Multiple Identities: Migrants, Ethnicity, and Membership

Multiple Identities: Migrants, Ethnicity, and Membership

by Paul Spickard (Editor)


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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780253008077
Publisher: Indiana University Press
Publication date: 06/20/2013
Pages: 344
Product dimensions: 6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 0.90(d)

About the Author

Paul Spickard is Professor of History and Asian American Studies at the University of California, Santa Barbara. He is author of Mixed Blood: Intermarriage and Ethnic Identity in Twentieth-Century America (1989), Pacific Diaspora: Island Peoples in the United States and across the Pacific (2002), Racial Thinking in the United States (2004), Race and Nation: Ethnic Systems in the Modern World (2005), and Almost All Aliens: Immigration, Race, and Colonialism in American History and Identity (2007).

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Multiple Identities

Migrants, Ethnicity, and Membership

By Paul Spickard

Indiana University Press

Copyright © 2013 Indiana University Press
All rights reserved.
ISBN: 978-0-253-00811-4


Many Multiplicities: Identity in an Age of Movement


The face of europe is changing. People who are not supposed to be there are there in abundance. Each nation of Europe has its own story, but each imagines itself as a naturally ethnically homogeneous place. Yet each contains large numbers of people who do not fit that ethnic self-definition. Some are migrants (see Table 1.1), some domestic minorities of long standing. Despite the fond wishes of some members of the dominant ethnic group in each country, the migrants are not going back where they came from. In many cases, they are already two or three generations resident in their European host country. The degree to which they have succeeded in making places for themselves in their host societies – and, conversely, the amount of discrimination they experience – varies widely.

Over the past several years, the peoples of most European nations and their leaders have engaged in sharp debates about migrants, less so about domestic minorities. Such discussions have focused on migrants as social problems, as people with deficits that need to be measured and remediated, and, all too often, as people who ought to go away. The discussions have in most cases missed who the migrants and minorities are, how they live their lives, and what the content of their identities may be. Simply put, policy makers and the educated public in Europe need to know more about migrants and minorities, how they conceive of themselves, and how they actually live their lives.

The scholars who wrote this book are all students of the lived experiences of migrants and minorities in Europe. It turns out that migrants and minority group members have complex identities, often multiple identities at one time, and that those identities shift and change over the course of time and changing circumstance. This book is about how those migrants and minorities experience their lives and manage their multiple identities. It addresses the situations of migrants and minorities in some powerful European nations like Germany and the United Kingdom and also in Finland, Sweden, Poland, Italy, Switzerland, and Kazakhstan. It looks at minorities who have received a lot of attention, like Turkish Germans, and also at some who have received little notice, such as Kashubians and Tatars in Poland and Chinese in Switzerland. It explores the lives and social locations of children, young adults, and mature people. It examines international adoption and cross-cultural love. Finally, it describes a few situations that may provide models for multicultural success.


Every modern European nation is founded on an idea of ethnic homogeneity that is thought to reach deep into its past. The idea can be summed easily in this equation:

One Nation = One Ethnic Group

= One Religion

= One Language

= One Territory

= One Government

This is the way it is supposed to be. For most Europeans, as for scholars who study nationalism, it is taken for granted that each nation is founded on a single ethnic group – a specific people from a specific place, with a shared history, language, and ancestry. For many such people, like the Czech philosopher Ernest Gellner, multiethnic states are conceptually incoherent and inherently unstable. Such people see an intimate connection between the formation of particular ethnic groups and particular nations. In the words of the British sociologist Anthony D. Smith, "modern nations – a fusion of premodern ethnic identities and modern 'civic' elements – require the symbols, myths and memories of ethnic cores if they are to generate a sense of solidarity and purpose.... there is ... [an] inner 'antiquity' of many modern nations." The essence of nationalism is the assumption of the existence of a founding race.

These are powerful ideas. They have attended the making of every modern nation, and they lie at the root of many ethnic groups' yearnings for nation-states of their own. For Germans, the racial or ethnic foundation of the nation is an idea – which can be found in the writings of J. G. Herder, J. G. Fichte, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Arthur Schopenhauer, as well as in the soaring imagination of Richard Wagner – that the German Volk were a mystical entity that existed in germ form many centuries prior to the predestined establishment of a German state. In this construction, all people who speak some language that may be called Germanic are necessarily Germans (no matter that they live in the Czech Republic or Ukraine), and all people who stand outside that historical, spiritual (dare one say biological?) essence are not true Germans and cannot become Germans. Never mind that a state called Germany did not exist throughout most of human history, nor that a very substantial portion of the supposedly Germanic peoples have never been part of that polity, nor indeed that the population of German territory always included many non-Germanic peoples. The Germanic-speaking peoples are supposed to be its grounding, and wherever they are, they are natural Germans, while others are not, even if they live within German borders and carry German passports.

We can see the artificial (though undeniably powerful) quality of nationalism alive in the history of every modern state. Throughout the Middle Ages, there was, of course, a political entity called France, but the affiliation of people in outlying provinces like Aquitaine or Burgundy was often nominal at best. Then, at the dawn of the modern era, Kings Henry IV and Louis XIII unified the state, centralized control with a modern bureaucracy loyal to the king rather than the nobility, drew a corps of bureaucrats from the rising middle class, built a large standing army that was loyal to its king rather than to feudal lords, imposed the Parisian dialect (more or less) on the rest of the country, and created a unified (and largely fictional) ethnic history for modern France. The rhetoric of French citizenship changed radically with the revolution, but the idea of the ethnic origin of France never wavered.

In Turkey, in the wake of World War I and the decline of the Ottoman Empire, an Ottoman elite defined by class and religion shaped themselves and the people around them into a nation defined by a mostly fictional ethnicity they created: the Turks. They imposed a centralized language and created a fictional history that told a tale of long-standing ethnic and national unity for the Turkish people in Anatolia, as one of the grounds for their nation-building enterprise.

Among the Kurds of modern Iraq and Turkey, it is widely assumed that they, who have never in modern history had a state of their own, are ethnically qualified – in fact, destined – to govern themselves in an ethnically homogeneous Kurdish state. Similar claims have been made in recent decades by Basques in Spain and France, by Hawaiians, Timorese, Biafrans, Kosovars, Sikhs, and many others.

So ethnic commonality is widely assumed to be the ground upon which the modern nation-state is built. Yet every European country is today in fact home to a variety of peoples who are not part of that unifying imagined history. In Germany, France, and Denmark today, about 20 percent of the people are either immigrants or their children. In Sweden and Ireland, immigrants and their children make up a quarter of the population. In Austria and Switzerland, the percentage tops 30. This is largely due to the increasing scope and velocity of late twentieth- and early twenty-first-century people movements. But the reader should not suppose that international migration is a new thing, or that it was until recently directed only to places like Australia, Canada, and the United States. Since the dawn of the industrial age, workers have been moving all over the northwestern quarter of the Eurasian land mass: from Ireland and Scotland to England and then beyond; from southern Italy to the industrial North, and some then on to France and Germany, others to the Americas; from Poland into Germany and Russia; back and forth throughout the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and then on to other points in Europe and the Americas; and so on.

Every European country faces a deep demographic dilemma that strikes at the core of its national identity. I do not know if demography is destiny, but you could make a good case that it may be so in Europe these days. The problem is that Europeans are insufficiently fecund. In order to maintain a stable population without taking in immigrants, each country must average 2.1 children born per woman. Every European nation falls below that replacement level. France has the highest fertility rate in Europe at 1.98; Italy and Spain stand at 1.31; the Czech Republic is lowest at 1.24. Recognizing this problem, several European governments have offered incentives to their citizens who give birth – sometimes in the form of extended, paid maternity leave and sometimes as a grant (ranging as high as $4,000 in Spain) for each child born. But even such extreme inducements have failed to nudge the birthrate upwards significantly.

The bottom line is that every European nation must take in immigrants, most of them quite different racially and culturally from the current citizenry, in order for its economy to survive, now and as far into the future as anyone can see. The problem is that no European country has developed a language to talk about, or institutions to accommodate, this phenomenon. Several countries have taken up the issue over the past decade, but none has yet met success in the attempt to understand this manifest multiplicity.

The European response to the election of Barack Obama to the United States presidency provided a snapshot of the problem of integrating multiple peoples into supposedly homogeneous nations. Europeans were wildly enthusiastic in the wake of the 2008 American election. Witness these headlines that covered the front pages of European newspapers on November 6: Die Welt said, "Obama schreibt Geschichte" – Obama writes history. Neue Ruhr Zeitung added, "Willkommen, neues Amerika!" (Welcome, new America!). The Guardian of England echoed, "Obama's new America." De Volkskrant of the Netherlands declared, "With Obama cynicism is past." Bild chanted, "Yes, we can Freunde sein!" (Yes we can be friends!). Berliner Kurier simply showed a picture of Barack Obama, tall, thin, and agile against a black background, with the legend "Daddy Cool!" The weekly newsmagazines also were in love with Obama: Paris Match devoted forty pages of pictures to its cover story: "Historique Barack Obama au sommet du monde" (historic Obama stands atop the world). Der Spiegel, also in a cover story, declared Obama "Der Weltpräsident" (the president of the world).

Only the International Herald Tribune, an American newspaper published abroad, sounded a note of caution, in the form of a comparative question. The week following the election, on November 12, its headline read, "Can Europe produce an Obama?" The paper did not mean a brilliant leader, a charismatic man with good judgment and broad vision, with intellect, a feel for the common people, and an uncanny knack for building coalitions – nor even a phenomenally lucky politician. It meant someone Black, a member of a racialized minority. They asked: Could any European nation elect a member of a minority group as its top official? Can a member of a racialized minority be a full member of any European society at the highest level?

The answer seems to be "no." Italy had a blithely racist prime minister in Silvio Berlusconi, and he remains insanely popular despite failures and corruptions on many fronts. There is only one Black member in the Italian Parliament. Italy has only about 4.5 million immigrants (about 7 percent of the population, a low figure compared to other countries in Europe), and one of the lowest birthrates on the Continent – hence, the great need for immigrants. And some Italian towns and businesses have welcomed them.

But most have not. In recent years, tens of thousands of Balkan and African migrants have tried to enter Italy, but they have not been received warmly. Italian authorities have pushed boats of immigrants back into the sea and deported those who reached shore. Muslims are regularly discriminated against on the job, in stores, and on the streets of Italian cities. There is a good deal of overt race-mongering in Italian politics, particularly on the part of the Northern League, one of Berlusconi's coalition partners. Various localities have tried to close kebab shops, banned burqas, and forced noncitizens to sit in segregated sections on buses. The Italian government has singled out Gypsies for deportation. African-descended people suffer regular abuse and even murder on Italian streets. Northern Italians direct racialized rhetoric against even their Neapolitan and Sicilian fellow Italians and threaten to secede from the country.

Of all the European nations, Britain has done the most to integrate multiple peoples into its citizenry, most often under a banner that might read, "the Empire has come home." Chicken tikka masala is the national dish and can be found on the menu of nearly every pub across the archipelago. Most Britons do not have a serious problem with Sikh men wearing turbans on London streets, nor with Muslim girls wearing headscarves in classrooms. But politics is another matter: there are barely over a dozen people of color out of 646 members in the House of Commons. And in an era devastated by a troubled economy, White, non-Muslim, native-born Britons have begun to express doubt and fear about immigrants generally, and Middle Eastern–descended Britons especially.

In 2005, in the wake of bombings on London streets and subways, British police saw a brown man walk out of his apartment building. They chased him into the subway, knocked him down, put a gun to the back of his neck, and shot him several times. It turned out that he was a Brazilian electrician, Jean Charles de Menezes, not the Muslim terrorist they imagined him to be, but they did not take the time to find out. A court absolved the officers of any wrongdoing, and no one pointed to the racial nature of their selection of him for execution.

Germany has an all-White, almost all-ethnic German Bundestag, despite the fact that one in five German residents lives in an immigrant household. Cem Özdemir, the best-known Turkish German politician, was born in Swabia, serves as a legislator in the European Union parliament, flaunts his idiomatic Swabian dialect, and has sometimes been called "the German Obama." In 2008, he was named cohead of the Green Party, yet he could not get on the Green Party ballot for a Bundestag seat. According to Turkish German writer Mely Kiyak, Germans love Obama, "but we don't have minorities anywhere, not in media, in politics, in the executive or the judiciary." The conservative government of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) tried to make history in 2010 by appointing a Hamburgborn Turkish German, Aygül Özkan, to a minor ministerial post in Lower Saxony. Within days, she had provoked howls of protests from other CDU politicians and the Right-leaning press.


Excerpted from Multiple Identities by Paul Spickard. Copyright © 2013 Indiana University Press. Excerpted by permission of Indiana University Press.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
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Table of Contents

Part 1. Orientations
1. Many Multiplicities: Identity in an Age of Movement \ Paul Spickard, University of California, Santa Barbara
2. Ethnic Identities and Transnational Subjectivities \ Anna Rastas, University of Tampere
Part 2. The Complexities of Identities
3. Between Difference and Assimilation: Young Women with South and Southeast Asian Family Background Living in Finland \ Saara Pellander, University of Helsinki
4. Doing Belonging: Young Women of Middle Eastern Backgrounds in Sweden \ Serine Gunnarsson, Uppsala University
5. To Be or Not to Be a Minority Group? Identity Dilemmas of Kashubians and Polish Tatars \ Katarzyna Warmiska, Cracow University of Economics
6. "When You Look Chinese, You Have to Speak Chinese": Highly Skilled Chinese Migrants in Switzerland and the Promotion of a Shared Language \ Marylène Lieber and Florence Lévy, Neuchatel University
Part 3. Family Matters
7. Intercountry Adoption: Color-b(l)inding the Issues \ Saija Westerlund-Cook
8. The Children of Immigrants in Italy: A New Generation of Italians? \ Enzo Colombo and Paola Rebughini, University of Milan
9. Possible Love: New Cross-cultural Couples in Italy \ Gaia Peruzzi, Sapienza University of Rome
Part 4. Modes of Multicultural Success?
10. Divided Identities: Listening to and Interpreting the Stories of Polish Immigrants in West Germany \ Mira Foster, University of California, Santa Barbara
11. The Politics of Multiple Identities in Kazakhstan: Current Issues and New Challenges \ Karina Mukazhanova, Karaganda State University and University of Oregon
12. Chinese Americans, Turkish Germans: Parallels in Two Racial Systems \ Paul Spickard, University of California, Santa Barbara

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National University of Ireland - Rebecca King-O'Riain

A significant contribution to studies of migration in Europe, ethnic/racial studies, studies of transnationalism, political studies of citizenship and belonging, as well as to the fields of sociology and anthropology.

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