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Suspect Outsiders or Prospective Citizens? Constructing the Immigrant/German Boundary in Germany’s Integration Courses

Department of Sociology, St. Catherine University, Saint Paul, MN 55105, USA
Soc. Sci. 2018, 7(4), 61;
Received: 16 March 2018 / Revised: 9 April 2018 / Accepted: 9 April 2018 / Published: 11 April 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue The Politics of Race, Ethnicity and Immigration)
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Most scholarship on integration and assimilation in Europe has examined laws, policies and quantitative data to understand the integration of immigrants. Fewer studies have looked at the meaning of integration for immigrants and host societies. This article helps to fill this gap in scholarship by examining the construction of immigrants and Germany in mandatory integration courses in contemporary Germany. Using ethnographic observations of integration courses and discourse analysis of curricular materials, I analyze these constructions using a boundary-construction approach, where both the content of what separates immigrants from host society members, and the brightness of the boundary are used as a basis for viewing immigrants as outsiders versus citizens. I use the terms suspect outsiders and prospective citizens to describe the nature of the immigrant/German boundary based on these constructions. The findings show that three themes—gender and family norms, democracy and rights, and religious freedom—form the content of the immigrant/German boundary. Within these themes, Germany’s civic integration courses generally construct immigrants as prospective citizens by blurring the immigrant/German boundary. The nature of the immigrant/German boundary is crucial for both the integration of immigrants and for Germany. A bright boundary that invokes the notion of immigrants as fundamentally different places the burden of integration on them to change, while a blurred boundary potentially redefines what it means to be German. View Full-Text
Keywords: integration; assimilation; immigration; Germany; national identity integration; assimilation; immigration; Germany; national identity
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).

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Williams, D. Suspect Outsiders or Prospective Citizens? Constructing the Immigrant/German Boundary in Germany’s Integration Courses. Soc. Sci. 2018, 7, 61.

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