Structuring immigrants’ civic-political incorporation into the host society: an expanded theoretical model and its empirical applications

by Ewa Morawska

Working Papers WP 10-07
August 2010
ISSN 2192-2357 (MMG Working Papers Print)

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In this article, I propose to reconceptualize immigrants’ political incorporation into the host society by broadening the existing interpretations of this process in two directions. Although the political incorporation of immigrant/ethnic groups has attracted considerable attention among social scientists, existing research has focused on the “external” measures of immigrant/ethnic group members’ political involvement in the host society, such as taking up citizenship (the foreign-born), voting participation, and engagement in other public-sphere activities. Shared (sub)cultural understandings of citizenship and the democratic process held by newcomers that motivate or hinder their civic-political involvement have been neglected. Reflecting the multi-dimensional nature of democracy, I propose a similarly heterogeneous notion of immigrants’ political incorporation. The second proposed modification to the treatment of immigrants’ civic-political incorporation is a more encompassing or two-phase assessment of this process that includes not only the adjustment of those newcomers’ orientations and practices but also the reverse effect, that is, the subsequent transformation of the functioning of host-society civic-political institutions and culture under the impact of immigrants’ presence. In view of the underexplored nature of the treatment of immigrants’ civic-political incorporation proposed here, this article presents an explorative kind of investigation. Its underlying premise is the inevitable context dependency and, thus, diversity of outcomes of the negotiations by actors of the societal structures, resulting from immigrants’ different sociocultural backgrounds and their changing situations.

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