Local councillors with migration background

Local councillors with migration background: The role of migration background and ethnicity for their political practices

Cihan Sinanoglu


About 200 councillors in German big cities now have a migration background. For whom and in what ways does this matter? Why should membership in a primarily statistical group – of people of particular national origin – lead to political practices that differ from those of politician who are not part of this statistical group?

The PhD-project investigates the political practices of local councilors with migration backgrounds. It looks at the councillors themselves and their motivations and strategies as well as at the interaction between the immigrant councillors and citizens and between the councillors and their parties. ?

The project presumes that ethnicity matters for politicians of minority backgrounds but not always, not for everyone and in ways that have to be understood more precisely.

Situational triggers, contextual characteristics, and individual traits may influence the modes of ethnicity making in the political context.

In principle this is shaped by three factors. The first comprises the opportunities like communication networks, membership in migrant organizations or foreigner- or integration councils. The second consists of cognitive schemes and patterns of interpretation and perception including individual and collective political experiences with ethnic identification, or motivations based on group-loyalties. The third factor are the expectations or ascriptions of different actors like supporters, party and the public.

I follow a qualitative approach in my research, which includes interviews, observations and analysis of documents and the social media (Facebook).