Cultivating German membership
The latest evidence of Europe’s anxieties about immigrant (non-) integration comes in the form of a draft declaration released by Germany, France and Austria in November 2020. The declaration pushed for stricter EU integration rules, stating, ‘It needs to be possible to sanction sustained refusal to integrate more strongly than has been the case to date’. Yet, each European country has always had a wide scope for determining how to admit and incorporate new members, and countries have not refrained from introducing strict measures. The latest trend is to start the integration process as early as possible – even before the migrant arrives, when traveling to Europe is just a dream. In recent years, France (2007), Denmark (2010), the UK (2011), the Netherlands (2006) and Germany (2009) have all introduced pre-integration measures for nationals of certain countries.
In my Identities article, ‘Cultivating membership abroad: Analyzing German pre-integration courses for Turkish marriage migrants’, I examine the aims and methods of German pre-integration courses offered to Turkish marriage migrants in Istanbul. Using participant observation and in-depth interviews, I also examine instructor perceptions and student reactions to the curriculum.
Turks have been a part of German society since the 1960s when they first arrived as guest workers. Now, the fourth generation is finally entering middle classes in significant numbers, which demonstrates some degree of successful integration. Yet, a small number of German-Turks search for marriage partners in Turkey each year. The importation of brides and grooms has long concerned the German state because it is thought to accompany forced marriage, sham marriage, child marriage and, eventually, even ‘women locked in their houses’, isolated from German society. These practices are in turn attributed to ‘backwards’ cultural traditions, Islam or patriarchy, depending on the commentator. In every formulation of the supposed problem of spousal importation, lack of integration is blamed. Pre-integration is intended to address this issue through a curriculum focused on morality, culture and gender.
I argue that these courses are concerned with ‘membership cultivation’, which is an attempt to generate internalised ways of being and knowing that are desired by the state. As such, the courses represent a microform of biopolitical governance; that is, they strive to enhance migrants’ capacity for cultured, modern membership through fostering self-cultivation of German national ideals. In contrast to other pre-integration measures or post-migration civic integration in Germany or elsewhere, the main goal of the courses is not to restrict migration or to reinforce symbolic boundaries. They are rather attempts to ‘civilise’ migrants and to transform them into ‘good‘ members of Germany. As with the draft declaration discussed above, they represent a recent step in Germany’s effort to ‘modernise’ newcomers and another chapter in Europe’s assimilation-based integration programming.
 For more information, see: https://www.theguardian.com/world/2020/nov/09/eu-draft-declaration-sets-out-stricter-rules-on-migrant-integration
Blog post by Susan Beth Rottmann, Özyeğin University, Turkey
Read the full article: Rottmann, Susan Beth. Cultivating membership abroad: Analyzing German pre-integration courses for Turkish marriage migrants. Identities: Global Studies in Culture and Power. DOI: 10.1080/1070289X.2020.1851004
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