21.4.2015 | Von:
Naika Foroutan

Need for a New Concept to Describe Germany's Transformation into a Country of Immigration

Germany's society can be described post-migrant: Affiliations, national identities, participation and equality are being renegotiated and adjusted against the backdrop of increasing diversity. Unlike in the United States or Canada, however, a guiding principle of a new national narrative has not yet been established.

Wie steht es um die Anerkennung von Heterogenität als deutsche Normalität?How about an acknowledgment of heterogeneity as the German normalcy? (© picture-alliance/dpa)

Germany has yet to politically formulate which ideas of living together in a society that has become much more pluralistic through migration can be negotiated as a guiding principle of a new national narrative. Canada and the United States, on the other hand, actively promoted the establishment of a political integration narrative in the 1970s against a backdrop of declining social cohesion and actively formulated their national identities either as "unity in diversity" or as a "nation of immigrants" and made it their political integration agenda[1].
Figure 2: Approval of statements relating to Germany by Germans with and without migration backgroundFigure 2: Approval of statements relating to Germany by Germans with and without migration background (© bpb)

In political terms, public institutions are being called upon to open up interculturally and to investigate whether their structures represent the altered, heterogeneous fabric of society, i.e., are open to people with migration backgrounds. Parallel to this, "integration from below" – a kind of civil integration as civic, personal awareness of integration – can be supported by clearly linking Germany's narrative as a heterogeneous country with the notion that adaptive efforts are also expected of those who do not have a migration background. The formation of a heterogeneous society (in the sense of a new narrative or a guiding principle of "unity in diversity," in which integration must be socio-structurally available to every citizen) leads to a paradigm shift in the concept of integration. Policy should be judged by how it promotes the opening of structures and institutions as well as by how it anchors this narrative of a heterogeneous society in such a way that all members of society are expected to make an effort, not only migrants. In this sense it should dissolve the established dichotomy of migrants and natives in favor of a citizens' identity aimed at social integration processes as a common goal. Integration, as founder of comparative political science Alexis de Tocqueville used the term, would thus become the core objective of a modern democracy, which must establish equal participation rights and opportunities for all its citizens.

Germany would therefore need to engage in a non-partisan discussion to establish a guiding principle. "A professional and political non-partisan committee, for example under the auspices of the Minister for Integration"[2] in the German Bundestag or a committee comparable to the Ethics Council, should be established to carry out these discussions and to then transfer the amended guiding principle into the German Constitution. This is a point that was raised by, for example, the Council on Migration, composed of scientists from various disciplines, in early January 2015 at a conference in the building of the Federal Press Conference in Berlin.

Acknowledging heterogeneity as German normality will be accompanied by a narrative reinterpretation of national identity – "Germanness" is changing and becoming more ambiguous. Federal President Joachim Gauck also conveyed this idea in his speech on the 65th anniversary of the German Constitution, saying, "In the future, it will be much more difficult than before to detect who is German based on their name or appearance."[3] The President is providing the country with a guiding principle in its search for a national identity. Gauck describes the national narrative, the "new German 'we'", as "unity in diversity"[4] and refers (consciously or not) to Adorno's desire "to be able to be different without fear." The established separation of the other (migrants and migrantness) and the self (the imagined core society) may be narratively overcome if the other is perceived as a natural part of the self – if the self, as in the Canadian narrative, forms a unity in diversity. A narrative expansion of German identity would mean that migrantness would become a constitutive element of the national narrative and of German identity: Germany would re-narrate itself as a "nation of immigrants" and migrantness would then be inherent to Germanness and no longer stand in contrast to it.

This text is part of the policy brief Integration in a Post-Migrant Society.


See Gabaccia (2002).
www.rat-fuer-migration.de/pdfs/PM_Pegida_Einstellungen_BPK.pdf (accessed: 2-17-2015).
Gauck (2014).
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