Hamline News

April 27, 2012

The influence of Turkish immigration on German nationalism and multiculturalism

Jozie Nummi, Advisor: Leila DeVriese

After World War II, Turkish citizens sought employment in Germany as guest workers; many of these guest workers remained in Germany permanently. Subsequently, the German government extended the visas of Turkish immigrants but did not establish methods to fully integrate this population. Given the deep cultural and perceived appearance difference between Turks and Germans, Turkish immigrants provide a gateway to understanding multiculturalism in Germany.

Parallelgesellschaften or parallel societies of Turkish immigrants exist within Germany. These enclaves are primarily Turkish-speaking and Islamic. These enclaves mostly have Turkish-owned businesses. This isolation prompts Germans to assume that Turkish immigrants cannot or do not want to integrate (Chin and Fehrenbach, 12). The permanent migration of Turkish immigrants has also prompted the racialization of Turkish culture (Chin, 89). This research evaluated student perception of multiculturalism through online surveys. These German students are the first generation to go to school with Turkish immigrants.

To understand how these cultural differences play out, German students in Trier took surveys addressing how integrated they perceived Turkish immigrants to be and their own definitions of integration and multiculturalism. The research question asks how non-Turkish German students perceive their national identity and Germany as a multicultural nation. Those German students who grew up with Turkish immigrants within their classrooms experienced many cultural differences between the two communities. Moreover, in-depth interviews with German students revealed this interaction has resulted in a stronger perception of Turkish immigrants as the “Other.” Indeed, German students’ national identity is unchanged despite the presence of Turkish-German communities in Germany. Their idea of multiculturalism is based on a mono-ethnic tradition, which contributes to the alienation of Turkish communities. Without more inclusive understandings of German identity and integration, multiculturalism will continue to fail in Germany’s multi-ethnic society.