Hybrid identity formation of migrants

A case study of ethnic Turks in Germany

Term Paper (Advanced seminar), 2011

32 Pages, Grade: 1,3


Table of Content

1 Introduction

2 Formation of identity
2.1 Key points of belonging
2.2 Hybrid identity formation
2.2.1 Characteristics
2.2.2 Age as a matter of hybrid identity

3 Germany - an immigration country
3.1 Persons with migration background in Germany
3.2 Belonging to Germany?
3.3 Milieus of persons with migration background
3.4 Nationalism vs. transnationalism
3.5 Citizenship
3.6 Ethnic Turks in Germany - a case study

4 Conclusion

5 Bibliography

1 Introduction

Within the last few years Germany has been confronted with a vast debate on integration policy. It was not until the year of 2005 that the first national integration law was enacted. Even though Germany has been an immigration country since the 1950s, the necessity of a specific law framework has been neglected blindly for decades. Already in 2006 about 23% of the children born in Germany had at least one foreign parent (cf. Foroutan & Schäfer, 2009, p.12). The media still talk about “the migrant”. But it finally has to reach people’s minds that there is no clear distinction between “the German” and “the foreigner”. In fact, the matter of identity has to be reconsidered. About 18.6% of Germany’s overall population possess a migration background (cf. Wippermann & Flaig, 2009, p.3), which signifies, that these individuals face the challenge of cultural contradictory on a daily basis. The permanent negotiation of belonging characterizes the dichotomy between retention of the ethnic and adoption of the German culture. Hence, this phenomenon creates a specific kind of identity, the so called “third space”, which in the present work I will refer to as hybrid identity. The terms transnational and hyphenated identity are used synonymously in the relevant literature, but I will apply only to the former name to avoid any confusion. Moreover, this new kind of identity requires rethinking the concept of nationality and raises citizenship issues.

The present work shall examine the phenomena of hybrid identity formation in detail: Under which criteria does it emerge and how is the synthesis of two cultural backgrounds depicted in everyday life? After introducing general findings on this topic, I will apply these aspects to the Turkish population in Germany by evaluating several surveys. Even though ethnic Turks do not appear to be the biggest ethnic group in Germany anymore, they represent cultural features including their religion, which makes the observation of their case study more controversial. Data on the German citizenship law will top off the chain of arguments concerning the necessity of nationality for the belonging of hybrid identities.

2 Formation of identity

Barth describes the term identity as bundle of values and concepts and one’s actions in context of these structures (cf. Barth, 1969, p.14). The desire for identity as a constant feature of personhood is deeply rooted in every one of us. As a second principle there is a persons’ impossibility of a lack of culture (cf. Badawia, 2003, p.135). Hence, identity is constituted on the basis of difference. The interplay of self-image and the perception of others creates the synthesis of personal identity, which then forms the fundament for collective identity (cf. Voigt, 2002, p.12f). It is not only a normative orientation for every individual, but more likely gives a positive feeling of belonging thanks to a group membership and solidarity (cf. Porsché, 2008, p.14). Furthermore, collective identity is bound to time and space. Time can be considered as remembered past, experienced and heard history and desired future. Space can be viewed as spatial time (cf. Voigt, 2002, p.31f). Therefore, these ideas are going to be considered when the issue of citizenship is discussed in chapter 3.5. Moreover Barth distinguishes five characteristics of identity:

1. Complexity: multi-layering of identity 2. Relationality: definition of identity in contrast to others 3. Graduality: stronger or weaker shaping of identity 4. Interchange: formation by interplay of self-image and the perception of others 5. Dynamic: possibility of its transformation thanks to interchange

Despite the complexity and dynamic of this phenomenon, identity is defined by sameness. Certain features might change during one’s life, but the core identity most likely remains the same (cf. Barth, 1969, p.15ff). This fact will be discussed in the course of this work concerning migrants’ identity.

2.1 Key points of belonging

Mulgan describes ten key points of feedback, from which individuals obtain response about their belonging, hence about their identity:

In the first place, ties of family and friendship give us response about our social status. Hence, people rather feel affiliation to their place of residence, if there are caring people around them. This explains the clustering of first-generation migrants. Additionally, these ties can help to overcome a hard start-off in a new country with a foreign language or even troubles to find a job by using nepotism.

Secondly, the participation in associations like churches, clubs, or voluntary organizations helps to connect people and make them feel to be part of the society.

Economy forms the third key point of feedback for belonging. A person feels integrated, if he or she has the same job opportunities as the majority of the host society, as well as promotion prospects. Discrimination is present as soon as the local economy does not have any interest in a particular part of the population.

Political participation and power can also reinforce the feeling of belonging. The fifth key point describes cultural belonging: The strengthening of culture can either raise a feeling of belonging or alienation. Shared symbols and traditions can unify people, but they might also alienate migrants from the rest of the nation. Rituals like citizenship ceremonies can encourage the feeling of belonging.

Safety is another key point of feedback. The possibility of physical threat has a big impact on the feeling of affiliation, regardless of the general or discrimination-motivated crime.

The physical environment, like pleasing buildings and green spaces, can make people feel comfortable or depreciated.

Everyday public services create patterns of community in cities. This may also include the teaching of the Koran for Muslim children.

Your home is your castle. Therefore, it is important to feel welcome by your landlord and tenants.

The last key point of feedback is a matter of law. On the one hand national law should reflect the community’s values and protect its interests. On the other hand there is a need for new laws, e.g. against forced marriage. Nevertheless, law can also encourage belonging by issuing special rights for particular groups (cf. Mulgan, 2009).

Summing up, not all of these factors have to be fulfilled for a person to feel affiliated to a nation or community. Nevertheless, each of these features should be taken into account.

Moreover, Mulgan considers groups, who turn from a very week belonging to very strong affiliation, to be the most dangerous ones. He states, that isolated people more likely turn into targets of extremist political leaders. In this way misrecognition can cause serious damage (cf. ibid., 2009).

2.2 Hybrid identity formation

The term social integration describes the inclusion of an individual into an established system. Hence, it can be considered as the basis of development for hybrid identities. Esser specifies four dimensions of social integration, quasi host culture adoption: Acculturation as the acquisition of knowledge and skills (especially language) forms the precondition for the second step - emplacement. This means the taking over of social positions and the concession of rights. Both features build the fundament for the next two dimensions. Thirdly, interaction as entry in social relations in everyday life serves to form bonds in the country of residence. By getting the feeling of belonging thanks to cultural, social and economic identification, a person can sympathise with the host country’s society (cf. Esser, 2001, p.1). This so called social integration does not necessarily mean the rejection of the ethnic culture. Furthermore, Esser distinguishes four possibilities of social integration:

1. Multiple integration
2. Marginalisation
3. Assimilation
4. Segmentation

Preconditions are the proficiency of both languages as a key factor; also access to both cultural groups has to be ensured. A high educational level and financial security were also observed to have a positive correlation with multiple integration. Marginalisation as a second possibility defines the distance from both cultures at the same time. This can never be the aim of integration. The third option of social integration represents assimilation. It describes the full adoption of the host culture. Finally, segmentation designates the full identification and socialisation inside the ethnic surrounding. This means maintenance of the culture of origin without adoption of the host culture. (cf. ibid., p.2). Hence, only multiple integration gives the opportunity to develop a so called hybrid identity as further explained.

The crucial characteristics, defining people with hybrid identities is the fact, that “home” is neither represented by their country of origin, nor by their host country. The migrant rather feels affiliated to both places with both cultures. Sometimes one cannot even declare a special localisation as being his or her home, but there might be an imagined home. The same applies to citizenship (cf. Glorius & Friedrich, 2006, p.167).

Here, the term hybridity describes cultural overlapping of oppositional logics of action bound together to new patterns (cf. Foroutan & Schäfer, 2009, p.17). Hybrid identities float in between. On the one hand they can experience alienation of the culture of origin and the loss of meaning concerning traditional values and norms. On the other hand they might feel an exclusion from the majority society. This can be observed especially with Muslim migrants in the second or third generation: In Germany there is a big pressure for cultural assimilation. Fulfilling this, young migrants lose the appreciation of their parents, since in their case assimilation means rejection of the parents’ culture. As a result they might develop feelings of social inferiority, which often are compensated by conspicuous behaviour, rarely even by radicalization or Islamism, where they can find acceptance easily (cf. ibid., p.12). Berry summarises this phenomenon in the following way:

“One might reasonably expect the stress of persons experiencing acculturation in plural societies to be lower than those in monistic societies that pursue assimilation. [..] If a person regularly receives the message that one’s culture, language, and identity are unacceptable, the impact on one’s sense of security and self-esteem will clearly be negative. If one is told that the price of admission to full participation in the larger society is to no longer be what one has grown up to be, the psychological conflict is surely heightened.” (Ersanilli & Koopmans, 2009, p.7)

The experience of disintegration can lead to the glorification of the imagined ethnic culture. A phenomenon of Muslim migrants in the second or third generation is the so called neo-Islam. This term describes a third way of living in between the parental traditions and the interaction with the western majority society (cf. Foroutan & Schäfer, 2009, p.14).

How does the formation of hybrid identities function in detail? Concerned people permanently have to negotiate about their belonging (cf. ibid., p.17). The German-Turkish poet Zehra Çırak (cf. Kaya, 2007, p.12) depicts this fact by using the metaphor of a bridge: the two ends of it symbolize two different cultures. People presenting hybrid identities walk on this bridge freely, from one culture to another. At some points of life one culture might be dominant, later on the other one. Nevertheless, essential for hybrid identities is the permanent presence of both cultures, no matter to which extent.

Huttunen declares a dialectical tension:

“Difficulties to forge a meaningful social position in the country of settlement may produce stronger orientation towards the country of origin, while unfavourable developments in the country of origin may encourage stronger engagement in the country of settlement.” (Huttunen, 2010, p.239f)

Since these phenomena are individual to every single person, we cannot present a prototypical hybrid identity (cf. Badawia, 2003, p.135). Nevertheless, Badawia categorises four types of hybrid identity transformation: Firstly, cultural mixture is the result of bicultural identity transformation by reflecting the surrounding. The second category describes changes thanks to the self-localisation in a transcultural superstructure. Thirdly, the formation of a bicultural identity can also be considered as a compromise. This applies, when people neither feel belonging to the culture of origin, nor to the culture of the country of settlement; they are at the same time part of both ones. This might cause an identity crisis. The fourth category describes active bicultural identity formation by consciously implementing values or virtues of the host culture (cf. ibid., p.146). Keeping these categories in mind, Reinders emphasises the importance of both cultures for the mental stability of migrants. Therefore it is dissuaded to reject patterns of behaviour of the ethnic culture. As already mentioned this might cause the loss of values and stabilizing social networks. In Germany, the term integration means the assimilation into majority society. Despite, to guarantee the balance of identity, it should be rather an equilibrium between features of the host culture and the culture of origin. In most cases this means the enrichment of the ethnic culture with cultural elements of the host country. The language of the host culture functions as key to participate in the majority society. Whereas the mother tongue builds the bridge to social networks of the culture of origin (cf. Reinders, 2009, p.19f).

Furthermore, intercultural skills of hybrid identities bring advantages in the labour market. Bilingualism and the understanding of cultural differences might be a plus in general, but can also be applied in specific jobs like intercultural mediators (cf. Foroutan & Schäfer, 2009, p.17).

2.2.1 Characteristics

Since the term hybrid identity describes a vast subject of investigation, this chapter shall clarify its key features:

As first characteristic, it designates people, who treat the question of identity with conscious.

Secondly, hybrid identities exploit their subjective and intercultural abilities to achieve short- or long-term aims. Doing so, the concerned person has to make a distinction between constant and mutable factors for its own critical orientation. The fourth characteristic describes the permanent dynamic process of identity negotiation, which guarantees transformation. The next feature depicts the synergetic accomplishment of a person to enforce both identity- relevant cultures and associated emotions. As the last feature the individual (bicultural) logic of acting has to be emphasised. As already mentioned, there is no prototype of hybrid identity; therefore decisions depend on the individually chosen points of reference (cf. Badawia, 2003, p.135f).

To substantiate these characteristics, Badawia scrutinized four key issues concerning bicultural identity transformation of young migrants:

As a first point, she examined the approach to their surroundings and how they evaluate their status in society. The main ideas were the following: to be part of the society; to be regarded as a foreigner forever; not to be German, but neither to be a foreigner like everybody considers; growing up in two cultures is a chance to go an own way (cf. ibid., p.138). The most controversial finding is the fact, that youths with migration background are considered to be foreigners, even though they grow up in the same country, speak the official language, have friends there and plan to realize their future in the same country (cf. ibid, p.142).

Secondly, in a non-bicultural surrounding, young migrants are steadily confronted with questions about their identity like: Are you planning to stay here or go back to the country of your parents’ origin? Which of both countries do you consider to be better? Which culture do you consider to be dominant in your future? The individual development of processes describes the third key issue. This contains the ability to take advantage of both cultural references to find solutions. Concerning education and labour market, nowadays young migrants replace their parents’ status of immigrant workers with self-defined careers. At the same time they experience discrimination of the majority society which can lead to strategically accentuation of ethnicity and conscious ethnic marginalisation by the migrants themselves. As a last point, Badawia mentions the creation of self-reference thanks to interaction and self-image. It is criticised that biculturalism is still not considered to be normal in Germany (cf. ibid., p.138ff).


Excerpt out of 32 pages


Hybrid identity formation of migrants
A case study of ethnic Turks in Germany
European University Viadrina Frankfurt (Oder)  (Kulturwissenschaftliche Fakultät)
Culture and Ethnicity
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ISBN (eBook)
ISBN (Book)
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601 KB
Migrant, Einwanderungsland, citizenship, Staatsbürgerschaft, Migrationshintergrund, migration background, hybrid identity, hybride Identität, transnationalism, ethnic Turks, ethnische Türken, key points of belonging, nationalism, personal identity, collective identity, Einwanderungspolitik, immigrations policy, doppelte Staatsbürgerschaft, multiculturalism, dual citizenship, Deutschland, Germany
Quote paper
Stefanie Schumann (Author), 2011, Hybrid identity formation of migrants , Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/166974


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