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Provincials and Arapkirlis in 1885

The residential and occupational patterns of the Arapkirlis living in Kasap ƒlyas can best be documented through the information provided by the late Ottoman census of 1885. Most of these Arapkirlis were of rural origin.
Together with that of the district, the name of the village from which the migrants came is also often mentioned in the census documents or in the Sharia’ court records. Precise village names like Bostancık, Saldak, Mutmur, Alıçlı, and Hasdek often occur in the muhtar’s notebooks as well. Once in the city, and with the help of networks established by their Arapkirli co-locals, many of them went directly into a “semi-agricultural” occupation, the itinerant vending of fruits and vegetables. Clearly, the sources of approvisioning for their merchandise, the Langa vegetable gardens, and their extensions into the mahalle, were within reach.

A Case in Chain-Migration
One important feature of the Arapkirli migrants to Kasap ƒlyas, that concerning their duration of stay, must be made clear. The Arapkirlis did not migrate to Istanbul as seasonal workers or just for a limited short period of time. They did not come with the idea of a certain return to the home town or village with their accumulated savings. First of all, traveling all the way from the region of Arapkir to Istanbul was a long and complicated affair. At least until about the end of the nineteenth century, it involved first a trek northward through unpaved, mountainous, and difficult roads to one of the Black Sea ports, and then a trip by boat to the capital. The whole trip from Arapkir to Istanbul (ten to twelve hours by coach, today) used to take no less than three weeks.
For instance, when, in 1833, Yusuf bin Hüseyin, a rather well-to-do Arapkirli living in the Kasap ƒlyas mahalle planned a visit to the family, back in the Ömeran village near Arapkir, he correctly predicted a pretty long absence. He therefore left the imam Aziz Mahmud efendi in charge of all of his business in Istanbul and gave him a wide-ranging power of attorney, which he regularly registered with the Davudpaœa Court.30 Obviously, short-term “commuting,” or undertaking the whole travel for a relatively short period of time—say, just a summer season—was almost unthinkable at the time.
In fact, the Arapkirlis in Kasap ƒlyas constituted a typical case of chain-migration—as opposed to the mass-migrations caused by wars and by the shrinking empire in the nineteenth century—and they shared the main char- acteristics of that migration pattern.
With chain-migration, potential migrants first acquire information about their destination and then, upon arrival, are supported by their kin or by their co-locals who preceded them. This leads to clustering of kin and co-locals within the city. Besides, it implies that relations with the place of origin will continue. If urban opportunities do not prove promising, a return is always possible, especially if the migrants still possess a claim to land in the village of origin. If prospects are good, then the settler will constitute a new link in the chain. Chain-migration may also increase the interdependence between
city and country by making migration more sensitive to economic conditions, both at the point of departure and at the point of arrival.
Unlike mass-migration, chain-migration also leads to a greater density of relations between those sharing a similar position in the city. The migration chain being based on kinship and/or co-locality, once in the city these webs of relations breed informal networks, since preexisting urban formal struc-
tures fail to provide the minimum necessities of survival. Not surprisingly, chain-migration also results in co-locals concentrating in similar professional groups. In the late nineteenth century, just as a century later, place of origin was the most effective marker determining the composition of informal net-works in the Istanbul.31 Each Arapkirli who came to Kasap ƒlyas as part of this co-local network could then settle without experiencing a sense of alienation. The Arapkirli newcomers had “patrons” who had previously migrated from the same town or village, and this cushion helped to avoid the competition and the resistance, if any, of the Istanbulites.
Family and kinship relations are one of the most important assets that the rural migrants bring with them. Contrary to mass-migration, chainmigration is by nature selective. Therefore kinship structures and relations cannot be transplanted intact from the village to the city. Not surprisingly, the kinship relations of the Arapkirlis settled in Istanbul exhibit different forms and densities as compared to that in their place of origin. The size and kin-composition of the Arapkirli households are indeed quite particular and resemble neither that of the sedentary Istanbulites nor that of other groups
of immigrants in Kasap ƒlyas (see chapter 4).
The Arapkirlis of Kasap ƒlyas did not sever their links with their place of origin. Apart from the support that the newcomers received from their fellow-citizens already settled in Kasap ƒlyas, many of them maintained, at least for some time, strong links with Arapkir, despite the distance. For instance, they bought and sold pieces of land in their town or village of origin. At least four such deeds of sale were recorded by the Davudpaœa Court in the first half of the nineteenth century. Some Arapkirlis had their family back home arrange a marriage with someone from the same town or village, brought their wife to Istanbul, and perhaps went back to visit the family once or twice. And this tightly knit migrant community (they still showed, toward the end of the nineteenth century, a surprisingly high level of local endogamy) lived in close proximity within our mahalle.

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