ArticlePDF Available

The exclusionary side effects of the civic integration paradigm: boundary processes among youth in Swiss schools

  • Swiss Federal University for Vocational Education and Training


Civic integration policies have become common in many European states and require that immigrants commit to integrating into the host society. This article draws on a study with young people in Swiss schools and investigates how these new political debates around civic integration find resonance in everyday narratives about immigration. The boundary approach is used as a framework to study the daily (re)production of the ‘Swiss-foreigner divide’. It reveals that assimilation into ‘Swiss culture’ (e.g. speak the local language and conform to social norms) remains a criterion defining who can become a legitimate member of Swiss society. Nonetheless, integration deficits are often perceived as the rule and transformed into a stigma so that ‘foreigners’ are frequently not recognised as legitimate members of society. This study indicates how the Swiss youth in this study legitimise and (re)produce exclusion and how this exclusion is embedded within past and current Swiss immigration policies.
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
The exclusionary side-effects of the civic-integration paradigm: boundary processes
among youth in Swiss schools
Kerstin Duemmler
Civic-integration policies have become common in many European states and require that
immigrants commit to integrating into the host society. This paper draws on a study with
young people in Swiss schools and investigates how these new political debates around civic-
integration find resonance in everyday narratives about immigration. The boundary approach
is used as a framework to study the daily (re)production of the ‘Swiss-foreigner-divide’. It
reveals that assimilation into ‘Swiss culture’ (e.g. speak the local language and conform to
social norms) remains a criterion defining who can become a legitimate member of Swiss
society. Nonetheless, integration deficits are often perceived as the rule and transformed into a
stigma so that foreigners’ are frequently not recognized as legitimate members of society.
This study indicates how the Swiss youth in this study legitimize and (re)produce exclusion,
and how this exclusion is embedded within past and current Swiss immigration policy.
Key words: immigration policy, civic-integration, boundary-making, Switzerland,
assimilation, youth
During the last decade, many European states have introduced civic-integration policies
because former practices aiming to incorporate immigrants were increasingly believed to have
failed. The belief that there was an integration crisis affected not only states like France,
Germany, Switzerland and Denmark, but also established multicultural states like Britain and
the Netherlands. Whatever their state-specific characteristics, civic-integration policies share
the requirement that immigrants commit to integrating into the host society and acquiring its
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
national characteristics, including language skills, country knowledge and ‘common’ values
like respect for individual freedom and equality (Goodman 2010, 754).
Scholars emphasize that civic-integration policies must be distinguished from earlier
assimilationist policies, which focused on the extent to which immigrants adopted the ‘host
society’s culture’. Unlike these earlier policies, civic-integration policies respect cultural
diversity but argue that immigrants gain autonomy by adopting some important characteristics
of the host society (Goodman 2010, 754; Joppke 2007). Although it is useful to distinguish
between policies, I argue in this article that today’s everyday ideas about civic-integration are
still pervaded by the heritage of assimilationist ideologies. I draw on a study with young
people in Swiss schools and analyse their daily practices and narratives about immigrants and
integration. Although the current Swiss immigration policy declares that cultural diversity is
socially enriching, assimilation into ‘Swiss culture’ remains a dominant criterion through
which these young people define who can become a legitimate member of Swiss society.
Most scientific work on the emerging civic-integration policies has approached the subject
from a political science perspective. Much of this literature comes to the conclusion ‘that
liberal goals are pursued with illiberal means, making it an instance of repressive liberalism’
(Joppke 2007, 1; Triadafilopoulos 2011). Since these policies are intended to promote the
liberal values of freedom and equality, individuals are required to be able to live
autonomously and self-sufficiently. As a consequence, liberal values provoke the illiberal
temptation to introduce measures that exclude or discriminate against those who do not meet
these values (Joppke 2007, 14-19). As Goodman (2010, 769) puts it, ‘Civic integration
requirements are new guidelines for what a “successfully integrated” member of the nation-
state looks like, and that can be particularly alienating notions in countries with half a century
of immigrant related ethnic heterogeneity behind them’.
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
This paper makes an original contribution to this on-going research by adopting a social
science perspective. Hardly any research exists that examines the everyday debates and
beliefs about successful civic-integration. Therefore, this paper investigates how these new
political debates find resonance in everyday ideas and narratives about immigration and
integration. Based on an ethnographic study in four Swiss public schools, this article argues
that ordinary beliefs about civic-integration do not necessarily insist on immigrants’ inclusion;
much like the emerging policies in this domain, they might also legitimize their exclusion.
There is a tradition of ethnographic studies focusing on the (re-)production of social
differences and the inclusion or exclusion of immigrant groups in educational settings. Many
of these studies reconstruct how schools as institutions contribute to the exclusion and
inclusion of immigrants by depicting formal (e.g. curricula) and informal mechanisms (e.g.
interactions between teachers and students) that produce social differences (Schiffauer et al.
2002; Bhopal 2011; Bryan 2009; Gomolla and Radtke 2002; Zembylas 2010; Weber 2006).
Some of this ethnographic work studies the lived experiences of immigrant youth in schools
and how their identification and positioning are shaped by institutional ideas about societal
membership and related practices (Mannitz 2003; Sunier 2000). Other studies focus on the
majority students (Benjamin et al. 2003), accounting for their agency and their ability to
contribute to the daily reproduction of social inequalities (Devine et al. 2008). This study
adopts this last focus. Prioritizing the perspective of the Swiss youth, it depicts how their
identities and practices are shaped by integration policy paradigms that contribute to the
creation of social differences and hierarchies.
The paper begins with a theoretical framework through which young people’s everyday ideas
about civic-integration can be studied. Since these ideas revolve around the basic question of
who can become a legitimate member of Swiss society, an analysis that looks at the daily
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
(re)production of boundaries between ‘us’ and ‘them’ seems to be a fruitful starting point.
Before I tackle the everyday logics of civic-integration ideologies and practices among the
Swiss youth of this study, however, I outline the former Swiss assimilationist and current
civic-integration policies. Next, I describe the methods used in the ethnographic study, which
examines how social interactions and dynamics between Swiss and immigrant youth in
schools are embedded in a national and local context characterized by specific ideas about
immigration and integration. In the subsequent analysis of the empirical data, I investigate
how the Swiss youth agreed that immigrants have to show a commitment to Swiss national
characteristics. However, integration deficits were often perceived as the rule, and immigrants
were frequently not recognized as legitimate members of society. The conclusion argues that
this study helps us understand how young people legitimize and (re)produce exclusion, and
how this exclusion is embedded within past and current Swiss immigration policy.
A conceptual framework of boundary analysis
The boundary approach has become common in the social sciences because it makes it
possible to investigate the everyday social production and organization of ‘differences’ and
‘similarities’ (Pachucki et al. 2007). Although people can make distinctions along multiple
dimensions and criteria (e.g. ethnicity, gender, religion and social class), this article is
interested in a boundary that emerged during fieldwork between the categories ‘Swiss people’
and ‘foreigners’.1 The boundary approach helps us understand why and how the Swiss youth
reproduced notions of ‘us’ (Swiss) and ‘them’ (foreigners) and defined the criteria for
belonging to ‘our society’.
The approach has mainly evolved in line with a social-constructivist perspective on ethnicity,
which emphasizes that it is not the common culture but the boundary making itself that
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
creates ethnic groups. Cultural characteristics be they real or not are used as boundary
makers signalling group membership and exclusion. Ethnicity is therefore not a substantial
entity but an interpretative and interactional framework (Brubaker et al. 2004, 45). Scholars
have emphasized that it is necessary to analytically distinguish between symbolic and social
boundaries (Wimmer 2008); this paper deals with the former, which have been defined as:
conceptual distinctions made by social actors to categorize objects, people and
practices... [These distinctions] are tools by which individuals and groups
struggle over and come to agree upon definitions of reality… Symbolic
boundaries also separate people into groups and generate feelings of similarity
and group membership… They are an essential medium through which people
acquire status and monopolize resources. (Lamont and Molnar 2002, 168)
If the majority population agrees with the symbolic boundaries, those boundaries may become
more constraining social boundaries, ‘objectified forms of social differences manifested in
unequal access to and unequal distribution of resources and social opportunities’ (ibid.). There
are two aspects that are particularly important here.
First, boundary processes go along with a status ascription involving a positive or negative
social appreciation of the involved individuals and groups (Weber [1922] 2005, 226). As a
result, boundary-making processes are intimately linked to power relations since they involve
the capacity of people to successfully impose categories of ascription upon other people and
to let a boundary and status hierarchy emerge. Elias and Scotson’s ([1965] 1994) classic study
of exclusion processes in an English suburb, is important here, as it describes the social
mechanisms that enabled a locally ‘established group’ to create a power relationship over a
newly arrived ‘outsider group’ . The ‘established’ succeeded because they could build on (1)
group cohesion (closed social networks) and (2) norms (standards of behaviour) that defined
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
them as ‘good’ (charisma) and the others as ‘bad’ (shame) (ibid. 16). This power relation was
maintained through daily gossip, humiliation and stigmatization of the ‘outsiders’ (ibid. 168-
70), who were perceived as disorderly, untrustworthy and criminal (ibid. 21) and were
excluded from various domains.
Second, boundaries are continuously negotiated, since social actors engage in struggles over
social categories and distinctions. The scientific literature describes various strategies
individuals can employ in reacting to and negotiating divisions: they can engage in boundary
blurring, shifting or crossing, or in changing the meaning of boundaries (Zolberg and Woon
1999; Wimmer 2008). Blurring means that the boundary is rendered less salient because
actors draw on criteria other than that suggested by the established distinction (e.g. on
universal criteria like humanity) (Wimmer 2008, 1041f.). Shifting tries to open up the
dominant categories and include former ‘outsiders’ (e.g. older immigrant groups within the
category ‘the Swiss’) (ibid. 1031). Crossing aims to change individual positions with regard
to the boundary (e.g. individual immigrants are identified as ‘Swiss’) (ibid. 1039f.). Finally,
tactics that reinterpret the meaning of boundaries might change the hierarchical ordering of
categories and try to valorise the formerly stigmatized group (ibid. 1037f.).
However, these strategies are seldom employed arbitrarily. Alba (2005, 41) notes that blurring
and shifting may occur when people’s location with regard to the boundary is perceived as
ambiguous by the wider society. Conversely, if (social) boundaries are bright, people know
that there are two sites. In such situations, the (symbolic) boundary cannot easily be
questioned, and thus individual crossing or re-interpretation tactics are more likely to be
employed. To determine whether (social) boundaries can be characterized as bright or
blurred, we have to look at how they are institutionalized in key social spheres. Integration
policy is an important domain when studying the character of the ‘Swiss-foreigner’ boundary
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
because it defines who can enter, settle and become naturalized (Bail 2008). The next section
shows how this policy and related political narratives have evolved over time and redefined
the ‘Swiss-foreigner’ boundary.
Assimilation and (civic-)integration paradigms in Swiss immigration policy
Switzerland has been an immigration country for a long time. After the Second World War,
many people from Southern Europe and the then-Yugoslavia were recruited as so-called
‘guest workers’ to work in the industrial and construction sectors. There were two
immigration waves during the 1960s and the 1980s from Southern and Eastern Europe.
But there has also been a steady inflow of low- and high-skilled workers during the last two
decades, mainly from European Union countries due to the free circulation of people in the
Schengen Area.2 In fact, since the 1990s labour immigration has been increasingly restricted
to European Union countries; people from other parts of the world only have the possibility of
settling via asylum seeking or family reunification, although exceptions are made for highly
skilled migrants (Piguet 2006, 13-20). Switzerland has always been a destination country for
individuals trying to seek asylum. In the 1960s, asylum seekers came mainly from then-
Communist countries, while during the 1990 they mostly came from the former Yugoslavia
due to the different wars in the Balkans (ibid. 78-112). Although many ‘guest workers’ and
asylum seekers subsequently returned to their countries of origin, a high number of families
stayed more than one-third of the population are either immigrants or children of
immigrants leading today to a very diversified population with regard to national origin and
religion (ibid. 1-13).
During the last 60 years, the integration policy that Switzerland has adopted towards its
immigrants has changed profoundly. At the beginning, permanent settlement was not desired
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
and even prohibited by according immigrants the status of ‘Saisonniers’, which required them
to return to their home country after nine months of work. Yet many immigrants regularly
came back and found ways to stay their whole lives. This early restrictive approach to
immigration changed when Switzerland started to compete for foreign labour with other
European countries (Piguet 2006, 23-29). From the 1960s onwards, Switzerland ameliorated
the settlement situation of immigrants (e.g. conditions for family reunification) and adopted a
more inclusionary approach that can be characterized as an assimilation paradigm.
Assimilation was perceived as a process in which immigrants adapted to ‘Swiss culture’, i.e.
learned the local language, adopted local habits and participated in community life. The goal
was to ensure that the ‘culture of the immigrants’ would completely melt into ‘Swiss culture’.
For decades, the assimilation of immigrants was seen as the main political solution to the
popular fear of ‘foreign infiltration’ (kulturelle Überfremdung) (Mahnig and Piguet 2003, 77;
Niederberger 2004, 54-56).
Due to the influence of multicultural policies in various European countries, the assimilation
paradigm became untenable during the 1990s and was replaced by an integration paradigm
(Dahinden 2011). Accordingly, federal policymakers and policy documents announced that
immigrants no longer had to adapt completely to Swiss culture or abandon their ‘cultural
particularities’ (Niederberger 2004, 147), which were now regarded as enriching for Swiss
society (e.g. cultural diversity should be discussed in schools and recognized). Moreover, the
Swiss host society was perceived as responsible for immigrants’ integration, and since 2002
the Swiss Confederation has provided for the first time a yearly credit for various integration
programs that are implemented at the cantonal level (Piguet 2006, 142-149). Hence, this
federal integration paradigm had a clear influence on cantonal policies.
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
In the canton of Lucerne, where the study took place, a shift to civic-integration policies
began in the early 2000s, when it released its initial integration guidelines (Regierungsrat
Luzern 2001). The principles it contained claimed that cultural and religious diversity due to
immigration are enriching for Swiss society and should be respected and recognized (e.g. to
speak a foreign language, to transmit religious values). But they also emphasized that
immigrants will gain more recognition and acquire equal chances to participate in Swiss
society if they integrate into Swiss culture (e.g. speak the local language, respect the social
and legal order). The Lucerne guidelines also argued against separate ethnic communities and
favoured instead more contact between ethno-national groups.
At the Swiss federal level, the policy shift towards civic-integration has occurred mainly
during the last decade. The initial aim to support integration programs (e.g. against
discrimination in the labour market) has been overlaid with the idea of controlling for
integration deficits (Wicker 2009, 25). Insufficient integration was increasingly perceived as a
threat to economic prosperity (e.g. immigrants as a financial burden) and social cohesion (e.g.
shrinking acceptance of immigration). As a consequence, individual efforts to become
integrated on the part of immigrants themselves were increasingly required. This new focus
was expressed in the new Foreigner Law (AuG) of 2008, according to which immigrants from
non-EU/EFTA states have to prove integration if they want to receive a permanent-residence
permit and ask to become naturalized (Wicker 2009, 35). The integration criteria are: to
respect the Federal Constitution, adhere to law and order, speak a national language and
participate in the labour market. In the case of integration deficits, immigrants from non-EU
countries can be asked to sign integration contracts, and if the obligations are not fulfilled
they risk losing their residence permits.
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
These developments show that civic-integration policies (Joppke, 2007, Goodman, 2010)
have reached Switzerland: cultural particularities are perceived as enriching for society and
individual integration efforts are accentuated at the same time. As a consequence, the
boundary defining who can become a member of Swiss society can be characterized as bright,
in particular for immigrants from non-EU countries. Those who do not fulfil the criteria to
live autonomously and self-sufficiently are faced with stricter institutional barriers to settling
and becoming naturalized.
Methodology: An ethnographic study in schools
Schools are interesting sites in which to study how political debates around ‘successful
integration’ resonate in everyday life and are mobilized to legitimize the daily stigmatization
of immigrants. Students of different origins interact in classes, which results in boundary-
making processes that define who belongs to the ‘in’ and ‘out’ groups. Although students do
not necessarily establish a ‘Swiss-foreigner’ divide, they may draw on ideas about ‘successful
integration’ to define the legitimate members of their ‘ingroups and even of Swiss society.
The study was part of a wider research project interested in the role that religion and ethnicity
play in boundary processes among young people, aged 16 to 19, in Swiss schools (canton
Lucerne and Neuchâtel)3. Thus, the sampling strategies, as well as the principles of data
collection, were the result of collaboration between three researchers, myself included, while
the analysis presented here was produced by me. In Lucerne, where this study took place, four
classes leading to different careers in the labour market were sampled: three provide
vocational education and another is an upper-secondary academic school providing direct
entry to university. In Switzerland, two-thirds of students opt for vocational training after
secondary education that typically combines professional education in schools (one or two
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
days per week) and in companies (three or four days). The classes gave us access to a variety
of students with regard to gender, class and ethnic origin so that our sample represents quite
well the young people living in Lucerne (Duemmler 2015).
Lucerne is a canton of 370,000 inhabitants, of whom 16 per cent are foreign nationals
slightly lower than the Swiss average of 21 per cent originating mainly from the former
Yugoslavia, Germany, Italy and Portugal (LUSTAT 2010, 2). Most of the students in the
classes were Swiss. Twenty to 30 per cent of the students were first- or second-generation
immigrants, predominately from Kosovo or other former Yugoslavian states; only few had
ancestors from EU countries (e.g. Portugal), or other continents (e.g. Asia). Here, I focus
solely on the Swiss students (having at least one Swiss parent, which accords them Swiss
citizenship rights by birth) to study the narratives and practices they employ to legitimize and
reproduce the ‘Swiss-foreigner’ boundary. The positioning towards this boundary-making on
the part of the immigrant students (first generation) or of those with immigrant parents
(second generation) has been discussed elsewhere (Duemmler 2015).
One of my co-researchers and I applied an ethnographic approach and observed the
interactions among students and teachers for four months in 2008 and 2009 (three or four days
per week). We made notes during lessons and produced thick descriptions afterwards. I
further draw on 28 semi-directed interviews with Swiss students about their and other
students’ ethno-national backgrounds. We selected students with different views (expressed
during lessons and breaks) on immigration. All data was transcribed, and inductive codes
were developed during an iterative process inspired by the Grounded Theory methodology
(Glaser and Strauss 1967). This approach makes it possible to integrate various types of data
and focus on processes, interactions and narratives while going beyond the experiences of
single individuals. The ‘integration paradigm’ was one of the central codes and characterized
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
the ‘Swiss-foreigner’ boundary that emerged from the data. Interestingly, students’ narratives
and practices not only established this boundary, but also questioned it. Even so, the
integration paradigm remained unchallenged.
The ‘civic-integration paradigm’ and the (re)production of the ‘Swiss-foreigner’
In their daily narratives, the Swiss youth made regular use of the categories ‘Swiss people’
and ‘foreigners’. They employed this division in an unproblematic way to set apart people
who immigrated (or whose parents immigrated) from those of Swiss origin. Even those who
had acquired Swiss citizenship through naturalization could be classified as ‘foreigners’
because the criteria of belonging to the category ‘Swiss people’ was not their legal status but
others’ perception of whether they had integrated. In other words, first- or second-generation
immigrants were described as ‘foreigners’ if they were perceived as non-integrated.
Furthermore, the Swiss youth mobilized integration criteria in a normative way: they
postulated that ‘foreigners’ if they want to live in Switzerland and gain recognition have
to (1) learn and speak the local language, (2) adapt to typical Swiss social behaviour and
order, (3) establish social networks with Swiss people and (4) be loyal to Switzerland. The
following analysis depicts the daily relevance of these boundary-making narratives and
practices among students along these four dimensions, through which the students revealed a
general suspicion that ‘some foreigners’ are not willing to integrate and reproduced the
‘Swiss-foreigner’ boundary.
In doing so, the youth selectively focused on those who did not, in their view, fulfil these
criteria, with immigrants from former Yugoslavian states particularly likely to be classified as
‘foreigners’. In fact, Kosovo-Albanians represented the figure of the ‘immigrant with
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
integration deficits’, whereas immigrants from the European Union were perceived as better
integrated. The young people constructed a hierarchy around foreigners according to which
the ‘ethnic differences’ of those on the bottom of the hierarchy were interpreted as a problem
for integration. Moreover, the ‘ethnic differences’ were related to religion, since Kosovo-
Albanians were perceived as Muslims,4 although most of them were Catholic. What made the
children of immigrants from Kosovo more vulnerable to being classified as ‘foreigners’ was
that the Swiss state stopped recruiting this population as labour migrants during the wars in
the Balkans in the 1990s and mobilized discourses of ‘cultural difference’ to legitimize this
decision (Duemmler et al. 2010). Since then, Kosovo-Albanians are one of the most
stigmatized groups in Switzerland, and I have shown elsewhere how this ethnic boundary
manifested itself in the schools (ibid.). However, the boundary work against ‘foreigners’ is
not only about particular ethnic or religious categories. The analysis will show that the Swiss
students’ integration criteria reflect general ideas implemented in the current civic-integration
and former assimilationist policies.
Focus on ‘language’
When speaking spontaneously about integration, ‘foreigners’ in general and three Kosovo-
Albanian girls in her class in particular, Sabrina (Swiss) stated during an interview:
Sabrina: People have to integrate. I think this is their business. I mean, I don’t say, ‘Ah a
foreigner! I have nothing to do with them’. I can speak to them. But if he or she doesn’t really
speak or want to learn German or Swiss-German, well, they have to integrate themselves.
Interviewer: But the three [Kosovo-Albanian] girls speak Swiss-German?
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
Sabrina: Yes. But they also often speak Albanian. And you can hear them and then you think
they are just right for each other. It always brings you together... and so they became friends.
And then, sorry, but they are really the foreigners, Albanians, also because they speak
Sabrina stresses that foreigners have to integrate, which means that they should not only learn
but also speak the local language in public. By using the example of three Kosovo-Albanian
girls, she argues that this does not always happen and thus calls them ‘the foreigners’,
although the girls are able to speak (Swiss)-German perfectly. For Sabrina, speaking the
language of the host society in public signifies that a person wants to be part of that society,
while not speaking it signifies unwillingness to integrate. Sabrina was not the only student in
her class to articulate this view. Other young women one day convinced the teacher to forbid
speaking Albanian during lessons and breaks. They argued that the three girls could make fun
of them when speaking Albanian. This example shows that students (and even teachers) do
not agree with the new civic-integration requirements, according to which immigrants must
simply be able to speak a national language to live autonomously. Their norms and related
practices go further and reflect the heritage of the assimilation paradigm, since the
characteristics of the host society should be the pivotal reference point for immigrants; i.e.
Swiss-German and not the mother tongue should be spoken in public.
What is remarkable is that the current integration principles of Lucerne and the education
policy at the federal level encourage the acquisition and practice of the ‘mother tongue’
among first- and second-generation immigrant youth (Regierungsrat Luzern 2001, 23).
According to the civic-integration paradigm, being able to speak several languages is
perceived as enriching for Swiss society and as helpful in learning further languages.
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
However, this study demonstrates that this principle has not been accepted in everyday school
life because of resistance among students and teachers (Allemann-Ghionda 2002, 409).
Focus on ‘social behaviour and order’
One morning, I brought croissants for the students. Immediately, Admir, Edi [second-
generation immigrants from Montenegro and Kosovo, respectively] and Stefan [Swiss]
grabbed one bag with croissants and ran out of the classroom. The rest of the class followed,
and we all sat down in the entry hall. At the end of the break, Cornelia [Swiss] explained to
me in a private conversation why she perceived Admir and Edi to be ‘typical foreigners’ a
point that had remained unclear in an interview conducted a week before. She explained that
they were not ‘reserved’, unlike Swiss people in general, since they had fallen on the
croissants as if they were famished, and they ate the two left-over croissants instead of
sharing them with the rest of the class.
Cornelia’s judgment about Admir and Edi is another example of the boundary work against
‘foreigners’: she focused on ‘deviant social behaviour’. In her view, both young men could be
characterized as ‘foreigners’ because they lacked the ‘reserved mentality typical of Swiss
people’. Although Stefan (Swiss) was part of the group that had grabbed the croissants,
Cornelia only interpreted Admir and Edi’s forthright character in ‘ethnic terms’ and declared
them to be ‘ethnic others’. Their forthright character was perceived as a deviation from Swiss
social norms, which in turn legitimized Cornelia’s drawing a boundary against them and
socially distancing herself from them as she also declared during the interview.
Other students also referred to the idea that ‘foreigners’ often do not respect social
behavioural norms. They regularly accused them of being disrespectful in public, i.e. insulting
people. In this regard, the Lucerne train station was mentioned often. However, most
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
examples that the students cited stemmed from friends. When focusing on deviance from
social norms and order, the students again went beyond the principles present in the current
civic-integration policy, which simply stresses respect for the Constitution and Swiss law and
The idea that a ‘forthright’ character differs from or should adapt to the ‘Swiss reserved
mentality’ reflects the heritage of the former assimilation paradigm that builds on
essentialised assumptions about ethnicity and culture. Ethnic groups are seen as substantial
entities; perceived as if they were internally homogenous (i.e. exhibiting a specific mentality
or behaviour) and externally bounded groups (Brubaker 2009, 28). These assumptions have
dominated immigration-policy discourses in Switzerland for a long time: during the 1960s,
sharp cultural differences’ were seen as a barrier to assimilation and a danger to social
cohesion (Niederberger 2004, 70); during the 1990s, this argument was used to legitimize
ceasing labour force recruitment from the then-Yugoslavia (Dahinden 2011); and today the
Swiss People’s Party (SVP) and various media sources contribute to the belief in
‘insurmountable cultural differences’ (Skenderovic 2008).
This rhetoric of exclusion based on culturalised and essentialised perceptions of ‘foreigners’
initiated a scientific debate regarding whether this attitude towards diversity must be
understood as a new form of cultural racism or as possessing its own logic (Grillo 2003).
Whatever the final answer, the rhetoric builds not only on racist ideas of
superiority/inferiority but also constructs a radical opposition between nationals and
immigrants… informed by a reified notion of bounded and distinct, localized national-cultural
identity and heritage that is employed to rationalize the call for restrictive immigration policy
(Stolcke 1995, 1).
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
Focus on ‘community building’
The Swiss youth in the study referred to another dimension to underline the argument that
immigrants fail to integrate. They criticized network and community building among
immigrants. These activities were interpreted as a sign that ‘foreigners’ voluntarily separate
from the Swiss. This view can be illustrated by Sabrina’s statement:
Some come to Switzerland and integrate and then they are perceived as integrated by the
Swiss. Some come to Switzerland and simply continue to live like before. And you can see this.
They form groups, foreigners; foreigners are together, and on the other side there are the
Swiss. It is often like that. I know few people who really have integrated and really speak
Swiss-German and really have Swiss friendsYou can see this for example in our class:
Elma, Kumrije and Dorina [the three Kosovo-Albanian girls]. You can easily see this on the
street, too. They are always together.
This example highlights how the three Kosovo-Albanian girls in the class were again
classified as ‘foreigners’ because they spent most of their time together and formed a group.
This behaviour was interpreted as a voluntary withdrawal from the class and Swiss society.
What is remarkable is that there were several groups in the class that seldom interacted. Most
of the students argued during interviews that this was ‘normal’ because the class was quite
large. However, some students like Sabrina perceived the group formation of the three
Kosovo-Albanian girls as evidence that immigrants do not want to integrate, whereas the
other group formations were not criticized. Moreover, group formation among immigrants
(e.g. Edi and Admir) was usually interpreted in cultural terms, since students assumed a
common religion, nationality and/or language as the main driver of community and network
building. Yet Edi (a Catholic from Kosovo who spoke Albanian) and Admir (a Muslim whose
parents came from Montenegro and who spoke Bosnian) had different religions, nationalities
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
and languages the only commonality was that they had parents from the former Yugoslavia.
Nevertheless, classmates argued during interviews that cultural and religious proximity had
motivated the young men to form a group. The Swiss students seldom referred to the
possibility that group formation among immigrants could be the result of negative experiences
and rejection by the Swiss majority.
This fear of separate ethnic communities has become dominant in many European societies
during the last decade and has cumulated in the notion of ‘parallel societies(Schiffauer
2008). It already informed the former Swiss assimilation policy, according to which
assimilation depended on immigrants’ willingness and ability to integrate (Niederberger 2004,
56). In Lucerne, this discourse re-emerged in the early 2000s in the cantonal integration
guidelines, which stated that immigrant neighbourhoods, ethno-national consciousness and
divisions within society should be avoided because they might ‘provoke conflicts’ and
decrease the acceptance of immigration(Regierungsrat Luzern 2001, 20).
Focus on ‘loyalty’
The Swiss youth referred to a fourth dimension to legitimize their boundary work against
‘foreigners’. They regularly focused on situations in which immigrants were in their view
disloyal to Switzerland. Not being loyal to or appreciative of the host population was also
seen as a deviation from the integration norm. This topic was important, as many youths
regularly got upset if ‘foreigners’ criticized the Swiss or felt themselves superior. The
following quotation shows how two young women reacted when I asked them during an
interview what they thought about jokes about Switzerland and whether it matters who tells
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
Cornelia: Well, it is okay. But it depends on who is telling the joke and how. If he is really
serious I get very angry. I can’t stand it if a non-Swiss says ‘The Swiss are sons of bitches’.
[Luisa: Yes!] I can’t bear this because.
Luisa: Because he is coming to Switzerland, he is here.
Interviewer: What do you mean?
Luisa: He should go back. And so I often say: ‘Get lost!’ [Cornelia: Yes!]
This example illustrates that ‘foreigners’ are expected to be grateful and loyal to the Swiss,
and that any disrespect of this norm legitimizes their misrecognition and exclusion. In a
similar way, Sabine criticized her German workplace colleagues, who would always act as
‘smart-asses’ and claim ‘to work better than the Swiss’. Sabine argued during the interview
that if immigrants accept jobs in Switzerland, they have to be grateful and uncritical towards
the Swiss. What is remarkable is that such arguments reflect the idea that immigrants are
‘guests’ – or at least not equal inhabitants – who should recognize the generosity of their hosts
in allowing them to live and work in their territory. The current civic-integration paradigm is
not based on such reasoning. However, the former assimilation policy already perceived
‘feelings of superiority’ among immigrants as a problem because ‘Swiss people’ could feel
threatened (Niederberger 2004, 70).
In the examples above, the young people did not only focus on Kosovo-Albanians who were
the typical foreigners lacking social and cultural integration’. With regard to loyalty, ‘all
foreigners’ were equally perceived as a potential threat to the claimed superior position of
Swiss people’, indicating that the boundary is not completely blurred for immigrants.
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
These examples highlight how the Swiss youth in this study classified the supposedly non-
integrated first- and second-generation immigrants in their class as ‘foreigners’. By drawing
on ideas similar to those of the current civic-integration and past assimilation paradigms, they
legitimized not only the ‘Swiss-foreigner’ boundary, but also a power relation: they argued
that the Swiss language, social order, population and society should be the main reference
points for immigrants if they want to be recognized as integrated, or, in other words,
perceived as having individually crossed the boundary. In order to maintain this power
relation, the Swiss youth continuously focused on any kind of deviation from the integration
norm – a strategy already well described in Elias and Scotson’s ([1965] 1994) seminal study.
The focus on deviance from the integration criteria legitimized a stigma so that immigrants
appeared in a bad light, i.e. not willing to integrate. This boundary-making was further
legitimized by declaring that immigrants are responsible for their stigma: if they refused to
speak Swiss-German in public, socialize with Swiss people, behave respectfully and be loyal,
they could not expect to be recognized as integrated.
Strategies to counteract the boundary
Since boundary-making processes unfold in concrete situations, actors also have the
possibility of negotiating boundaries. Depending on the situation, the Swiss students – indeed,
often the very same students not only reproduced and legitimized the ‘Swiss-foreigner
boundary, but also mobilized four kinds of narratives that aimed to transform this boundary,
albeit ambivalently. Nevertheless, the narratives indicate that the boundary is not completely
‘bright’, hierarchical and impermeable.
The first narrative celebrated diversity as enriching for social life and questioned the unequal
status hierarchy of the categories (Wimmer 2008). Since many young Swiss had one
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
immigrant parent and grandparents, the students were often familiar with other languages or
the home countries of their (grand)parents. Like Johannes, who openly introduced himself as
‘mixed race’ to the researchers (grandparents from Germany, Poland, Slovenia and Hungary),
they were often proud of this heritage and stated that this mixing makes people more
interesting. Adopting such narratives, the Swiss students promoted a discourse, dominant
since the 1990s, that reflects the central idea of the civic-integration paradigm: immigrants
should not completely adapt to Swiss culture because their cultural particularities are
The second narrative promoted tolerance and respect towards immigrants and distance from
people who were thought to discriminate against them – values that are promoted by the civic-
integration paradigm. It was thus common for students to announce that they were open-
minded towards ‘foreigners’ and that it was important for them to transfer this attitude to their
future children. One day, one class watched the film The Swissmakers, which criticizes in a
humoristic way the prejudices against immigrants from Italy and Yugoslavia in the 1970s.
Notably, the students (Cornelia and Luisa were among them) got heated up over the former
prejudices (e.g. listening to loud music was presented as typical for immigrants) and the Swiss
population’s intolerance towards unfamiliar habits (e.g. the use of uncommon trash bags).
However, they did not question current prejudices about ‘foreigners’ (e.g. unwilling to
integrate) or intolerance (e.g. towards a ‘forthright character’). Although they were sensitive
to stigmatization, the students were not aware of the stigmatizing effects of their own
boundary-making narratives and practices.
A third narrative was to contest clear-cut differences between ‘Swiss people’ and ‘foreigners
and draw instead on universal values (e.g. humanity). The students argued, for instance, that
being Swiss or a foreigner does not at all matter, since ‘we are all human beings’. Some
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
students also practiced this kind of boundary blurring, since they had close immigrant friends
or partners. They often held that affections like love and friendship do not depend on ethno-
national origin, but on sympathy. Nevertheless, I have shown elsewhere that the social
networks of those young people were homogenous in terms of ethnic and religious origin
(Duemmler and Moret, 2009). In fact, the boundary was ‘in theory’ declared to be ‘blurred’,
but it remained clear ‘in practice’.
The fourth narrative was to recognize boundary crossings among individual immigrants. Here
the Swiss youth referred to individuals whom they characterized as ‘Swiss’ even though they
(or their parents) were immigrants. Rodriquez, for instance, was perceived as ‘Swiss’, and all
interviewed classmates argued that he spent most of his time in class with other Swiss people,
behaved like ‘a Swiss’ and did not primarily identify with Brazil (his country of origin). Such
arguments show that the boundary was a priori ‘permeable’ – at least for some individuals.
Even if these narratives existed, the young people lacked the capacity or will to rigorously
dissolve the boundary. Although the narratives questioned the boundary by blurring it,
promoting equality, celebrating diversity or emphasizing that it could be crossed, the students
never questioned the integration paradigm. The idea that immigrants have to make efforts to
integrate if they want to be recognized remained unchallenged, and so the Swiss youth did not
question the basic element in the boundary-making process. This does not come as a surprise,
since the civic-integration paradigm encompasses in a similarly ambivalent way the idea that
diversity is enriching and that immigrants must make efforts to integrate.
In light of the emergence of civic-integration requirements in various European countries, this
paper based on an ethnographic study of Swiss students has depicted how the civic-
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
integration paradigm resonates in everyday life. By examining how symbolic boundary
processes define how immigrants can become recognized societal members, I have shown
how ideas about integration have become an integral part of the ‘Swiss-foreigner’ boundary.
This boundary is neither ‘blurred’ nor ‘bright’ (Alba 2005); rather, there are specified criteria
(i.e. speak the local language, stick to social norms, maintain relationships and be loyal to
Swiss people) that, in the view of the young people, determine how immigrants can cross the
boundary and be recognized as ‘Swiss’. A priori, this boundary is defined as permeable if
immigrants make efforts to integrate. However, the Swiss students in the study constantly
focused on integration deficits among immigrants, which left doubts as to whether everyone,
and in particular those with ancestors from Kosovo, had an equal chance of crossing the
‘Swiss-foreigner’ boundary.
In fact, this everyday logic unfolded exclusionary side-effects in the educational setting. The
Swiss youth established a power relation (Elias and Scotson [1965] 1994) through the
propagation of a norm that ‘foreigners’ have to make the effort to integrate and the
propagation of a stigmathat foreigners’ are often unwilling or unable to do so. Thus, this
study goes beyond the current political science studies on the emerging civic-integration
policies. In the existing literature, the exclusionary side-effects of the paradigm have been
studied in terms of the political measures that exclude or discriminate against those who do
not fulfil integration requirements (Joppke 2007). By focusing on everyday ideas about
integration, this study has demonstrated that exclusion also operates through a general
suspicion that immigrants are not willing to integrate. As the empirical study has shown,
minor ‘deviancesare sufficient to exclude ‘foreigners’ from the category ‘Swiss’.
Although inclusionary strategies and narratives that aimed to blur, open and re-evaluate the
Swiss-foreigner’ boundary did exist, the young people did not question that ‘foreigners’ have
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
to make the effort to adapt to the national characteristics of Swiss society. In this way, the
young people incorporate the ambivalent logic of the civic-integration paradigm, oscillating
between inclusion respecting diversity – and exclusion – problematizing integration deficits.
Remarkably, students in the academic schools did not differ in their boundary work from
those in vocational schools, although they were more subtle.
When studying the resonance of the current civic-integration paradigm in everyday life, the
heritage of the former assimilation paradigm regularly reappeared. The Swiss students did not
simply wish that immigrants would adopt important characteristics of the host society in order
to live autonomously and self-sufficiently; instead, they often felt uncomfortable with the
cultural diversity of some immigrant groups altogether. As such, this study indicates that an
institutional heritage that is anchored in everyday practices and narratives might not erode
quickly, even though new policies are introduced.
This study opens up at least two further research agendas. First, it would be fruitful to
examine from a comparative perspective how the new civic-integration paradigm resonates in
everyday life in different historical, social and cultural contexts. Such a comparative
perspective could deepen our knowledge as to whether as Joppke (2007) argued with regard
to immigration policies in France, Germany and the Netherlands national (or local) models
of incorporating immigrants have become obsolete, or whether the everyday narratives and
practices are still anchored in the institutional legacies of former national (or local) models.
Besides schools, public administrations that are in charge of immigrants’ integration could
also be interesting sites to study how integration policies are applied in everyday life. Second,
it would be equally important to focus on the narratives, practices and possible counter-
strategies among immigrants who are concerned about civic-integration policies or discourses
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
(Cederberg 2013). Immigrants cannot be perceived as passive victims of exclusionary
everyday narratives or practices, but as active actors struggling for social recognition.
The study was funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation (NRP 58). I thank Joëlle
Moret and Joanna Menet, who collaborated in the project and critically commented on an
earlier draft of this article. I also thank Janine Dahinden (supervisor of the project and my
PhD thesis), Richard Alba, Karin Schittenhelm and Monika Salzbrunn, who commented as
jury of my PhD thesis on a first draft of this paper. Finally, I thank the editor and the
anonymous referees for helpful comments.
1 ‘Swiss people’ and foreigners’ are not used as analytical categories; the aim is to reconstruct their (emic)
meaning in school life.
2 This free circulation has been questioned with the acceptance of the initiative ‘Against mass immigration’ (8
February 2014) which has not yet been implemented.
3 Janine Dahinden (University of Neuchâtel) directed the project ‘Ethnicity and religion: What practices,
identities and boundaries? A study among young adults’.
4 Muslims suffer from a similar hostile context, which culminated in the vote over the ban on the construction of
minarets in 2009, and religious boundary-making was also present in the schools (Duemmler 2015).
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
Alba, R. 2005. “Bright vs. Blurred Boundaries: Second-Generation Assimilation and
Exclusion in France, Germany, and the United States.” Ethnic and Racial Studies 28
(1): 20-49.
Allemann-Ghionda, C. 2002. Schule, Bildung und Pluralität: Sechs Fallstudien im
europäischen Vergleich. Bern: Lang.
Bail, C. A. 2008. “The configuration of symbolic boundaries against immigrants in Europe.”
American Sociological Review 73: 37-59.
Benjamin, S., Nind, M., Hall, K., Collins, J., and K. Sheehy. 2003. “Moments of inclusion
and exclusion: Pupils negotiating classroom contexts.British Journal of Sociology of
education 24 (5): 547-558.
Bhopal, K. 2011. “This is a school, it’s not a site’: teachers’ attitudes towards Gypsy and
Traveller pupils in schools in England, UK.” British Educational Research Journal 37
(3): 465 - 483.
Brubaker, R., Loveman, M., and P. Stamatov. 2004. “Ethnicity as cognition.” Theory and
Society 33: 31-64.
Bryan, A. 2009. “The intersectionality of nationalism and multiculturalism in the Irish
curriculum: teaching against racism?Race Ethnicity and Education 12 (3): 297 - 317.
Cederberg, M. 2014. “Public Discourses and Migrant Stories of Integration and Inequality.”
Sociology 48 (1): 133-149.
Dahinden, J. 2011. „Kultur als Form symbolischer Gewalt. Grenzziehungsprozesse im
Kontext von Migration am Beispiel der Schweiz.Working Paper Series MAPS WP
6/2011 University of Neuchâtel.
Duemmler, K. 2015. Symbolische Grenzen - Zur Reproduktion sozialer Ungleichheit durch
ethnische und religiöse Zuschreibungen. Bielefeld: transcript.
Duemmler, K., and J. Moret. 2009. “Jeunes Musulmans, un rapport à la religion aussi
diversifié que les autres jeunes.Géo-Regards 2: 89-102.
Duemmler, K., Dahinden, J., and J. Moret. 2010. “Gender as ‘cultural stuff’: Ethnic boundary
work in a classroom.” Diversities, 12 (1), 19-37.
Devine, D., Kenny, M., and E. Macneela. 2008. “Naming the 'other': children's construction
and experience of racism in Irish primary schools.” Race Ethnicity and Education 11
(4): 369-385.
Elias, N., and J. L.Scotson. [1965] 1994. The established and the outsiders. London: Sage.
Glaser, B., and A. L.Strauss. 1967. The discovery of grounded theory. Chicago: Aldine.
Gomolla, M., and F.-O. Radtke. 2002. Institutionelle Diskriminierung: die Herstellung
ethnischer Differenz in der Schule. Opladen: Leske und Budrich.
Goodman, S. W. 2010. “Integration Requirements for Integration's Sake? Identifying,
Categorising and Comparing Civic Integration Policies.Journal of ethnic and
migration studies 36 (5): 753-772.
Joppke, C. 2007. “Beyond national models: Civic integration policies for immigrants in
Western Europe.” West European Politics 30 (1): 1-22.
Lamont, M., and V. Molnar. 2002. “The Study of Boundaries in the Social Sciences.Annual
Review of Sociology 28: 167-195.
LUSTAT, 2010. Kanton Luzern in Zahlen. Luzern: LUSTAT.
Mahnig, H., and E. Piguet. 2003. “Die Immigrationspolitik der Schweiz von 1948 bis 1998.“
In Migration und die Schweiz edited by H.-R. Wicker, R. Fibbi and W. Haug, 65-108,
Zürich: Seismo.
POSTPRINT of the paper published 2015 in Identities. Global studies in Culture and Power,
22(4), 378-396 which should be used for any reference to this work
Mannitz, S. 2003. “Identifikations- und Integrationsstrategien von Berliner
Migrantenkindern.“ In Wider die Ethnisierung einer Generation. Beiträge zur
qualitativen Migrationsforschung edited by T. Badawia, F. Hamburger, and M.
Hummrich, 149-165, Frankfurt/Main: Iko.
Niederberger, J. M. 2004. Ausgrenzen, Assimilieren, Integrieren. Zürich: Seismo.
Pachucki, M. A., Pendergrass, S., and M. Lamont. 2007. “Boundary processes: Recent
theoretical developments and new contributions.” Poetics 35: 331-351.
Piguet, E. 2006. Einwanderungsland Schweiz. Fünf Jahrzehnte halb geöffnete Grenzen. Bern:
Schiffauer, W. 2008. Parallelgesellschaften. Wie viel Wertekonsens braucht unsere
Gesellschaft? Bielefeld: transcript.
Schiffauer, W., Baumann, G., Kastoryano, R., and S. Vertovec eds. 2002. Staat - Schule -
Ethnizität. Politische Sozialisation von Immigratenkindern in vier europäischen
Ländern. Münster: Waxmann.
Skenderovic, D. 2008. „Wandel und Aufschung des Rechtspopulismus in den 1990er und
2000er Jahren.“ In Mit dem Fremden politisieren: Rechtspopulische Parteien und
Migrationspolitik in der Schweiz seit den 1960er Jahren edited by D. Skenderovic and
G. D'Amato, 99-152, rich: Chronos.
Sunier, T. 2000. “Civil Enculturation: Nation-State, School, and Ethnic Difference in Four
European Countries.” Journal of International Migration and Integration 1 (3): 305-
Triadafilopoulos, T. 2011. “Illiberal Means to Liberal Ends? Understanding Recent Immigrant
Integration Policies in Europe.” Journal of ethnic and migration studies 37 (6): 861-
Regierungsrat Luzern, 2001. Über die Ausländer- und Integrationspolitik des Kantons
Weber, M. [1922] 2005. Wirtschaft und Gesellschaft. Frankfurt/Main: Melzer.
Weber, M. 2006. „Zuweisung geschlechtlicher und ethnischer Zugehörigkeiten im
Schulalltag.In Adoleszenz - Migration - Bildung. Bildungsprozesse Jugendlicher und
junger Erwachsener mit Migrationshintergrund edited by V. King and H.-C. Koller,
195-206, Wiesbaden: VS.
Wicker, H.-R. 2009. „Die neue schweizerische Integrationspolitik.In Fördern und fördern.
Leerstellen im schweizerischen Integrationsdiskurs edited by E. Pinero, I. Bopp, and
G. Kreis, 23-47, Zürich: Seismo.
Wimmer, A. 2008. „Elementary strategies of ethnic boundary making.Ethnic and Racial
Studies 31 (6): 1025-1055.
Zembylas, M. 2010. “Greek-Cypriot teachers' constructions of Turkish-speaking children's
identities: critical race theory and education in a conflict-ridden society.” Ethnic and
Racial Studies 33 (8): 1372-1391.
Zolberg, A., and L. L.Woon. 1999. “Why Islam Is Like Spanish: Cultural Incorporation in
Europe and the United States.” Politics & Society 27 (1): 5-38.
KERSTIN DUEMMLER is Senior Researcher at the Swiss Federal Institute for Vocational
Education and Training (SFIVET).
ADDRESS: SFIVET, CP 192, CH-1000 Lausanne 16 Malley,
... The most powerful groups are able to (re)construct 'understandings of self that posit them as having superior human value' and in doing so (implicitly) define the characteristics to those of the outsider groups (Engh, Agergaard, and Maguire 2013, 783). The dominant position is mainly upheld by the established group's social cohesion and is displayed through subtle or not so subtle acts of exclusion -in example setting (invisible) norms of standard behaviour (Duemmler 2015) -and forms of shame and stigma -like daily gossip and (public) humiliation -directed at various outsider groups. Often, such acts of 'othering' can be seen as a response by people belonging to the dominant group to subjective feelings of threat from (national) outsiders (Pratsinakis 2018;Skey 2010Skey , 2011. ...
... As Benedict Anderson (1983, 6) famously has put it, a nation 'is imagined because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow-members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion' . The thus socially constructed cultural boundary-makers are prescribed as the national normality, as real and existing model norms and tested among the newcomers (in example through citizenship exams) (Duemmler 2015;Skey 2010). The newcomers, such as foreign-born footballers, in their turn, precisely because the conditions of national belonging are 'continuously negotiated, since social actors engage in struggles over social categories and distinctions' (Duemmler 2015, 4), may 'negotiate their position by presenting and adapting their behaviour in particular ways in order to gain access to established domains' (Black 2016, 984). ...
Full-text available
‘I am German when we win, but I am an immigrant when we lose’. With this powerful statement Mesut Özil resigned from Germany’s national football team. His resignation act not only highlights growing controversies and uneasiness around the representation of the football nation by players with migration backgrounds, but also marks the fragility of national belonging. In this article, we deconstruct in detail Özil’s powerful resignation elaborating upon Norbert Elias and John Scotson’s (1994 (1965)) ‘established–outsider model’. With this, we will analyse the power dynamics underlying the processes of national belonging. Moreover, we extend the established-outsider approach by using the fluid and contextual borders between formal and moral deservedness of citizenship. In our conclusion, we revisit Özil’s statement and recapitulate our theoretical explanations on the sensitivities of this case as well on how to navigate a way out of the contested competition between nationalities in the context of international football.
... It is the social and economic position that dictates whether the students' previous cross-border mobility, as well as their diversity, is seen as a resource or a deficit. "Migrant children" are compelled to adapt to vague and evolving conceptions of "Swiss culture" (Duemmler, 2015) and to work at removing their putative differences accordingly-language mastery being one of the most visible markers of a cultural deficit (Yeung, 2016). Yet, as Ossipow et al. (2019) demonstrate in the case of children of refugees born in Switzerland, such injunctions to assimilate are rendered largely impossible, as children are simultaneously racialized and possibly subject to discrimination regardless of their actual migration trajectory. ...
... Drawing on these initial observations stressing the ambiguity of the enclave model of an international school partially detached from its surrounding while nevertheless claiming cosmopolitanism within its boundaries, we apply questions related to the integrative role of schools-a demand placed frequently on public schooling systems (Duemmler, 2015;Alba and Holdaway, 2013)-to the growing field of international education. ...
Full-text available
This article explores the subjective spatial relations that international schools in Switzerland seek to produce within the cosmopolitan enclaves they form. Based on ethnographic fieldwork at 21 international schools in Switzerland, we scrutinize practices related to diversity and mobility, which international schools construe as the main vehicles leading to the desired attributes of cosmopolitanism and which have historically constituted the defining pillars of international education. The article critically analyses the ambiguities of this emerging denationalised model that claims to foster a cosmopolitan worldview in students by drawing on the ideal of the richness of diversified societies while simultaneously restricting the benefits of "cosmopolitan capital" to members of the transnational upper classes. By tracking the underlying epistemology and the embodiment of diversity and mobility, we are able to trace a continuity between international schools and transnational corporations-the model with which the schools resonate. Our study thus supplements analyses of cosmopolitan capital by focusing on how a flexible, corporate-inspired conception of cosmopolitanism is instilled from the earliest stages of education, thus shedding light on a paradoxical interplay of cosmopolitanism and space, wherein the praised capacity of international students to adapt to various settings goes hand in hand with their relative isolation from the local environment and its potential frictions.
... Based on the idea of cultural incompatibilities between migrants and the Swiss population, policies were designed with the explicit aim of assimilating those foreigners who stay (ibid). The "assimilation paradigm", which was particularly dominant in the 1960s, gave way to an "integration paradigm" in the 1990s: the host country was perceived as holding part of the responsibility for promoting migrants' integration and was to financially commit to it (Niederberger 2005;Duemmler 2015). However, the ideal of civic-integration policies that has spread throughout Europe (Goodman 2010) has recently reached Switzerland: this ideal focuses on migrants' deficits and requires them to make the effort to integrate fully (through measures such as integration contracts or language and local knowledge tests), thereby reintroducing old assimilationist values (Duemmler 2015). ...
... The "assimilation paradigm", which was particularly dominant in the 1960s, gave way to an "integration paradigm" in the 1990s: the host country was perceived as holding part of the responsibility for promoting migrants' integration and was to financially commit to it (Niederberger 2005;Duemmler 2015). However, the ideal of civic-integration policies that has spread throughout Europe (Goodman 2010) has recently reached Switzerland: this ideal focuses on migrants' deficits and requires them to make the effort to integrate fully (through measures such as integration contracts or language and local knowledge tests), thereby reintroducing old assimilationist values (Duemmler 2015). ...
Based on a qualitative study on migrants of Somali origin who have settled in Europe for at least a decade, this open access book offers a ground-breaking exploration of the idea of mobility, both empirically and theoretically. It draws a comprehensive typology of the varied “post-migration mobility practices” developed by these migrants from their country of residence after having settled there. It argues that cross-border mobility may, under certain conditions, become a form of capital that can be employed to pursue advantages in transnational social fields. Anchored in rich empirical data, the book constitutes an innovative and successful attempt at theoretically linking the emerging field of “mobilities studies” with studies of migration, transnationalism and integration. It emphasises how the ability to be mobile may become a significant marker of social differentiation, alongside other social hierarchies. The “mobility capital” accumulated by some migrants is the cornerstone of strategies intended to negotiate inconsistent social positions in transnational social fields, challenging sedentarist and state-centred visions of social inequality. The migrants in the study are able to diversify the geographic and social fields in which they accumulate and circulate resources, and to benefit from this circulation by reinvesting them where they can best be valorised. The study sheds a different light on migrants who are often considered passive or problematic migrants/refugees in Europe, and demonstrates that mobility capital is not the prerogative of highly qualified elites: less privileged migrants also circulate in a globalised world, benefiting from being embedded in transnational social fields and from mobility practices over which they have gained some control
... Tracing back to Barth (1969), Bourdieu (1984) and Weber (1978), the approach has been mainly located within a constructivist perspective on ethnicity which is seen as 'the product of a social process rather than a cultural given, made and remade rather than taken for granted, chosen depending on circumstances rather than ascribed through birth' (Wimmer 2008, 971). Cultural characteristics, therefore, should be understood as a boundary-making instrument that highly influences the segmentation between 'us' and 'them' (Brubaker, Loveman, and Stamatov 2004;Duemmler 2015). ...
This article contributes to ongoing debates on the multiple dimensions of moral boundary-making processes particularly with respect to the perceptions of dominant groups. Based on ethnographic observations and thirty semi-structured interviews with employers in Adana, Turkey, this paper explores how distinct framing strategies are employed towards Syrian employees in workplaces, and how moral boundaries are negotiated and contested at different stages of employment in the informal market economy. It argues that attachment to morality in the workplace is distinctively (re)constructed by employers at different stages of employment: during the hiring process and then during employment itself. Results suggest that employers’ context-based understanding of morality is heavily concentrated on their moral construction of ‘self’ during hiring processes whereas their focus shifts from the ‘self’ towards the moral construction of the ‘employee’ after having different kinds of work experiences.
... In effect, 'Difference is both problematized and also viewed as the solution through the sanctioning of some forms of cultural differences' (Rudge et al., 2012: 37 [italics added]). In fact, Duemmler (2015) refers to a 'ambivalent logic' underlying approaches to civic integration. That is, while civic integration is predicated on 'inclusion' through 'respecting diversity' it can also exclude by 'problematising integration deficits' (Duemmler, 2015: 393). ...
Full-text available
Through examining the BBC television series, Black and British: A Forgotten History, written and presented by the historian David Olusoga, and in extending Paul Gilroy’s assertion that the everyday, banality of living with difference is now an ordinary part of British life, this article considers how Olusoga’s historicization of the black British experience reflects a convivial rendering of UK multiculture. In particular, when used alongside Žižek’s notion of parallax, it is argued that understandings of convivial culture can be supported by a historical importance that deliberately ‘shocks’ and, subsequently dislodges, popular interpretations of the UK’s ‘white past’. Notably, it is parallax which puts antagonism, strangeness and ambivalence at the heart of contemporary depictions of convivial Britain, with the UK’s cultural differences located in the ‘gaps’ and tensions which characterize both its past and present. These differences should not be feared but, as a characteristic part of our convivial culture, should be supplemented with historical analyses that highlight but, also, undermine, the significance of cultural differences in the present. Consequently, it is suggested that if the spontaneity of conviviality is to encourage openness, then, understandings of multiculturalism need to go beyond reification in order to challenge our understandings of the past. Here, examples of ‘alterity’ are neither ‘new’ nor ‘contemporary’ but, instead, constitute a fundamental part of the nation’s history: of the ‘gap’ made visible in transiting past and present.
This book examines Africa-Europe relationships and intra-Africa relationships vis-à-vis migration. It analyses the African integration project that is being used to effectively manage migration within Africa and across its RECs, and harnessing it for development. The book presents debates related to the EU’s hardening and securitisation of its external border against migrants from Africa. It shows that migration actually challenges Africa-European relations, which is discussed as an important theme in this book. Authors in this book volume investigate several issues ranging from conundrums relating to migration between Africa and Europe to migration within Africa, but also in relation to borders and boundaries, its bearing on regional and continental integration and the significance of this in terms of relations between Africa and Europe. This book volume brings into conversation issues relating to the governance of migration for development, social cohesion and regional integration.
The historical continuities around migration suggest that it not only is a potent force and phenomenon but also has the capacity to transform societies. Africa-Euro migrations point to the need to move beyond a narrow, misinformed populist narrative of a flood of African refugees and migrants flowing into Europe. Further, intra-Africa migration, which is characterised by, among others, cross-border informality, continues to be marginalised, so are other so-called informal actors. Indeed, migration continues to stir a xenophobic backlash in many African countries, which places migrants from within Africa in a limbo. This indeed calls for proactive and robust social protection mechanisms at the level of regional economic communities. These narratives, which this volume has examined, point to the need for effective migration governance, which will lead to better regions and inclusive development.
Migration has been dominating the national, regional, and global scholarly discourse in recent years. Recent global estimates indicate that 3.4 percent of the world’s population, about 258 million people, are international migrants and all countries are origins and destinations of human migration. Poverty and inequality constructed within the dominant national economic paradigm compounds the problematics of migration. Consequently, the United Nations (UN) initiated the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty in all its forms; however, that there is a nexus between migration and sustainable development is not in doubt. But the nexus between migration and sustainable development is not a one-way traffic; rather, it is a two-way traffic. In other words, there is a reciprocal relationship between migration and sustainable development. Thus, while migration affects sustainable development, conversely, sustainable development influences migration. The study concludes that while documented migration tends to beget sustainable development, undocumented voluntary international migration tends to endanger it. Conversely, while sustainable development is likely to increase documented migration, lack of it tends to increase undocumented migration. For migration to be a win-win for both origin and host countries, the study recommended that an effective global policy on migration that can reduce undocumented voluntary international migration and encourage documented international migration is a harbinger for sustainable development which can enhance global prosperity, peace, and security. This chapter is essentially a desktop study relying solely on secondary data.
This chapter examines African migrants’ aspirations and citizens’ anxieties and South Africa’s vision of migration management. Migration management is identified in this chapter as the theoretical platform where the vision of the future is played out by the state, its citizens and the migrants. Migration management is evolving to interlink the agents of migration management, the migrants and their society in defining migration and the accompanying intervention mechanisms. Notwithstanding, the comprehensive turn of migration management has not proved effective in stopping the flow of unwanted migrants, neither has it concretely improved the wellbeing of citizens. This chapter is organized into sections that examine the anxiety of South African citizens from a socioeconomic perspective, discusses vulnerable African migrants’ presence from the prospective opportunities in entrepreneurship and utilizes migration management as a concept to call attention to state capacity and the need for a more creative approach to immigration issues that will engage sending and receiving countries alongside regional bodies.
Migration is a force that has led to the transformation of modernity (Papastergiadis, The turbulence of migration: Globalization, deterritorialization and hybridity. Cambridge: Polity Press, 2000). This transformation has taken many forms and continues to do so. In order to better understand the complexity of the situation, this book addresses both the migration flows and processes within Africa and between Africa and Europe. The continent of Africa is characterised by extensive interactions across its artificial and contiguous borders and borderlands. In addition, there are efforts at regionalism, and therefore, the question of whether efforts to integrate Africa, through the regional economic communities, could be informed by lessons and parallels drawn from across Africa is tackled in this book. And given that the issue of migration is challenging intra-Africa relationships as well as its relationships with other regions of the world, such as Europe, the question of how migration can be managed to trigger socio-economic transformation and development in Africa is discussed in the African context, but also in light of the experiences of the EU.
Full-text available
Die Schweiz gilt international als Modell eines gelungenen Multikulturalismus, dann nämlich wenn es das Zusammenleben der vier Sprachgruppen (Romands, DeutschschweizerInnen, TessinerInnen, RäteromanInnen) betrifft. Ein sprachlicher wie auch religiöser Pluralismus ist und war stets ein Grundbaustein des Selbstverständnisses der „Willensnation“ Schweiz. Geht es aber um MigrantInnen präsentiert sich die Geschichte anders, denn in diesem Falle erscheinen religiöse und ethnisch-kulturelle Pluralität vorwiegend als problematisch. MigrantInnen gehören entsprechend den öffentlichen und politischen Diskursen nicht zum multikulturellen Staat, vielmehr sind Prozesse kollektiver Grenzziehungen und damit Schließungsmechanismen zu beobachten, in denen Ethnizität, Religion und Kultur zu den wichtigsten Differenzierungsmerkmale werden, wie Gemeinsamkeiten gegen innen (SchweizerInnen) und Barrieren gegen außen (Ausländer, Migranten, Muslims, etc.) hergestellt werden. Ich argumentiere in diesem Kapitel, dass sich dieser „Kulturdiskurs“ im letzten Jahrzehnt verstärkt hat und gleichzeitig semantischen Verschiebungen unterworfen war. Mittels der Grenzziehungsperspektive wird historisch nachvollzogen, wie Zuwanderung und Integration in politischen Debatten und Gesetz zunehmend kulturalisiert und ethnisiert wurden. Ein Fallbeispiel aus der Forschung dient mir anschließend der Veranschaulichung dieser theoretischen Perspektive und dieses „neuen“ Essentialismus.
Full-text available
Cet article soulève la question du rapport que les jeunes de confession musulmane vivant dans le Canton de Neuchâtel entretiennent avec leur religion et avec les autres jeunes. Il questionne la supposition selon laquelle ces jeunes auraient un rapport plus assidu à la religion. L’analyse s’appuie sur des données quantitatives obtenues lors d’une enquête téléphonique menée auprès de jeunes de toutes confessions à Neuchâtel et à Lucerne.
Full-text available
In recent years, the concept of boundaries has been at the center of influential research agendas in anthropology, history, political science, social psychology, and sociology. This article surveys some of these developments while describing the value added provided by the concept, particularly concerning the study of relational processes. It discusses literatures on (a) social and collective identity; (b) class, ethnic/racial, and gender/sex inequality; (c) professions, knowledge, and science; and (d) communities, national identities, and spatial boundaries. It points to similar processes at work across a range of institutions and social locations. It also suggests paths for further developments, focusing on the relationship between social and symbolic boundaries, cultural mechanisms for the production of boundaries, difference and hybridity, and cultural membership and group classifications.
This paper takes stock of the most recent scholarship on symbolic boundaries and how these interact with social boundaries — more durable and institutionalized social differences. Our primary goal is to raise awareness of a growing body of empirical work, and to highlight key mechanisms which they address, among them: the strategic management of collective identities, cultural classification, the construction of authenticity, moral boundary maintenance, and genre-crossing. We introduce the articles included in this issue and discuss how ethno-racial boundaries intersect with class, immigration, and nationhood. We also describe new work on aesthetic boundaries, as well as recent efforts pertaining to gender, sexuality, the workplace, and religion. We close with a discussion of promising research on health, risk, and policy. We hope to demonstrate some of the intellectual rewards of interdisciplinary engagement, and encourage others to more systematically contribute to analyzing fundamental boundary processes.
This article considers the role of public discourses in biographical narratives by focusing on discourses of integration and migrant narratives in a contemporary Swedish context. In particular, it explores how public discourses that emphasise migrants' agency and responsibility to 'integrate' help frame the ways in which migrants present themselves. While recognising the importance of biographical research for exploring migrants' experiences and bringing their voices to the fore, the article argues that we need to pay more attention to how public discourses constrain narratives. It proposes that migrant narratives studied in their social and political context can be used to understand inequalities not only by gaining knowledge of lived experiences of inequalities, but also by considering how dominant discourses help to normalise some of those experiences, and as such may contribute to the reproduction of inequalities.
Einwanderer und ihre Nachfahren sind beim Zugang zu gesellschaftlichen Ressourcen und Positionen oft mit Barrieren konfrontiert. Wie werden diese in der Lebenswelt aufrechterhalten und wie werden sie umkämpft? Das Buch gewährt Einblicke in den Schweizer Schulalltag und zeigt, wie Jugendliche Ungleichheiten interaktiv über symbolische Grenzziehungen reproduzieren: Gestützt auf religiöse und ethnische Zuschreibungen wird bestimmten Einwanderergruppen soziale Anerkennung verweigert – aber auch für sie eingefordert.