No integration?!

No integration?!

Integration courses, an integration summit, an integration barometer – the catchword "integration" is on everybody's lips and has replaced the concept of multi-culturalism. Discredit has been cast on the multi-cultural society. Reports which claim to provide evidence that integration has failed are more popular. Contemporary discourse on migration usually focuses on the problems of parallel societies, honour killings or forced marriages.

Sabine Hess, ethnologist at the University of Munich and co-editor of the collection of articles entitled No integration?! Kulturwissenschaftliche Beiträge zur Integrationsdebatte in Europa (No Integration?! Cultural Studies on the Integration Debate in Europe), sees the book as an "attempt to re-establish the idea of adopting another standpoint".

One such change in approach would be, for instance, not to look upon immigrants primarily as people with deficits that have to be compensated for in "integration courses". The goal of integration must be equality of opportunity through participation in social, economic, political and cultural life. And that demands input from "non-immigrants" as well as from immigrants.

Cultures are not containers

The editors of this book believe that the current integration debate is based on an essentialist concept of culture. This views the society receiving immigrants and the immigrant groups themselves as closed containers. The essays argue that this viewpoint enhances disintegration and focuses on what separates cultures rather than identifying what they might have in common.

Following the concept of gender mainstreaming, the editors counter this container model with the concept of "immigration mainstreaming". Immigration mainstreaming means taking leave of the idea that only a homogeneous national society can be the foundation for peaceful co-existence.

In this era of mobilization - of people, goods and ideas – it has long been the norm to have people travelling across borders to live and work. Therefore, the book argues, we should give greater consideration to the immigrant perspective – the specific interests, living conditions and achievements of immigrants. This trans-national perspective culminates in the call for global social and civil rights.

The thoroughly readable articles in this book shed light on the thematic area of immigration and integration from the political, social, artistic and scientific perspective. A unifying element is the critical appraisal of the prevailing concept of integration. Most of the articles consider the integration debate in Germany. There is for example criticism not only of racist undertones in public discourse on parallel societies, but also of the "positive racism" of some standpoints claiming to promote multi-culturalism.


With a nod to the views of German sociologist Ulrich Beck, Regina Römhild considers the idea of a cosmopolitan Europe. She perceives immigrants – whether they be without or without residence permits living in precarious circumstances in Europe or on its periphery – as pioneers of a "cosmopolitanism from below".

The cosmopolitan dream of a life beyond borders and national identities, she argues, is for these immigrants not some lofty utopia but rather a practical necessity, namely that of "coming to terms with and establishing oneself in the precarious conditions of new immigration societies".


Source: Qantara (English)

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