Attention: This site looks better in the latest Mozilla or Internet Explorer.

The Humanities Conference 2003

Home | Newsletter | Call for Papers | Register

Presentation Details

 Download: Poster | Brochure 1 | Brochure 2    

The Meaning of Transitional Objects in Forced Migration

Zt Zeynep Turan.

Forced relocations and national boundaries based on ethnic or religious identity are still shaping the world we live in today as one can see from a quick glance at current events. The issue of cultural identity still looms large for the refugees all over the world. My research is aimed at understanding the way Greek and Turkish forced refugees and their children maintain their cultural identity in the places they are relocated after the Population exchange of 1923. The keywords are construction of the notion of homeland, material environment, transitional objects, non-material environment daily rituals, cooking, language, and music.

My research focuses on the individual and social patterns that forced immigrants used to deal with this traumatic transition, and the function of the transitional objects, ie. the objects brought from homeland like kitchen utensils, icons, religious objects, etc. These objects carried by people in forced migration offer the possibility of their own de-objectification and re-personalization after relocation. They become the condensation of all the emotions and material environment. In other words, emotions and memories of homeland are materialized in these objects through their association with stories, dreams and all these associations unfold in the new settlement.

In terms of methodology, I use qualitative research techniques such as interviews, questionnaires as well as visual documentation of the home environment of the refugees, and the objects brought from homeland.

* Transitional Object is a term I borrow from British psychoanalyst D.W. Winnicott. He describes the transitional object as a remedy for loneliness or depressive moods, as well as a source of creativity and play. The object aids in the construction of potential space for creative thought and action. I will discuss that the objects brought from homeland share a similar potential in this sense.


Zt Zeynep Turan  (United States)
PhD student
Environmental Psychology
Graduate Center The City University of New York

Zeynep Turan was educated as an architect in Ankara and London. She completed her BA studies at the Middle East Technical University, and her MA at the Architectural Association. She is interested in the interaction between memory and material environments. She is currently doing her PhD in the Department of Environmental Psychology at the City University of New York Graduate Center on the significance of transitional objects for people forced to migrate from their homelands.

  • Forced migration
  • Transitional object
  • Re-personalization
  • Material environment

(30 min Conference Paper, English)