Welcome to Rethinking ‘Us’ & ‘Them’!

with Irene Bloemraad and Naika Foroutan

Welcome to the series Rethinking ‘Us’ & ‘Them’: Integration and Diversity in Europe, produced by the Berlin-based non-profit organization Migration Matters. This series features one-of-a-kind conversations with original thinkers, from researchers to practitioners to migrants and refugees, and covers various perspectives and insights related to integration, diversity, and social cohesion in today’s Europe and beyond.

Who Is ‘Us’ and Who Is ‘Them’?

Before we get into the nitty gritty of things, let’s dissect what ‘us’ and ‘them’ actually means to us in our everyday lives. We know that nationalist narratives tend to divide populations into ‘Us’, the citizens, and ‘Them’, the outsiders, with outsiders pressured to become more like the insiders. But are identities that clean cut? We invited a group of young Berliners to share where they place themselves within this narrative. You will see different parts of their discussion throughout the course.

How Diverse Is Germany (and How Is This Diversity Perceived)?

Just how diverse is Germany really? And what does the country make of its diversity? We took this question to Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan, one of Germany’s most prominent researchers on integration who specializes in countries of immigration, their shifting identities, and their prevalent attitudes towards minorities.

Do You Think Germany Is a Country of Immigration?

Germany officially recognized itself as a country of immigration in 2001, but do the opinions of residents and citizens reflect that fact? We took to various districts of Berlin to find out – the very central and touristy Potsdamer Platz, the more homogeneous eastern district of Prenzlauer Berg, and the multicultural western district of Neukölln.

What’s the Secret Behind Canada’s Positive Attitude Toward Immigration?

Canada is often seen as a country more welcoming to immigrants than many others in the Western world. Is this true and, if so, what lies behind this attitude? Meet Prof. Dr. Irene Bloemraad, who has dedicated her professional life to studying citizenship and integration in Canada and internationally.

What Does 'the We' Mean in Countries of Immigration?

What does our language choice have to do with feeling like part of ‘the we’ in countries of immigration? And does it matter if we don’t all talk about immigration in the same way? We took a closer look at the cases of Germany and Canada and how they talk about people who come from somewhere else.

Meet the Practitioners

Meet our Berlin-based practitioners who share practical steps and best practice for fostering integration, diversity, and multiculturalism throughout the course. We naturally asked them to tell us what ‘integration’ means to them, too. You’ll hear more from them in the next chapters.

What Comes to Mind When You Look at Me?

We all make assumptions about each other, based on things like race, ethnicity, gender, and more. In this final unit of chapter one, Gülcin from Berlin Braucht Dich! and Yilmaz from Heroes share the stories of what happened when they asked Germans to say what they thought of them based on looks alone.

Who Gets to Be German?

How do Germans react to the question of who gets to be German? We were curious to hear how people would define being and becoming German, so we went into three distinct neighborhoods in Berlin with our camera to find out. Note: Some of the content in this clip is in German, but you can click the CC symbol (bottom right-hand corner of the video) to turn on English subtitles!

You Can Become a German, but Can You Become a ‘Real’ German?

In the last chapter, we learned from Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan that there is a difference between the cognitive and emotional acceptance of diversity within German society. Here, she goes further to reveal how that dissonance manifests itself in the question of who a ‘real German’ is through the results of one of her research projects.

What Makes a Real German… to You?

Coming back to our discussion group of young Berliners, we asked them what they consider to be a real German and their understandings of belonging and nationality. In this video, they speak both about their personal experiences and their ideals for how Germany should view the collective ‘we’.

Why Do Hybrid Identities Make People Uncomfortable?

One of our survey speakers in an earlier video from this chapter said that, to live in Germany, you must decide if you want to be German or ‘something else’. But what if you’re not tied to one set of borders, have dual citizenship, or claim more than one home? And why is this sometimes difficult for others to accept? In this episode, Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan presents sociological concepts that frame these divisions around multifaceted identities and the unease surrounding them.

Why is Multiculturalism a Dirty Word in Europe?

Back in 2010, German Chancellor Angela Merkel infamously stated multiculturalism had ‘utterly failed’. Why has the concept of multiculturalism not found an easy home in European politics, even though it is a lived reality for many? We turn to Prof. Dr. Irene Bloemraad for her expert, comparative take.

Do Companies and Schools Need to ‘Learn Diversity’?

We may be surrounded by diversity, but does that necessarily mean we automatically understand it? In this video, Gülcin from Berlin Braucht Dich offers concrete examples from her work for why schools and companies in multicultural cities still need to learn diversity and cross-cultural communication. Note: The content in this clip is in German, but you can click the CC symbol (bottom right-hand corner of video) to turn on English subtitles!

Why Does Language Matter When We Talk About the ‘Other’?

When should we stop talking about people by referring to where they come from or how long they’ve been here? We asked people working with migrants and refugees to explain why they use the terminology they do, and what the consequences of language can be. Note: Some of the content in this clip is in German, but you can click the CC symbol (bottom right-hand corner of video) to turn on English subtitles!

What Difficulties Do Young People With Migration Background Face?

How many barriers still exist for people who are ‘different’ because of their ancestry or national origin? Gülcin, who has a migration history herself, lays out the challenges that children with Turkish or Arab roots face in Germany despite having been born in the country. She also shares some of the ways Berlin Braucht Dich is working to eradicate these barriers. Note: The content in this clip is in German, but you can click the CC symbol (bottom right-hand corner of video) to turn on English subtitles!

How Can We Define Integration?

Integration is talked about all the time in Europe today but rarely defined in public debate. We kick off this chapter on integration with Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan who, in under four minutes, gives us a primer in understanding and measuring integration in four different ways. And while she’s at it, she explains how integration is different from assimilation.

What Does Integration Mean to You?

In episode 2, we’re back out on the streets of Berlin asking people what the word ‘integration’ means to them. Have a listen and see if you can spot any overlaps or distinctions from the four fields of integration that Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan listed in the episode prior. Note: Some of the content in this clip is in German, but you can click the CC symbol (bottom right-hand corner of video) to turn on English subtitles!

What Is Canada’s Approach to Integration and Why Does it ‘Work’?

Do you think immigrants and refugees should figure out integration on their own or have it managed by the government? We turn back to Prof. Dr. Irene Bloemraad, who explains how Canada’s ‘public-private partnership’ approach to integration differs from European and American approaches.

What Does Bottom-Up Integration Look Like?

50 shades of migrants? Annamaria and Max from Give Something Back to Berlin explain the approach to integration that they implement with hundreds of locals and newcomers in Berlin, and how meeting just one person or hearing one story can make all the difference.

Does Germany’s Integration Policy Work?

In this episode, we continue with Annamaria and Max of Give Something Back to Berlin to get their take on Germany’s top-down integration approach and the challenges they face as an initiative as a result.

What Do Movies and Sporting Events Have to Do With Integration?

Basketball games for integration? Tom from HiMate explains how it’s important to create moments of integration through cultural offerings, and how they’ve developed their program along the way to meet the preferences and needs of refugees and other groups in society.

If Integration Isn't the Answer, Then What Is?

To round out Chapter 3, we spoke with Yilmaz from HEROES about why they specifically don’t describe themselves as an integration initiative that works with Muslim youth, and how his particular background has shaped his work and vision for social cohesion. Note: The content of this clip is in German, but you can click the CC symbol (bottom right-hand corner of video) to turn on English subtitles!

Do You Need to ‘Learn Diversity’?

If you’re born in a diverse society, doesn’t that mean you understand diversity? In this first episode of Chapter 4, Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan turns back to the research to reveal the apparent paradox between people’s cognitive awareness of democratic values vs. how this plays out in practice.

Immigrants vs. Natives: Does This Divide Exist?

Let’s dig a bit deeper into the common idea that there’s a natural divide between ‘immigrants’ and ‘natives’. Spoiler alert: it’s not as simple as that, at least when it comes to political views and electoral preferences. Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan makes her final appearance in the course to explain how the migration issue fits into larger debates within society.

How Can We Bridge the Gap Between ‘Us’ and ‘Them’?

Our Berliner discussion group is back to address divides in their own lives that fall within the ‘us’ vs. ‘them’ debate, as well as how they envision belonging in their societies in the future.

Is Citizenship the Crown of Integration?

Obtaining citizenship is often seen as the final step, or crown, of integration, awarded only to those who have proven their ‘successful integration’. But what if getting citizenship was an easier, earlier option for immigrants? How would that impact their integration process? And why is citizenship so important for immigrant integration more generally? Prof. Dr. Irene Bloemraad shares learnings from the Canadian case.

What Makes You Feel Like You Belong?

‘They want me, they appreciate me, they see me.’ To round out Chapter 4, Yilmaz from HEROES gives his personal take on citizenship and what for him matters most to achieving a sense of belonging. Note: This clip is in German, but you can click the CC symbol (bottom right-hand corner of video) to turn on English subtitles!

What Can Europe Learn From Canada? Part I - Successes

Canada today is often seen as a poster child for immigrant integration and multiculturalism, but it may surprise you to hear that this wasn’t always the case. In this clip, Prof. Dr. Irene Bloemraad explains the recent history of Canada’s integration approach and which policies matter.

Are Multiculturalism and Social Cohesion at Odds With One Another?

Does supporting multiculturalism make us stronger or does it threaten social cohesion? Prof. Dr. Irene Bloemraad shares findings from her research and the Multiculturalism Policy Index that help explain the link between multicultural policy and integration.

What Can Europe Learn From Canada? Part II - Challenges

Though Canada’s approach to integration has come a long way, the country still has its own roster of issues when it comes to how immigration is seen and handled. Prof. Dr. Irene Bloemraad is back for one last episode to share the challenges faced by Canada and what Europe can learn from these.

How Did an Art Project Spark Political Dialogue and Participation?

Annamaria and Max from Give Something Back to Berlin tell the story of how one of their projects in a Berlin refugee shelter evolved to meet the needs of the refugees they were serving, a concrete example of their bottom-up integration approach.

Want to Start Your Own Integration Project? Watch This First.

In a city like Berlin, there’s no shortage of great ideas, but what about the follow-through? Annamaria and Max from Give Something Back to Berlin and Tom from HiMate share some valuable lessons learned when it comes to starting projects and organizations in the field of integration and refugees.

Why Does Talking About Identity Remain so Complicated?

We’re reached the end of the course, but not the debate. In this last episode with our Berliner discussion group, we reflect on why the discussion on identity and belonging remains so complex from the personal, societal, and political points of view.

What Have We Learned From This Course?

Before we wrap up, hear from the international team behind Migration Matters one final time. We each share one thing that we’ve personally learned from the course and invite you to share your main take-away in the comments below or, even better, record your own video in this week’s journal assignment.

Meet the Experts

Irene Bloemraad outside with trees and a river in the background

Irene Bloemraad

Dr. Irene Bloemraad (Ph.D. Harvard; M.A. McGill) is the Class of 1951 Professor of Sociology. She also serves as the Thomas Garden Barnes Chair of Canadian Studies at Berkeley, is the founding Director of the Berkeley Interdisciplinary Migration Initiative, and co-directs the Boundaries, Membership and Belonging program of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research. In 2014-15, she was a member of the U.S. National Academies of Sciences committee reporting on the integration of immigrants into American society.

Naika Foroutan speaking in a well lit room

Naika Foroutan

Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan is director of the German Center for Integration and Migration Research (DeZIM). She is a professor of integration research and social policy at the Humboldt University in Berlin and head of department at the Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research (BIM). Her research interests include the transformation of immigration countries into post-migrant societies, Islam and minority politics, as well as radicalization, racism and Islamism. Prof. Dr. Naika Foroutan represents the Berlin Institute for Empirical Integration and Migration Research (BIM) in the DeZIM research community.