composition of Brussels’ population is becoming increasingly diverse explains the necessity for in-depth studies on the forms of social encounters between people from different origin living in this globalized urban landscape.

According to Adam Smith’s classic position, the social tie is achieved by means of a market where individuals, who get along with each other but are guided by their own interests, compete for the possession of rare property. In this project, my aim is to analyze how social actors of different national origin (Greeks, Turks, Belgians and others) interact and exchange when they are involved in ordinary commercial transactions. The figure of the Turkish grocer will be at the centre of this study: he/she represents a dynamic migrant, who is defined by his/her ethnic origin and his/her professional activity. I will especially study Turkish groceries established in well-off neighbourhoods of Brussels (and not in areas of Turkish concentration), which attract out-group customers. This presupposes that Turkish vendors are fluent in French (and sometimes in Flemish and English) and propose products that can satisfy the demand of a multicultural clientele. I will examine to what extend their economic activity opens the space to interrelationship and contact between different groups that do not have many occasions to meet elsewhere. From this perspective, a Turkish grocery is a place where ideas, representations and discourses about ethnic but also gender and identity are imagined, produced, confirmed and consumed. My hypothesis is that, instead of creating an “ethnic niche”, these social actors establish spaces of interethnic sociability. Instead of incarnating a threat to the established social order because of ethnic separatism and the creation of “parallel societies”, they construct loci of mixed interaction and become agents of social cohesion. These situational and routinized exchanges produce a sharing of time, culinary techniques, consumption patterns and, thus, of certain forms of knowledge and sensorial experiences. Hence, this project interrogates the relationship between new dietary models, ethnicity and social classes’ divisions. Turkish grocers, who establish mercantile exchanges with a multicultural clientele, play an active role in the promotion of representations and discourses concerning organic food, but also of a certain image of cosmopolitanism. What is also novel in this approach is that it focuses on the analysis of the neighbourhood as spatial and social unit; from this perspective, it contrasts with the general tendency to define social cohesion and cultural belonging within the geographical and administrative boundaries of the nation state.

Biography

 

Katerina Seraïdari is Associated member of the École des hautes études en sciences sociales and the LISST-Toulouse. She studied History in the University of Athens and Anthropology in the École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Toulouse. She holds a Ph.D. in Social Anthropology and Ethnology from the EHESS-Toulouse.

She is member of the editorial board of the French journal Balkanologie, and of the “Association Française d’Études sur les Balkans”. 

Selected publications

 

La ville, la nation et l’immigré. Rapports entre Grecs et Turcs à Bruxelles, Harmattan, Paris, 2012.

 

‘Commercial transactions and social relations between the Greeks and Turks of Brussels’, Brussels Studies, no. 53, 2011. 

 

‘Enjeux locaux autour d’un rituel à Sifnos : de l’analyse structurale à l’objet patrimonial’, Balkanologie, vol. 12, no. 2, 2010.

 

‘Compétition entre Orthodoxes et Catholiques. La production du sacré dans une île grecque’, Ethnologie Française, vol. 40, no. 1, 2010, pp. 151-160. 

 

‘The Virgin between Orthodox and Catholics: religious mediations on Tinos’, in G. Valtchinova (ed.), Religion and boundaries. Studies from the Balkans, Eastern Europe and Turkey, The Isis Press, Istanbul, 2010, pp. 97-117. 

 

Μεγάλη η Χάρη της”. Λατρευτικές πρακτικές και ιδεολογικές συγκρούσεις στις Κυκλάδες [May her grace be with us! Devotional practices and ideological conflicts in the Cyclades], Philippotis, Athens, 2007.

 

Le culte des icônes en Grèce, Presses Universitaires du Mirail, Toulouse, 2005.

institut

junior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
discipline History
2011
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2011/2012
discipline Literature
2011
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2012/2013
discipline Literature
2012
senior fellow
EURIAS promotion 2013/2014
discipline Sociology
2013