Neo-Tribalism

The French Sociologist, Michel Maffesoli, coined the term tribe or neo-tribe with the aspiration to define the inexplicable societal inclination, particularly amongst the youth culture, to return to a tribal-like society. This concept “provides a much more accurate framework as it allows for the shifting nature of the youth’s musical and stylistic preferences” (614, Bennet, Subcultures or Neotribes?). According to Maffesoli, the youth culture of contemporary society is incessantly in transit, their social intercourse fluid and interactions fleeting. These tribal formations account for the social fragmentation exhibited within the youth demographic. Another applicable theory within this discourse is the notion of lifestyle, which is the idea that identities are self-constructed and that consumerism has evolved into a social practice yielding new avenues for negotiating one’s sense of individuality. Ayhan Kaya’s work, Aesthetics of Diaspora: Contemporary Minstrel in Turkish Berlin, unveils the struggles the Turkish youth of Berlin face in constructing their identity. Their appropriation of hip-hop and formation of a double diasporic identity can be best understood within the framework of the aforementioned theories.

Diasporas represent an experience of displacement and alienation wherein foreigners are obliged to construct their home and reconstruct their identity in a country where they are marginalized and oftentimes discriminated against. Their lingering diasporic consciousness renders a “constant negotiation between past and future, roots and routes, local and global, home and diasporas” (43, Kaya).  The concept of roots and routes brings to light the complexities of an identity formation constructed from both authentic and transcultual capital (43, Kaya). From these decentered lateral connections, hybrid identities emerge which can be best understood via the notion of lifestyle, as hybridity is a process of accumulation wherein differences are held together. In other words, the Turkish youth of Berlin “construct and reconstruct their cultural identity in a process whereby the conjunctions of ‘either’ (Turkish) ‘or’ (German) have been consciously rejected” (58, Kaya).

Maffesoli’s theory of ‘tribes’ can be extrapolated to the subculture of Turkish migrants in Berlin, whose collective identity is shaped by social isolation, hip-hop music, diasporic consciousness and transculturalism” (45, Kaya). Their cultural positioning renders a reflection process, which makes Turks conscious of the constructed nature of their identity. It is this “transient”, “rhizomatic” or what Homi Bhabha refers to as “third” space that enables Turks to think between localities and construct a “syncretism cultural identity” (59, Kaya). The appropriation of hip-hop emerges as a tribal formation with symbolic and cultural capital that gives the Turkish youth of Germany a sense of community amid the onslaught of racism and pressures of assimilation. The Turkish rap group Cartel exercises a lyric structure similar to that of Turkish minstrels and in doing so “contextualize themselves both in their involvement in the mainstream and attachment to the roots” (48, Kaya), in other words, they “transculturate rap music” (52, Kaya) by incorporating arabesk in with pop music.  The hybrid beat engendered from their appropriation of hip-hop serves as an expression of their “double diasporic identity”.

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