AHA Session 147
Friday, January 5, 2018: 3:30 PM-5:00 PM
Columbia 5 (Washington Hilton, Terrace Level)
Rita Chin, University of Michigan
Todd Shepard, Johns Hopkins University
When German Chancellor Angela Merkel declared in a 2010 speech that Germany's experiment with multiculturalism had failed, she brought the question of immigrant integration - particularly regarding Germany's large Turkish minority - dramatically to the fore. In the context of the recent refugee crisis and ascendant racist nationalism, debates about migration have taken on new urgency across the European Union. However, the question of whether or not immigrants, particularly from majority Muslim countries, could find a place in Western European societies has been debated since the establishment of guest worker programs after the Second World War and the simultaneous collapse of colonial regimes in North Africa and the Middle East. This session will examine how debates about migration have been articulated through discourses of assimilation, race, and nationalism in several European countries, as well as how telling silences of left-wing activists and mainstream political parties shaped these discourses. These debates were often articulated in highly gendered and sexualized terms, as Europeans across the political spectrum both deployed prevailing notions of gender and sexuality to bolster their positions and, in the case of gay and feminist activists, harnessed racialized political discourses of migration to make forceful claims about the situation of women and sexual minorities in Europe. In using the individual contexts of West Germany, the Netherlands, and Southern Europe as case studies, this panel will highlight both the contingent nature of racial "otherness" as well as the fragility of centrist policies used to negotiate the politics of migration and European integration. In doing so, this panel will examine the longer history multiculturalism in its international context and the deep, racialized fears that immigration, so often supported by Western European governments, could elicit.
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