On migration, science, and literature

Writing about migration is challenging. Nevertheless, being able to commence this piece feels like a significant step in my own migration journey. It seems that migration has become something that can be approached with a bit of distance. What I mean here is the ability to write about migration with a more subjective perspective. Otherwise, treating migration as a scientific phenomenon, much like the desk in front of me, as something independent of me and a foreign object, or conducting scientific research on it, feels relatively easier.

I’ve delved into concepts and figures related to migration extensively—those researching the sociological reasons behind migration, its psychological impacts, the various ways individuals cope with migration, the circumstances in which coping becomes more challenging, and proposing better coping strategies etc.These studies are undoubtedly valuable. As someone striving to establish connections with science from various facets, denying the role of scientific studies in understanding and altering the world we inhabit is out of the question.

But in the quiet of the night, when a poem I dearly love but haven’t thought about for a long time echoes in my mind… “How much we resemble Turkey, Ahmet my brother.” It’s in those moments that I feel the power of literature deep in my bones. It doesn’t stand before me like a teacher, lecturing. It approaches me like a friend, sitting beside me, gently touching my shoulder and whispering ‘I’ve lived through similar moments; I understand what you’re going through’.

Then try not to believe in the enchantment of words. You arrange them in such a way that they speak directly to your mind. They unravel mysteries, impart knowledge. Then, someone else uses those same words to craft an entirely new world, leaving an indelible mark on your soul. It’s not about understanding; this time, you feel understood. This, perhaps, encapsulates the difference between science and literature. That’s a bit of the difference between science and literature. Both are individually precious. Comprehension bestows strength, while being understood invites us to embrace our fragility.

Science has employed and will continue to use its tools in various ways to investigate how profoundly individuals are influenced by the conditions they live in, how they are shaped by their surroundings. Yet, the intricate impact eludes scientific explanation, finding poignant expression in the simplicity of an Edip Cansever poem: ‘a person is akin to the place they live, to the fish swimming in its waters, to the flower pushing through its soil.’ Such eloquence belongs to the realm of poets..

Everyone’s migration is a unique and singular tale. Yet, every migration story shares at least one common theme: loss. Coping with loss is never easy. Science will continue to explore what is lost in migration, how these losses impact one’s mental well-being, and ways to cope. However, an Edip Cansever line will remind us of what we left behind. Seeing our sorrow, it will touch us.

Regardless of our story, if migration is part of it, so is loss. Losing is melancholic, a process that takes time to accept. And every person, in the face of loss, deserves a period of mourning and sorrow proportionate to their needs. I wish for every immigrant the strength to allow themselves that necessary time.

Wishing you the ability to grant yourself that time.