The Ethnic Question: How Do We Integrate Today's Immigrants In Our Globalized World

Roland Hsu
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We live in a period of unprecedented scope of immigration and globalization, facing great numbers of peoples, and also cultural and social difference and strains on welfare economies.  Recent headlines in the U.S. about local, state, and federal immigration law expose anxieties and confusion, and they also highlight our search for ways to guide our students on how we may understand the origins of our immigrant neighbors, and why we should better welcome the newly arrived, as well as make our society more flexible to benefit from the influx of cultures.  For students and teachers, we search the globe for models of what compels people to leave their homes, why they are attracted to new communities, and how our own society should create more flexible cultural norms, political discussion, and economic opportunities to benefit from new immigrants.

Our most helpful model comes from contemporary Europe.  Students and teachers will find fascinating study in the case of Europe of the world's newest and most mobile communities, mixes of cultures, religions, and home origins far more diverse than in the U.S., and politics of accommodation and also conflict as shaped by the expanding and increasingly vibrant European Union.  How do Europeans, and their European Union, respond to waves of immigrants from all four corners of the globe?  What are models for Christianity, Judaism, and Islam to coexist in western liberal society?  How can established welfare economies support rapidly expanding and diverse populations?  What can schools do to teach tolerance, and accommodate children who may come from families that may or may not practice acceptance in their homes? To help answer these questions, I provide here material from my new book, Ethnic Europe: Mobility, Identity, and Conflict in a Globalized World (Stanford University Press, 2010.)

I edited this volume, and wrote the opening essay to provide "Ethnic Europe" as the foundation text and approachable guide to the experience of ethnic politics, migrant life, and movements for integration and exclusion.  Teachers, students, public leaders, and travelers on business and tourism, along with anyone curious about the future of major regions of the world attracting large-scale immigration will find in this volume our brightest insights into who really constructs the ethnic identity of the world's new immigrants.

This new work makes accessible the most influential thinking on immigration, and how movements of peoples create surprising ideas of ethnic community and difference.  Focused especially on Europe as a destination for global immigration, this tightly integrated anthology directs eleven of the best social science and humanities authors to address the increasingly complex challenges facing the expanding European Union – including labor migration, strains on welfare economies, local traditions, globalized cultures, Islamic diasporas, separatist movements, and threats of terrorism.  The authors confront the great struggle shared in Europe and the U.S. to balance minority rights and social cohesion.  For the first time in one volume, these writers give startling insight into Europe's fast-growing communities, sweeping us from the global to the local.  From questions of high politics (If Europe includes Turkey, where does Europe end?) to local culture wars (How does McDonalds appeal to Catalans?), this work moves us from theory, history, and generalized views of diasporas, to the details of neighborhoods, borderlands, and the popular literature and new media and films spawned by the creative mixing of ethnic cultures.


Do We Need A National Culture?

In periods of European Union expansion and economic contraction, European leaders have been pressed to define the basis for membership and for accommodating the free movement of citizens.  With the lowering of Europe's internal borders1, the member nations have raised the question of whether a European passport is sufficient to integrate mobile populations into local communities.  Addressing the European Parliament on the eve of the 1994 vote on the Czech Republic accession to the European Union, Vaclav Havel, then president of the Czech Republic, selected particular civic values to define the new Europe to which all citizens would subscribe:

The European Union is based on a large set of values, with roots in antiquity and in Christianity, which over 2,000 years evolved into what we recognize today as the foundations of modern democracy, the rule of law and civil society. This set of values has its own clear moral foundation and its obvious metaphysical roots, whether modern man admits it or not.2

Havel's claim that Greco-Roman and Christian values define what it means to be European can be read as a prescription for policy, and even sociability.  In the increasingly multicultural Europe his definition has been repeated, but it has also been challenged: scholars, policy makers, and ethnic community representatives debate the most effective response to increasing heterogeneity and social conflict.  For those who endorse, and also for those who reject Havel's idea of binding moral roots, this new anthology on ethnicity in globalized Europe reveals surprising positions.


Today's Immigration: Should We Be Concerned?

The scale and quality of change since Havel's 1994 speech challenges confidence that we know the principles to socialize new Europe.  During 1995-2005, immigration into the European Union grew at more than double the annual rate of the previous decade.3 Within the overall population growth, employment statistics specifically for residents of very recent immigrant origin are difficult to aggregate, but in terms of accessing professional positions, the numbers show a steep downward trend.4  As immigration continues to grow, the lagging employment statistics offer one kind of evidence that recent immigrants face disproportionate difficulty accessing economic benefits beyond state welfare and unemployment provisions.5  In this constituency, the rising entry rate, and falling number of fully employed raise questions about how newer ethnic communities integrate into local community, and also about how they participate in the Union's system of expanding regional mobility.  Once within the European Union, does the failure of particular groups to gain professional employment constrain access to economic and educational mobility?  What impact does the lack of mobility have on ethnic and civic identity? 

This anthology offers new ways to see how thinking ethnically, even in sympathy with minority rights, may be creating a condition that constrains the European Union's grand promise of a European community.  While Europe's open internal borders offer the promise of professional and social mobility, the region is following two tracks, in one direction for mobile citizens, and in another for immigrants who arrive from increasingly distant origins and who do not integrate in the flow of students and advanced professionals able to relocate around Europe.  In one tightly integrated volume, this anthology gives the reader the unique and exciting combination of social science and humanist answers to these questions of globalized Europe.  The essays, written by some of our most influential authors and analysts, take us into Europe's fast-growing communities, sweeping us from the global to the local.  The anthology moves along as if descending from the high vantage point of generalized views of mass-scale diasporas, down into the details of neighborhoods, borderlands, and the arts and literature spawned by the creative mixing of ethnic cultures.


Using Ethnicity: For Benefit or Harm?

Beyond lack of integration, increasingly intense and at times violent conflict raises questions about ethnic theory and policy.  When we use ethnic categories, do we protect, or rather divide and marginalize an identity?  In the East, such questions spring from states founded on ethnic ties: will European Union and international community safeguards of ethnic Balkan enclaves produce normalized relations after massacres and ethnic cleansing?  Does European and U.S. recognition of Albanian Kosovo validate claims for Flanders, Scottish, and Corsican independence and Basque ethnic heritage?  Does litigation in the name of Roma-as opposed to human-rights impose on Italy and Croatia a mandate for effective policies of integration, or segregation?6  In the West, concern stems from the contrary tradition of suppressing the politics of ethnic difference: the widespread riots in France in 2005 and 2007 by urban youths of mainly North and West African descent against police forces raise questions about the relevance and enforcement of the French non-ethnic, secular, republican model.  In the UK, the tradition of multiculturalism, while distinct from French republicanism, is aimed for a similar goal of creating a common community beyond ethnic difference.7  Yet the recent trials of suspects in the 2005 London transit bombings, ending in several court dismissals, have done little to resolve confusion about government policies to recognize local Imams as representatives of British Islamic communities.8  With eroding confidence in national or local religious leaders to explain the violence, analysts assert contradictory explanations linking or distinguishing violence, ethnic communities, and policies of multiculturalism.  Government prosecutors, media outlets, and self-proclaimed Islamic community leaders each speak for increasingly suspected UK Muslim communities, alternately claiming that the London public was targeted by those protesting UK troops sent to Iraq, or, rather by domestic Islamic fundamentalist terrorist cells waging a campaign for community Shari'a law within larger UK society.

In the French case, the violence of 2005 and 2007 in suburbs of France's major cities has ruptured confidence in the balance traditionally struck between public security and ethnic tolerance.10  French researchers struggle with legal constraints limiting ethnic data gathering.  Social scientists characterize the problem of ethnic identity in France as a challenge to make visible the social phenomenon that is lived but officially kept invisible.11  A recent book from the School for Advanced Study of the Social Sciences (EHESS) documents what seems to be renewed self-identification among French of Caribbean and African descent of a newly reconsidered common "black" identity.12  The shared identity is not easily created.  Post-war labor migrations from the French Caribbean and Francophone African diasporas formed mainly separate communities in France, but their children may be forming bonds.13  While state-sponsored surveys still cannot collect data on ethnic family heritage, the youngest generation of French families from the Caribbean and the Sub-Saharan Africa are creating an ethnic identity one step beyond even family heritage.  The most recent generation of children of immigrants from the French Caribbean and from French Sub-Saharan Africa are identifying as a community of "black" French. 


Ethnicity: A Useful Category for Today and Tomorrow?

Post-war era immigration, from the 1950s European reconstruction, through the 1960s and 1970s decolonization, is best defined as post-colonial migration.14  As part of the extensive rebuilding of post-war Europe, European governments targeted particular nationalities in and around the greater Mediterranean region to attract an immigrant labor force.  The new residents' education, language, and collective memory had been significantly shaped by colonial administrations, and that background gave them some familiarity with the host societies.  Since 1990, however, and based on projections in this anthology, we have entered a period, for lack of a better name, of post-post-colonial diaspora. 

The peoples immigrating to Europe are increasingly coming from lands without characteristic European colonial heritage.15 While few countries of origin have no instance of European intervention, the new arrivals are adding rapidly growing numbers of émigrés of global diasporas from Iraq, Iran, Afghanistan, Egypt, Syria, and Israel, as well as the Indonesian archipelago, the Philippines, and Sub-Saharan and East Africa.  This most recent demographic trend takes Europe, and the larger transatlantic west, into an era not well served by existing models of how individuals integrate and communities differentiate.16

In this anthology, ten authors substantiate this shift.  The essays offer extended arguments on micro-histories and long-term trends.  In combination they create an unusual and productive dialogue between humanist cultural studies and social scientist modeling to confront assumptions and clarify recent trends of immigrant origin, European identity, and policies of tolerance.17  It is clearest to begin the anthology with the most basic question: how and why are some included and others excluded as members of new Europe?  As new immigrants enter the European Union they relate simultaneously with traditional communities, voluntary organizations, and national governments, but also with the increasingly robust European Union institutions, and now with global corporations.  For example, a Hindu immigrant from Bangalore, India, to London, England, may join greater London in an established neighborhood of post-colonial émigrés, but also may seek access to British cultural clubs (e.g., social, sports, and leisure membership organizations), attempt to run for electoral office, appeal to European Union labor protections, and find employment in a private multinational corporation that limits its responsibility to European labor laws.  While in one domain the ethnic immigrant may be alien, new Europe offers concentric spheres of membership that demand fresh study. A most intriguing consequence of the new European Union is that in Western Europe the weakening of the state may offer a means of satisfying demands for ethno-national self-determination.  In several cases, including Belgium, Spain, and the United Kingdom, membership in the European Union may enable states to devolve power to ethno-regions, to satisfy demands and also maintain institutions that can mediate disputes.  Perhaps this may offer lessons for the U.S. for mollifying local and state politics of exclusion with visionary federal immigration reform.

In the new European Union, ethnicity nevertheless continues to be used to divide society, and to marginalize and alienate minorities.  By statutorily blocking the collecting in surveys of identifying ethnic detail, the French state continues its traditional commitment to its model of civic republican citizenship.  However, French state media, housing, and employment agencies consistently perpetuate and accentuate ethnic profiling and stereotypes, often in clumsy projects to overcome discrimination and grievances that are not officially recognized.  The result in France has been a tightening spiral of ethnic grievance, official denial, state-sponsored positive action policy, and the muting of research that could address minority grievance.  Blocking social scientists from studying ethnic data cripples their efforts to document conditions, give voice to minority groups, and offer systematic analysis that could serve as the basis for improved state policy.  As noted above in this essay, the republican model of citizenship, and the policy dictated to defend it from modern research detail, appears increasingly at odds with the rise of newly forming ethnic identities especially among younger generations of Francophone Caribbean and West African descent.


Can Ethnic Immigrant Communities Avoid Nationality?

In the Balkans lands, in sharp contrast to the European Union promise of the free flow of citizens between member states, scholars and artists, including filmmakers document the conditions and testimonies of those who attempt to cross without papers or sufficient economic resources from Moldova, Montenegro, Croatia, Slovenia, and Serbia into Italy, Austria, and the Czech Republic.  Immigrants, local police, and border town residents each caricature one another as ethnic aliens: they agree, however, that the European Union Schengen agreement, promoted as a safeguard for citizen mobility, seems to them principally a means of facilitating the free flow of organized crime.  In my book, students and teachers will find an interview with a noted European filmmaker whose work amounts to a manifesto on the ability of art and film to influence the creation of European transnational, multiethnic border cultures.


Islam-Christianity-Judaism: How Can Religious Fundamentalists Coexist?

Under pressure from predominantly young, religiously devout immigrants, the notion of multiculturalism in Europe, and perhaps in the U.S., may inadvertently enable religious fundamentalism.  In Europe, a new model is developing that returns to lessons learned from Europe's eighteenth-century democratic revolutions.  In this model, Europe's Muslim immigrants may be encouraged to embrace traditional European civic values (with origins neither in antiquity nor in the Christian era, but rather in the French Revolution) as the foundation not for multiculturalism, but for a cultural pluralism that fosters social integration.  In terms reminiscent of Havel's 1994 speech, but marked at an updated milestone of 1789, the result, would replace Islamist fundamentalism with a Euro-Islam capable of Euro-integration. 


1. Internal border controls were removed between participating member nations of the European Union by the so-called Schengen agreement drafted in 1985 and ratified by convention in 1995.  The text prologue includes several caveats: "The practicalities of free movement within an area without internal border controls were first set out by the Schengen Agreement in 1985 and the subsequent Schengen Convention in 1995 that abolished controls on internal borders between the signatory countries. The Amsterdam Treaty on the European Union, which came into force on the 1 May 1999, incorporated the set of measures adopted under the Schengen umbrella into the Unions legal and institutional framework. These measures are now fully accepted by 13 EU Member States (with the exception of the United Kingdom and Ireland), as well as other countries external to the Union (Norway and Iceland). New applicants to the Union will have to fulfill these same requirements. The Schengen principles of free circulation of people are backed by improved and still developing security measures to ensure that the EU's internal security is not threatened."

The official text of the agreement is located at:

2. Vaclav Havel, Speech to the European Parliament, Strasbourg, 8 March 1994, calling for, among multiple items, a charter for Europe.  He insisted that "the most important task facing the European Union today is coming up with a new and genuinely clear reflection on what might be called European identity, a new and genuinely clear articulation of European responsibility, an intensified interest in the very meaning of European integration in all its wider implications for the contemporary world, and the re-creation of its ethos or, if you like, its charisma."

3. European Commission, Eurostat: Non-national populations in the EU Member States - Issue number 8/2006.  This issue offers comprehensive data on "the size, composition and change of the non-national population in EU member states starting from 1990.  This overview is based on data supplied by countries within the framework of the joint Eurostat-UNECE-UNSD-ILO-CoE Questionnaire on international migration statistics." 

See also: Population in Europe 2005: first results - Issue number 16/2006.  "The SiF presents the main demographic trends in Europe in 2005. Population in the European Union has grown to more than 463 million, mainly thanks to the contribution by migration." 

4. European Commission, Eurostat: The social situation in the European Union 2004.  This ambitious survey is described as follows: "The Social Situation Report - published annually since 2000 - provides a prospective overview of the social dimension in the European Union as a background to social policy development and contributes to the monitoring of developments in the social field across Member States. Furthermore, it establishes links to other Commission publications such as Employment in Europe, Industrial Relations in Europe and the Gender Equality Report. One special characteristic of this report is that it combines harmonized quantitative information with survey data on public opinion. In this way it acts as a reference document, with the perceptions and attitudes of people living in Europe added to the overall portrait of the social situation. This year the report seeks to portray the social dimension of the enlarged Union, looking at both developing social trends and emerging policy challenges."   

For historical comparison, see: Richard Rogers, ed., Guests Come to Stay: The Effects of European Labor Migration on Sending and Receiving Countries.

5. Among the studies with anecdote, policy, and theory, the most systematic analyses are: Ryszard Cholewinski, Irregular Migrants, Access to Minimum Social Rights: Study on Obstacles to Effective Access of Irregular Migrants to Minimum Social Rights, and Gráinne de Búrca and Bruno de Witte, eds., Social rights in Europe, and Joanna Apap, The Rights of Immigrant Workers in the European Union: An Evaluation of the EU Public Policy Process and the Legal Status of Labour Immigrants from the Maghreb Countries in the New Receiving States.

6. Multiple cases are being pressed on behalf of Roma rights in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR), pitting advocates of integration in schooling, housing, and employment, against those who defend policies of separation and special programs.  See for instance: European Roma Rights Centre, "In Extraordinary Move, European Court of Human Rights Agrees to Hear Appeal in Recent School Discrimination Case Against Croatia," January 7, 2009  The original ECHR Grand Chamber Judgment of Oršuš and Others v. Croatia rendered 17 July 2008 is available at ECHR original application no.  15766/03.

7. Tariq Modood, Anna Triandafyllidou, and Ricard Zapata-Barrero, eds., Multiculturalism, Muslims and Citizenship: A European Approach.

8. The most recent trial of three suspects ended in August 2008 without a verdict, producing many speculative interpretations.  The basic version begins with John F. Burns, "Britain: London Bombing Trial Ends Without Verdict," New York Times, August 2, 2008.

9.  Michael Evans, "MI5 Analyst Admits Link Between Terrorist Bombings and Iraq War," The TimesOnline, 28 July 2005;  Simon Hughes, "Britain's Youngest Terrorist: Britain's youngest Al-Qaeda terrorist was put behind bars last night," The Sun, August 19, 2008,.

10. I give special thanks to Alec Hargreaves for his generous consultation on the historical and contemporary details of French government and social science engagement with ethnic communities.

11. Recent high-profile conferences focus on the challenge of overcoming what is framed as the issue of visibility.  A most prominent example is "Representing Minorities: Visibility, Recognition, Political Representation," Colloque international: Représenter les minorités : visibilité, reconnaissance et politique des représentations: Repenser la question des minorités non blanches. Une analyse comparative internationale des régimes de visibilité dans le recensement et dans les médias, Paris, March 19, 2007, sponsored by CADIS (EHESS - CNRS), l'Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales (EHESS), L'Institut National de l'Audiovisuel (INA).

12. N'Diaye, Pap, La condition noire: Essai sur une minorité française.

13. Michael Kimmelman, "For Blacks in France, Obama's Rise is Reason to Rejoice, and to Hope," New York Times, June 17, 2008, p.B1.

14. Two influential studies among analyses of the immigration to Europe during this era are: Eric J. Hobsbawm, The Age of Empire, 1875-1914, and Albert Memmi, The Colonizer and the Colonized, trans. Howard Greenfield.

15. The scope of the new immigration trend is outlined in: Anna Triandafyllidou, Ruby Gropas, eds., European Immigration: A Sourcebook, and Salvatore Engel-Di Mauro, ed., The European's Burden: Global Imperialism in EU Expansion.  Several interpretative models are put forward in: Dipesh Chakrabarty, Provincializing Europe: Postcolonial Thought and Historical Difference; and Herman Lebovics, Bringing the Empire Back Home: France in the Global Age.

16. A most recent study gives current data in James Raymer and Frans Willekens, eds.,  International Migration in Europe: Data, Models and Estimates.  The implications of this demographic swing are considered in: Etienne Balibar, We, the people of Europe? Reflections on transnational citizenship, trans. by James Swenson. Princeton; and should be compared with inter-European immigration studies, such as Anna Triandafyllidou, ed., Contemporary Polish migration in Europe: Complex Patterns of Movement and Settlement.

17. Of the studies of ethnic identity in modern Europe, the several most influential works include: Saskia Sassen, Guests and Aliens, and Rogers Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany (esp. 148-64, 168-78 and 179-89); Eric Hobsbawm, Nations and Nationalism Since 1780; the latter two have principle excerpts collected in: John Hutchinson and Anthony D. Smith, Ethnicity.  Additionally, the following were influential in the writing of this introduction, and deserve attention from those interested in the development of the scholarly literature on ethnicity in modern Europe: Joan Wallach Scott, The Politics of the Veil; Brubaker, Nationalism Reframed: Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe (esp. Introduction and Chapter 3); Brubaker, "Migrations of Ethnic Unmixing in the ‘New Europe,'" International Migration Review 32:4 (Winter 1998): 1047-1065; Alec G. Hargreaves and Jeremy Leaman, eds., Racism, Ethnicity and Politics in Contemporary Europe; Hargreaves, Immigration, ‘Race,' and Ethnicity in Contemporary France; Hargreaves, Multi-Ethnic France: Immigration, Politics, Culture and Society; Jacqueline Andall, ed., Gender and Ethnicity in Contemporary Europe; Frank Bovenkerk, Robert Miles, Gilles Verbunt, "Comparative Studies of Migration and Exclusion on the Grounds of ‘Race' and Ethnic Background in Western Europe: A Critical Appraisal," International Migration Review XXV:2, 375-391; Sheila Allen and Marie Macey, "Race and Ethnicity in the European Context," British Journal of Sociology 41:3 (September 1990), 375-393; Ruud Koopmans, Contested Citizenship: Immigration and Cultural Diversity in Europe, (esp. 1-25 and Chapter 4: "Minority Group Demands and the Challenge of Islam"); Montserrat Guibernau and John Rex, eds., The Ethnicity Reader: Nationalism, Multiculturalism, and Migration; and Judith G. Kelley, Ethnic Politics in Europe: The Power of Norms and Incentives.

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