Fluid Identities and Navigating Integration: The Politics of Solidarity in Contemporary Germany
Due to political, economic and environmental reasons, immigration in Europe will only increase. Therefore the question is not if immigrants should be allowed into Europe, but rather once they have arrived, what should integration look like?
In the summer of 2016, using the politics of solidarity as a framework, I conducted 15 qualitative interviews in Germany. At that point Germany had opened its borders the previous August 2015 and subsequently closed them on January 1, 2016 following political backlash from the alleged mass sexual assaults in Cologne. It is these months of solidarity, humanity, and the politicization of a generation, which I chose to investigate. I looked at this period as an “event” or “movement” which transformed Germany and has the potential to inform, and to be compared to, other social movements working in solidarity with immigrants and refugees worldwide. I spoke to activists, artists, teachers, politicians, students, religious leaders, economists, psychologists, academics and volunteers, all of whom had been active in what has been called Wilkommenkultur (Welcome Culture).
An analysis of these interviews has led me to question some assumptions concerning identity, solidarity and cross-cultural assimilation. 1) Identities are fluid, e.g. an asylum seeker I spoke to was also an activist whose initiatives, despite not being permitted to work, actually created paying jobs. 2) The shifting meaning of solidarity and an acute awareness of the necessity to listen rather than to tell, e.g. a woman’s choice to wear a headscarf can be an illustration of agency rather than submission. 3) Understanding diversity as a resource. European countries are still in the process of unlearning colonialism and erasing hierarchical structures in knowledge, such as acknowledging Arabic as an asset in both academia and business.
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