Homeland Ties and the Incorporation of Foreigners, Halle, Germany and Manchester, USA

This study investigates immigrant incorporation and homeland ties in two small cities that have seen themselves as culturally and racially homogenous and that are now facing an influx of immigrants, Halle, in Sachsen-Anhalt, Germany and Manchester, in New Hampshire, USA. The particular focus of interest is the institutional nexus that the city offers to newcomers and the ways in which these institutions serve to reinforce or reconfigure the identities of persons who were born outside the territorial borders of the country in which they are settling or whose parents came from elsewhere. In the United States such persons are generally considered 'immigrants', while in Germany they are considered 'foreigners', whether or not the individuals themselves have an intention or a desire to settle permanently in their new home, and whatever complex set of political and economic motivations have caused them to leave home. In both settings, an institutional nexus and a legal set of rights and restrictions encompass such individuals and provide the context in which settlement occurs, personal networks are reconstituted, home ties are reinforced or abrogated, and identities are reconstructed. In both settings the local institutional nexus may connect newcomers not only to their new location of settlement but also to representatives of the state they left behind or to religious, political, cultural or economic organisations or networks of their homeland.

The research explores the following questions: (1) What kind of reception do newcomers and their children receive from the political, educational, economic and religious institutions of the city, including the local representatives of federal bureaucracies, the voluntary organisations pledged to provide services, the police and the media; (2) To what degree do newcomers try to become incorporated into the city, to what degree do they succeed in their incorporative efforts and how are their incorporative efforts facilitated, mediated or countered by their homeland ties; and (3) What kinds of identities do newcomers assume in the process of settlement and integration and the reconnection with family, region or nation left behind.

Pressing questions of both theory and public policy of the nation-state within a world restructured by globalisation are at the heart of this proposal. 'Globalisation' can be defined as the intensified integration of the world through systems of production, distribution, and communication. Logically, globalisation processes that bind together places, economies and people in common networks of communication might be expected to make both loyalty to nation and identification with a territorially based state passé. Instead, globalisation and the revitalisation of identities linked to locality seem to go hand in hand. In countries of immigrant settlement around the world immigrants and a vocal section of their children become well incorporated in their new land but also become long distance nationalists, committed to taking action on behalf of their home-lands.

'Long distance nationalism' can be defined as a set of ideas about belonging that link together people living in various geographic locations and motivates or justifies their taking action in relationship to an ancestral territory and its government. While the fact that continuation of home ties and the growth of long distance nationalism among immigrants reinforces rather than contradicts contemporary processes of globalisation has become apparent, there is little understanding of just why this is the case. It is clear that similar processes of identification have developed in countries with very different institutions, laws and histories of immigration such as the United States and Germany.

The preliminary research indicates that these seemingly different institutional frameworks contain within them similar processes of identification, differentiation and the constitution of alterity. However, to understand the extent and importance of this similarity it is important to compare the initial establishment of the nexus between newcomers and the institutions they find in their location of settlement. Yet, to date, almost all research on immigrant incorporation and homeland ties has been conducted in cities where immigrant institutions and homeland networks are well established. This research by examining the institutional nexus in smaller cities without recent histories of immigrant incorporation, is exploring systematically the relationship between the development of patterns of incorporation and the development of social fields and ideologies that link immigrants to their native land.

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