Socio-cultural diversity - Research themes

While projects in the Department each have their own questions, methods and timetables, we have grouped them into themes that not only make presentational sense, but also provide immediate means to generate coherent theoretical exchange.

Institutions and organizations

The interaction of political institutions and immigrant and ethnic minority populations is attracting renewed interest – as an understudied field and, in Germany, because immigrants are increasingly entering mainstream politics. Department research aims to contribute to an improved theoretical conceptualization of the mechanisms that underlie immigrant political involvement as well as to a broader empirical knowledge of its levels, patterns, and conditions.

The project Immigrants in German city councils (Schönwälder, Sinanoglu, Volkert, Kofri), the first wide-ranging and systematic study of the subject, looks at the extent to which elected bodies in big cities are beginning to reflect the increasing local diversity. Further, it investigated the characteristics and career paths of immigrant politicians in 77 German cities. A major – and publicly well-received – Report (Vielfalt sucht Rat: Ratsmitglieder mit Migra­tionshintergrund in deutschen Großstädten) has already been published in 2011 with the Heinrich-Böll Foundation and Mercator Foundation. A preceding study investigated in more detail the relevance of the immigrant electorate and its representation in Germany’s largest state (Immigrants in German poli­tics: local elections and local parliaments in North Rhine-Westfalia, Schönwälder and Kofri).

Three PhD dissertations address key gaps in our knowledge: The comparative project, Political Parties and diversity at the local level: a comparison between Berlin and Paris (Volkert) examines gene­ral logics of political organizations and the specific impacts of different political cultures and configurations on responses to diversity. The project Local councillors with migration backgrounds: The rele­vance of ethnicity and migration background for their political practice (Sinanoglu) investigates when and how ethnicity and migration background became salient – among many possible strategic options and potential representations of local politicians. The project Immigrants in German Politics seeks to explain differing levels of immigrant representation across cities (Kofri) while immigrant political involvement is also investigated at the regional level (Schönwälder). Again, the profiles and career paths of immigrant politicians, i.e. the particular rele­vance of this dimension of diversity, are investigated. Further, imbalances in immigrant representation are taken as a starting point for exploring the causes of higher or lower political presence. In a workshop and journal publications (in cooperation with colleagues from Amsterdam and Berkeley) we have pursued comparative and theoretical ques­tions. West European Politics will in spring 2013 publish a symposium co-edited by Schönwälder and Irene Bloemraad (Berkeley) entitled “What diversity in European parliaments”. A more systematic comparison of the impacts of gender and immigrant background, i.e. a broader diversity perspective, is part of the future plans.

The ethnographic project Diversity and public administration (Nieswand [now University of Tübingen]) examines how assumptions about group differences explicitly and implicitly shape policies and practices in demanding public institutions, namely the youth welfare offices of the City of Stuttgart and the City of Frankfurt. Here Nieswand observed the intersection of expert knowledge, professional experience and official classification as social workers assess and make significant decisions regarding people’s individual life courses, problems and interventions. Another project examining the hard edge of diversity and public institutions is International policing, mobility and crime in Southern Africa (Vigneswaran [now University of Amsterdam]). This project concerns the role of police forces as one of the main instruments used by states to construct and address ethnic and cultural diversity. Vigneswaran demonstrates how police work enforces segregation, accentuates differences, plays upon shifting categories and embodies emergent state strategies of control within post-apartheid Johannesburg. One major output of the project is Vigneswaran’s monograph One Night in Johannesburg: Tales from an Urban Dystopia (under review, University of California Press).

Following Alex’s [now University of Tübingen] work on socio-cultural diversity and its relation to health outcomes and divergent medical systems in India (published as Medizinische Diversität im postkolonialen Indien, Weißensee Verlag, 2010), a poten­tially groundbreaking exercise in medical anthropology is represented by the project Superdiversity and pathways to health care (Krause, Alex and others from Sweden, Spain and the UK). This pilot study focuses on ways and understandings through which new migrants, with widely varying social traits and legal statuses across differential contexts of super-diversity in Europe, find their way through equally varying healthcare systems.

Since the 1960s many migrant-receiving societies have continually reshaped the role of state institutions for managing ‘diversity’. Two book projects in the Department broadly look at these developments. Multiculturalism (a four-volume collection within the series Routledge Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences, 2011), edited by Vertovec and Gerd Baumann [University of Amsterdam], presents key texts surrounding notions of multiculturalism, from legal and policy frameworks through political philoso­phies of recognition to sociological assessments of state provisions. Public discourse about diversity has a mixed relationship with actual diversity policies in public institutions. The Multiculturalism Backlash: European Discourses, Policies and Practices (Routledge 2010), an edited volume by Vertovec and Wessendorf, scrutinizes public discourses attacking what are purported to be government policies accommodating ethnic minorities; in practically all cases, however, the images of multiculturalism presented in ‘backlash’ discourse tend to be media-constructed policy bogey-men rather than real public policies.  

This theme brings together projects concerned with migration-driven diversity and the challenges it poses to various state and other formal institutions.

Encounters and representations

The Department’s flagship project Diversity and Contact (‘DivCon’) (Schönwälder, Petermann, Schmitt [now University of Erlangen], Hüttermann and Vertovec with Dietlind Stolle [McGill University], Miles Hewstone and Katharina Schmid [both Univer­sity of Oxford]) examines how the experience of diversity affects social interactions and key attitudes to social life (see pdf). Relatedly, Petermann’s Habilitation on Urban populations and their social capital surveys data surrounding numerous dimensions of social capital – especially reciprocity and trust – in cities of Saxony-Anhalt and North Rhine-Westphalia; further, his project Residential mobility and social capital concerns the relation between internal and international migration and access to social resources, comparing migrants with non-migrated people and employing advanced network analysis. The interlinkage of diversity, contact and trust is also investigated in Britain – using many of the same DivCon survey questions – in the project on Ethno-religious diversity and social trust (Miles Hewstone, Anthony Heath, Ceri Peach, Sarah Spencer [all University of Oxford] and Vertovec), which is co-funded by the Leverhulme Trust and MPI MMG. These four projects use major quantitative instruments – partly combined with qualitative methods – to examine everyday representations and encounters of diversity, and their effects, in German and British cities.

Just what counts as diversity, and how to count diversity, remains a perplexing problem for both social scientists and public agencies. The project Ethnicity in German society (Schönwälder and co-authors, with SOFI Göttingen) entails an exercise in exploring how the relevance and development of ethnic identifications, loyalties and social formations in German society could be conceived and monitored.

Qualitative Comparative Analysis (QCA) underpins the project Conditions of conviviality and conflict (Lindemann [now German Development Bank (KfW)] and Andreas Wimmer [Princeton]). This draws from the Ethno-Power Relations international dataset for a controlled comparison of configurations of diversity in 25 countries. The purpose is to account for reasons why ethnic conflict did or did not emerge among groups facing similar conditions (size, regional concentration, patterns of exclusion and economic disparity). Results will be assessed in light of Lindemann’s book Elite Bargains: The Politics of War and Peace in Africa (currently under review, Cambridge University Press) which comparatively analyses circumstances surrounding ethnic politics and processes of conflict generation and amelioration. Ethnic conflict is also of central concern in How Generations Remember: an ethno­graphic study of post-war Mostar, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Palmberger’s PhD thesis project (Social Anthropology, University of Oxford). Palmberger asked how individuals across different generations narrate and position themselves in relation to the history of ethnic conflict, their subsequent present and prospective futures in a politically ruptured Bosnia. Elsewhere on the seemingly persistent edge of conflict, the shifting configurations, representations and encounters of diversity in Skopje present a legacy of habituated modes of positive, everyday interaction in local neighbourhoods and markets; meanwhile, ethno-nationalist policy interventions effectively attempt to create parallel societies and exacerbate discord. This was the topic of the project Unrecognized multiculturalism from below: Macedonian realities (Janev [now Ss. Cyril and Methodius University]).

In yet other contexts of diversity, social skills, orientations and practices for positively encountering difference are continuously being negotiated and reproduced. Convivència and Cohabitation: Comparing conviviality in Catalonia and the Casamance is the subject of Heil’s D.Phil. thesis (Social Anthropology, University of Oxford). Heil provides a far-reaching ethnographic examination of such skills, orientations and practices surrounding what he terms ‘convivia­lity’, and how these are created in one context of high diversity (the Casamance in Senegal) and ‘translated’ into another, profoundly differing, context of diversity (Catalonia, Spain). In her project on Transforming migration – transnational transfer of multicultural habitus, Nowicka looks at a somewhat parallel situation. She asks: if, how and in what ways do migrants from ethnically homogeneous areas of Poland ‘remit’ their experiences of diversity (and emergent cosmopolitan skills and orientations?) in Britain to their families and friends back home? This work draws upon The Ashgate Research Companion to Cosmopolitanism (Ashgate 2011), edited by Nowicka and Maria Rovisco [York St John University]), which surveys and presents empirical studies concerning key themes, debates and theoretical controversies surround the notion of cosmopolitanism. Conceptual relations between cosmopolitanism and conviviality are explored in Comparing Convivialities, a forth­coming special issue of the European Journal of Cultural Studies edited by Nowicka and Vertovec.

Theoretical and methodological issues relevant to this theme are discussed at length in three other edited volumes arising from the Department. The Anthropology of Migration and Multiculturalism: New Directions (Routledge, 2009), edited by Verto­vec, is a collection consisting of innovative ethnographic studies, conceptual reflections and theoretical debates about changing practices and dynamics surrounding migration-driven diversity. The Routledge Handbook of Diversity Studies (forthcoming 2014), edited by Vertovec and containing over sixty contributions by internationally leading scholars, will provide a set of resources for understanding diversity through its constitutive categories, through comparative historical cases, and through new sociological analyses of specific settings. Finally, self-reflexive methodologies will be the focus of Researching Migrants as a Migrant Researcher, a special issue of Migration Studies edited by Cieslik and Nowicka.

Research within this theme concerns social interactions and their effects in varying contexts of diversity, and also ways that differing discourses about diversity impact on specific attitudes, perceptions and practices.

Flows, dynamics and urban space

The project Global Cities/Open Cities? Segregation in the Global South (Vigneswaran) considers the paradox that while cities of the global South are becoming more connected through migrant, economic, transport and communication networks – phenomena especially among the elite – within the same cities, among non-elites we see deepening ‘spa­tial faultlines’ of social and residential segregation. Comparing Mumbai and Johannesburg, the project utilizes innovative quantitative and qualitative techniques including modes of GIS analysis and state-of-the-art data visualization.

In another set of projects centred on new dyna­mics in African cities, Arnaut offers his skills as a linguistic anthropologist to examine various dimensions of diversity. In Language Factories: Cape Town, Kinshasa, Abidjan, Brussels Arnaut looks at (multi-)linguistic practices in transnationally-linked localities to better understand how people use a range of linguistic and other semiotic resources especially in contexts of migration. In a more detailed case study within one of these cities, Abidjan, Arnaut’s project on Writing along the margins: literacy and agency in a West African city  details the production of the autobiography of a street hustler who makes use of diverse ‘lects’ to tell the story of life within a complex urban setting.

In Social relations in super-diverse London, Wessendorf undertakes a detailed ethnographic study of cross-cutting social life and spaces of encounter in Hackney – one of Britain’s most socially and culturally diverse areas. This is an environment in which practically everyone is ‘from somewhere else’ and diversity is ‘commonplace’, providing the subject of her book Super-diversity and Everyday Life: Living Together, Dwelling Apart (forthcoming with Pal­grave, 2014).

Taking the term beyond its origins in Britain, Vertovec’s book Super-diversity (forthcoming in Routledge ‘Key Ideas’ series, 2014) will present new data showing similar patterns of migrant-driven diversification and their implications worldwide. In part, the new data is drawn from The diversification of postwar migration (Vertovec, Winnige, Matveev and Gamlen [now University of Wellington]), a project critically examining numerous sources and indicators. Over the past twenty years in societies around the world, we can observe an unprecedented degree of diversification – in terms of national, ethnic, religious and linguistic categories as well as migration channels and legal categories. These trends can be demonstrated with the latest global migration data that our Department has compiled in coordination with the World Bank and UN Population Division; moreover, this data is now graphically visualized in new and exciting ways (see pdf).

Part of the super-diversity perspective under­scores the shift, over the past 30 years, from large numbers of migrants moving from a relatively few places to a few places towards the growth in small numbers of people moving from many places to many places. This is evident in Diversity and integration in Frankfurt (Vertovec and Römhild [Humboldt University Berlin]), a study commissioned by the City of Frankfurt examining statistics for foreign nationals in the city. The project report provides current analysis and makes policy recommendations and practical guidelines for better incorporating new migrants in policies and practices across a range of city departments.

Socialising with diversity, Meissner’s doctoral thesis project (Migration Studies, University of Sussex), uses qualitative research and sophisticated network analysis to investigate outcomes of super-diver­sity through a study of social patterns among new, small migrant groups (in this case Pacific Islanders) in London and Toronto. Palmberger’s project on Older migrants in Vienna: aging and social relations adds the dimensions of age and migration waves to the study of super-diversity. She works with mostly Yugoslav and Turkish people who migrated as Gastarbeiter to Vienna from the 1950s to the 1970s, exploring how they both contributed historically to the city’s diversity and, presently, how they read and engage an ever-more complex array of new migrants from all over the world.

Direct comparison of contexts in which we find ‘old’ and ‘new’ diversities – and how they intersect socio-spatially – is at the core of the large-scale project GLOBALDIVERCITIES - migration and new diversities in global cities: comparatively conceiving, observing and visualizing diversification in urban public spaces (Vertovec, Aptekar, Cieslik, Engelbrecht, Engelkes, Kathiravelu, Krüger, Matshedisho, Seegers-Krückeberg, Wafer, Ye, Yousefpour ) (see pdf). This entails multidisciplinary research across neighbourhoods in Singapore (West Jurong), Johannesburg (Hillbrow) and New York (Astoria), in each of which over 40% of residents are new migrants with an array of migration statuses from, respec­tively, all over Asia, Africa and the world. Another urban context in which ‘old’ meets new is represented by Moscow, which has experienced a massive influx of migrants since the breakup of the Soviet Union. Moscow is the site of Becker’s PhD project (Sociology, University of Göttingen) on How migrants navigate the formal and informal state in Russia, which combines demographic, sociological and political research methods.

Finally, patterns and characteristics described by migration and super-diversity are evident in South Africa, importantly a context with its own ‘old’ or previously existing patterns of diversity dominated by Apartheid. The Research Programme on Super-diversity, South Africa (see pdf) offers a multi-sited set of activities and networks for migration research, new data collection and a large-scale survey, institutional development, young scholar fellowships and international events. The Programme also provides the basis for much closer engagement with African-based research on migration-driven diversity over the next several years of work in the Department. This has already been reflected in the project on Migration and forced labour in Southern Africa, in which Vigneswaran offers a more comprehensive understanding of migratory processes in the region. Results will be published in his book Territory, Migration and the Origins of the International System (Palgrave, forthcoming 2013) and were represented in Slavery, Migration and Contemporary Bondage in Africa (Africa World Press 2012), co-edited by Vigne­swaran and Joel Quirk [University of the Witwatersrand].

Changing migration flows and their impacts have been examined by way of several book projects undertaken in the Department. These include: Migration (a four-volume collection edited by Vertovec for the Routledge Critical Concepts in the Social Sciences series, 2010) which compiles a substantial set of key works spanning fifty years of international migration studies; Locating Migration: Rescaling Cities and Migrants (edited by Caglar [now University of Vienna] and Nina Glick-Schiller [University of Manchester], Cornell University Press, 2010) which gives ethnographic insights into the various ways in which migrants and specific cities together mutually constitute and contest the local, national, and global; Transnationalism (Routledge, 2009) in which Ver­to­vec considers the broader meanings of transnationalism within the study of globalization alongside an exploration of migrant transnational practices; Theorising Transnational Migration: The Status Paradox of Migration (Routledge, 2011), Nieswand’s book which shows how migrants deal with high social status and recognized qualifications in their home country (exemplified by Ghana) while engaged in unskilled low-wage jobs and discrimination in Western Europe; Wessendorf’s Second-Generation Transnationalism and Roots Migration: Cross-Border Lives (Ashgate 2012) which describes a spectrum of young people’s attachments to their migrant parents’ homelands; and Migration and Diversity (edited by Vertovec for the Elgar International Library of Studies on Migration, forthcoming 2013) which will be a reader in the study of migration-driven aspects of diversity, including historical and contemporary cases of social and political change. Finally, following an international conference which brought together scholars employing and criticizing the concept with regard to a variety of contexts, Meissner and Verto­vec are preparing a special issue (to be submitted to Ethnic and Racial Studies) on Super-diversity: Comparative Questions

Against the backdrop of changing global migration flows, projects under this theme address the processes, practices and outcomes of these trends especially as they manifest in socio-spatial patterns of cities.