People who have to cross a border to get to us, because of how we see this and the way we view them, namely from an ethnic-nationalistic perspective (p. 89), become ‘the others’. In public discussions practically all reports on migration and interculturality . . . are presented with regard to people’s different national origins (p. 89), which confirms the power of the ethnic-nationalistic view.
This limited view dictates the way everyday strategies are perceived, ways of life such as facing barriers and cases of discrimination that migrants experience. Yildiz calls for a calmer look at the social practices of people with a migration background (p.89), so as to be aware of their unexceptional social grammar. On the one hand it seems in socio-historical studies of European history that this view was moulded by waves of migration and the formation and urban growth of towns was aided by migrant mobility. On the other hand, it is striking that this state of affairs barely exists in the public’s memory. In a discussion about media and survey reports from Germany and institution reports from Austria (Der Spiegel 42/2009, page 33 concerning Sarrazin’s speech in Berlin), it is clear on a closer inspection of the concluding media reports and the research findings that the results do not agree with the statements of the migrants interviewed. A gridlocked perception becomes apparent, which is a starting point for any kind of discourse on integration (page 91). So while patterns of behaviour of nationals regarding mobility, individuality and cosmopolitan orientation are regarded as positive and desirable, these are considered problem areas among migrants and refugees. The migrant group of the population, although neither good nor bad, is perceived as a “homogeneous mass”, as a drain on the economy and resistant to integration (page 92). Cultural disorientation of young migrants is almost automatic and that and the resultant disposition to violence are massive problems that underpin socialization. From his studies of critical social research Yildiz concludes that the classic image of decaying cities and culturally disorientated young migrants prone to violence is a crude exaggeration and the result of one-sided ideology-controlled research (page 93). And he goes on The grievance is excessive because it underestimates the value of diversity in today’s cities and the multifaceted everyday reality of migrants’ lives.
It is therefore worth analysing how migrants are seen. According to well known ethnic interpretative models, they are already defined as a drain on the economy and linked to problems of conflict. In this way society is being reduced to the binary principle of “Us and them” (page 93). Expressions such as ‘in between two cultures’ and ‘neither one thing nor the other’ are coined and accepted and practical experience and individual lifestyles are overlooked.
Migration is not seen as a form of mobility and thus a new orientation but as an educational problem. A person starts out by helping migrants and their children to integrate, so that from an economic point of view a “false” socialization is assumed, and their real domestic socialization is automatically regarded as incongruous (page 94). This being a drain on society meaning has survived till now, and is normal in most European immigrant societies (page 95). This is also how the myth of ethnic identity is established, which is not based on concrete everyday experiences and this leads automatically to migrants being culturally and ethnically stereotyped (page 95).
In critical migration research they have been calling for a radical change of perspective for years . . according to which migration and migrants become not token ethnic members of society but the subject of post-war history (page 95). The results of our studies of urban areas show . . . that so-called ‘ethnic’ relationships are becoming increasingly difficult and more complicated . . . Tolerance and diversification of ‘worlds’ (page 96) show that all sorts of things distinguish human beings and that it is possible for particular individuals to live in different worlds and to start again in a new direction.
From a different perspective the everyday routine of migrants can of course be regarded without the conventional debate (page 97) and can deal with how daily life actually unfolds in all its facets, in financial, academic, political and neighbourly terms. In this way an entirely unexceptional everyday routine (page 97) is recognizable.
When one asks migrant young people for example, it turns out that the projects they take on are determined not by ethnic values but have transnational and cosmopolitan bases. This clearly shows the ‘mundane cosmo-political awareness’(Ulrich Beck) of our society from below (page 98). New cultural forms of expression from migrant young people and the ‘neo-ethnicity’ constructed by migrant youth is not an unbroken tradition nor a vestige of the original culture, but a responsive new orientation (underlined in italics) representing a global opening up process (page 99). This new orientation phase is a experimentation space, a learning process, ‘breaking away from identities’ (Sassen 1997). This makes possible a sort of multi-perspective view of the world (page 100).
From this new modified point of view it is obvious that mobile individuals have no ‘accumulated identity needs’. They belong in a manner of speaking to prototypical inhabitants of a society which is the world, who . . . cannot easily be classified in hegemonic terms and whose conventional understanding of mobility and sedentariness is being called into question (page 101).
Yildiz, Erol, has been Professor for Intercultural Learning at the Cultural Studies Faculty of Klagenfurt University since 2008. His main focuses are Migration Research, Town and Migration and Intercultural Education.