Rethinking 'Us' & 'Them': Integration and Diversity in Europe

Chapters 2 › Unit 2: Who to you is a 'real German' (or anything else)? View instructions Hide instructions

Who to you is a 'real German' (or anything else)?

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Tell us: Who to you is a 'real German' (or Spaniard, Brit, Canadian, or anything else!)

In this chapter, you've been given a lot of food for thought on identity and belonging as it is understood on the personal and academic levels in Europe, Canada, and beyond. This is a topic that has likely hit home for many of you who may or may not be tied to particular borders, have questions or concerns about who belongs in your society, or may still be unsure about the whole thing. The 'Us' & 'Them' course community would love to hear from you:

Here are some guiding questions to draw from:

  • What do you think the criteria should be for becoming a 'real' citizen or resident of your country?
  • What makes you a 'real' anything? (German, American, Spaniard, Turk, etc.)?
  • Do you see a cognitive vs. emotional dissonance in the way your society sees immigration, belonging, citizenship, etc.?
  • How do you identify with the word 'multiculturalism'? Do you see yourself or your society as multicultural?
  • Who is represented as nationals or residents of your country in public life?
  • How do politicians and public figures in your society or country portray multiculturalism? As a good, bad, or normal thing? What about schools and museums?
  • What type of language do you use to talk about the 'Other' or what kind of language do you prefer others use in reference to you? (e.g. migration background vs. migration history, 'Turkish-German' or 'German with Turkish roots', etc.)

Now what?
Click 'Start in Journal', and fill out the entry. How you do this is up to you: You can use just words, or add pictures or links to articles or videos to highlight your point!

Is this journal assignment required?
No! Nothing in our course is 'required', and there are no grades, but we encourage you to reflect on these topics and share if you feel comfortable, so that others in the course can benefit from your experiences.

Complex and conflictual identities


I feel it is important to distinguish between one's citizenship and one's identity as these are different concepts. I prefer to see citizenship as a legal status that has rights as well as obligations attached to it, whereas identity to me is much more personal, complex, and dynamic. Our identity can be contradictory - feeling attached to both traditional conceptions of a family and equally being a feminist.

To be considered a citizen of a country one must adhere to the political principles, values and processes of that country and fulfil his/her obligations as a political member of the country.

The question of what constitutes 'German', 'British' or 'you-name-it' ness is a really interesting and fascinating one, as, while we can observe certain traits across different people/nations, there is also a great diversity. And there are fascinating anthropological studies which aim at getting a snapshot of what constitutes 'being German' today. What we need to bear in mind is that these snapshots are temporary and not fixed, in the same way as our individual identities are dynamic.

And regardless of a certain distinctiveness of certain national traits, particularly, in democratic countries, other cultural expressions also need to be possible and acknowledged.

Canada's multiculturalism funding programme, its' conception of multiculturalism as a cornerstone of Canadian identity are remarkable initiatives which enable, I would think, better conditions for people of different cultural backgrounds to live together. And I wonder what other political institutions and processes exist that allow for a greater cohesion of different cultural communities.


I wonder, too, if other political institutions and processes exist that allow for greater social cohesion in diverse societies. Can you think of any examples? When I was reading your entry, a recent trip to Los Angeles came to mind. The city is very diverse and celebrates its diversity in distinct neighborhoods, like Little Tokyo. Here, the Japanese community has developed a series of museums and art initiatives that engage with residents outside their community, whether fellow Californians or tourists. These institutions share both cultural and collective history, making personal experience both unique and shared. So much is possible!

over 1 year ago

Hi Kelly, many thanks for your comment. Indeed, there are plenty of cultural celebrations like the fest of Kulturen where various different communities get to showcase their traditional dances and cuisine. I am personally a huge fan of film festivals curated by 'migrant communities'. They allow people to get such a deep insight into societal dynamics that you may perceive as different. And equally, because films are always about telling stories, they break down our judgements and allow us to connect with a character and thus see the world from their perspective. Very powerful!

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