The dilemma of the bridge-builders: local councilors with migration background (completed)

Cihan Sinanoğlu

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

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

The project assumes that ethnicity matters for politicians of minority backgrounds, but not always, not for everyone, and it does so in ways that have to be understood more precisely.
Situational triggers, contextual characteristics and individual traits may influence modes of ethnicity-making in the political context. In principle this is shaped by three factors. The first factor is the existence of opportunities like communication networks and membership in migrant organizations and foreigner or integration councils. The second factor is the cognitive schemes and patterns of interpretation and perception, including individual and collective political experiences of ethnic identification, or motivations based on group loyalties. The third factor is the expectations or ascriptions of different actors like supporters, political parties and the general public.

I have adopted a qualitative approach in my research, which includes interviews, observations and analysis of documents and the social media (Facebook). The dissertation is successfully defended at Göttingen University in April 2017.

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