EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006


Transnationalism, diaspora and the crisis of multiculturalism in Europe

Location Victoria LT
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 09:00


Ruba Salih (University of Bologna) email
Steven Vertovec (Max Planck Institute) email
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Short Abstract

Multiculturalism in Europe is now undergoing a crisis of legitimacy, replaced by assimilationist policies and discourses. This workshop aims at focusing on the repercussions of these shifts on first and second generations diasporic and/or transnational actitivies and spheres.

Long Abstract

Transnationalism and diaspora have emerged in the last fifteen years as powerful new paradigms through which to understand contemporary social, cultural and political transformation affecting migrants and the societies where they live. Together with the dramatic changes in technologies of travel and communication, multiculturalism and the emphasis on difference may have played an important role in forging transnational and diasporic attachments. It has been argued that by stretching their lives through two or more countries contemporary migrants can live simultaneously in two or more societies. Diaspora, on the other hand, entails different ways of identifying with a homeland or an ancestral community, that do not necessarily involve physical recurring returns and/or transnational activities. However, although transnationalism has been often represented as a challenge to nation-states assimilationist practices, nowadays, it is becoming increasingly evident that transnational practices and affiliations are highly encouraged as part of sending states nation-building projects. Indeed, for sending states it is crucial that transnational linkages and affiliations do not disappear with the second and third generations and, in this framework, many sending states are encouraging and promoting dual citizenship and dual membership. However, some scholars have been suggesting that multiculturalism, that dominated much of the European public discourse during the nineties, is now undergoing a deep crisis of legitimacy, with assimilation increasingly replacing the politics of difference. Against this background, the aim of this invited workshop is to bring together young scholars whose research focuses on issues such as: continuities and differences between first and second generation diasporic and/or transnational actitivies and spheres, the transformation of public discourse and practices around difference and their effects on transnational and diasporic ties.

Chair: Ruba Salih, Steven Vertovec
Discussant: Ralph Grillo


Methodological transnationalism and the paradox of migration: simultaneous incorporation and social status among Ghanaian migrants in Germany

Author: Boris Nieswand (University of Tübingen)  email
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Long Abstract

Methodological transnationalism is a framework allowing for the description and analysis of multiple and simultaneous forms of incorporation and non-incorporation in different socio-spatial contexts and institutions within a global society without prejudging the primacy of one of them. The utility of this stance is demonstrated through a case study of transnational status inconsistency among Ghanaians in Germany. The simultaneous incorporation of migrants in different nation states results in the status paradox of migration: the gaining of status and prestige in Ghana is achieved by losing it in Western Europe. Migrants often can produce evidences of a middle class status in Ghana with money they earned in working class jobs in Germany. Social status and inequality are central issues in the German debate on multiculturalism. The status paradox of migration implies in this context some critical questions for the general understanding of forms of social inequality among migrants.

Culturalist discourses of inclusion and exclusion: second-generation Italians in Switzerland as 'Casual Latins' or politicised 'Secondos'

Author: Susanne Wessendorf (London School of Economics)  email
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Long Abstract

"No pizza without migrants." This is the slogan used by a political movement in Switzerland, founded by the children of migrants, members of the second-generation. The goal of the so-called 'Secondo Movement' was to change Swiss citizenship laws in order to facilitate naturalisation for the second and the third generation. In their campaigns, the secondos emphasised that they belonged to Switzerland, for example with photos of themselves eating Swiss fondue. At the same time, the far Right fought against the new law with posters showing Swiss identity cards with photos of Bin Laden to demonstrate what kind of people might just become Swiss citizens if the laws changed. Despite being opponents, the arguments of both groups were based on culturalist concepts of citizenship, interpreting cultural adaptation as precondition for Swiss citizenship.

Second-generation Italians were particularly active in the movement, especially those with high social status. However, many other second-generation Italians, mostly of lower social status, were not involved in the movement. They represent a different position on a spectrum of various second-generation identifications which are not paralleled, but cross-cut by different degrees of transnational involvement. In contrast to the political activists, some of them consciously express their Italian backgrounds by taking up a counter-position against the Swiss and representing themselves as 'casual Latins'. Although much public debate is concerned with the lack of integration of migrant youth, these 'unassimilated' children of Italian migrants do not represent a threat to 'Swiss culture'. Why is the second-generation Italian's emphasis on cultural difference not perceived as a problem? And why is cultural difference perceived as a problem in regard to some groups, but not others?

This paper discusses the emerging culturalist public discourse against migrants and their children and how cultural difference is constructed as problematic in regard to those groups who are structurally disadvantaged, but becomes redundant for those who have been upwardly mobile.

Omitting multiculturalism but not its crisis: Greek state policies and Albanian transnational ties

Author: Dimitris Dalakoglou (Vrije University Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

It is well known that dramatic changes in former-socialist countries have transformed Greece into a migratory destination since 1990. Given its relatively new status as a country of immigration, Greece has not experienced the development of historical, social and political circumstances that have wrought the shift from official multiculturalism into more xenophobic policies as witnessed in some Northern European countries. Nevertheless, Greek authorities are currently being influenced by this European 'crisis of multiculturalism'. Consequently, Greek state regulations concerning in-migration are very problematic. It seems that the Greek state 'surrounded by non-EU-member countries' theoretically is applying the latter dogma of 'Europe Fortress'.

Albanian passport holders represent the largest migratory group in Greece, probably comprising almost 5-6% of the population. Today they construct exceptionally 'thick' transnational networks. People return many times per year, they send and carry objects, and they keep in touch with their relatives in Albania through daily telephone calls. They even build houses there, though these are hardly ever inhabited. In the Albanian migrants' practices, Greek state policies towards 'otherness' have a basic role in explaining transnational activities.

This paper provides an anthropological perception of migration and the relationship between state and society, within a new destination country. Analyzing the complex and dynamic relations between migration policies and transnational bonds. It emphasizes the everyday construction of associations 'from below and on the move' between Albania and Greece.

The 'invention of citizenship' among young Muslims of Italy

Author: Annalisa Frisina (University of Padua)  email
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Long Abstract

Islamophobia precedes the tragic events of 9/11, but, as in many other countries, it was above all after this date that some opinion-makers and politicians have begun to depict Muslims who live in Italy as potentially dangerous. Faced with this difficult situation, the association of Young Italian Muslims (G.M.I.), an active minority of youths born and/or raised in Italy from infancy, entered the public sphere, participating in various enterprises on inter-religious and intercultural dialogue on a local and national level, thereby gradually gaining remarkable visibility on the media in a relatively short amount of time.

The main innovation lies in the fact that these youths did not limit themselves to reversing the stigma, that is to say denying the association of Islam to violence, declaring themselves to be Muslim pacifists. Their ambitious objective has been the idea of changing the framework and shifting the discussion regarding Muslims in Italy from the perspective of a safety issue to that of an issue based on citizenship.

But what is the meaning of citizenship in their speeches and in their practices? What are the outcomes of their demands within the public space? How have adult Islamic associations reacted to their protagonism? I will attempt to answer these questions, firstly introducing the Italian context where Muslims seem to serve as a screen against which some Italians project themselves as a unity, to later show how the Young Italian Muslims association has opposed this representation of Italian identity based on a common Catholic matrix, by declaring themselves as Italian citizen professing Islamic faith. I am moreover going to analyse their various forms of belonging and participation, showing that they are Muslim democrats, practicing an "ordinary citizenship" in their everyday life (specially on a local level) and that their main feature is their commitment to the legitimation of a public representation of Italy as a multicultural and multireligious country. Finally, I am going to illustrate how the new visibility of this youth association is challenging the "defensive logics" of the previous generation.