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Migration And National Minority Group Identity Sociology Essay

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: Sociology
Wordcount: 2744 words Published: 1st Jan 2015

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The world is changing. Migration is taking place on a scale earlier unseen, which have effects on the society of both country of origin as well as country of immigration. It also affects peoples’ lives and habits. Today the society is increasingly diverse, with a wide range of values, beliefs and perspectives neighboring on the same street instead of neighboring continents. The meeting between these different points of views can cause either conflict or a rich society where these perspectives have been used to built on a stronger foundation in the society.

Identities are to a high degree relational, dependent of both context and situation. In the never ending process of self- identification the acceptance of others is a key in a constructive personal development. This applies both on minorities, the majority as well as for the national group identity.

A number of scholars have approached the topic in various ways, which gives us great opportunity to work with different material and see different points of view.


To deepen the understanding of multicultural society, influenced by increasing world migration and people’s movement; to understand how the changing world impacts on the change of building person’s own identity; and by gaining the knowledge on these issues to apply them in our future professions and help smoother integration in our societies.

Aim – Questions:

How do people identify themselves through ethnicity?

How is migration changing the process of self identification?

Is there a way to help people integrate in the new societies (and also help societies accept the newcomers)?


Although the reasons for migrating are different and changing, such factors as development, democracy and demography are always behind them (GCIM 2005: 12 from Castles & Miller 2009: 56). The increase of international migration is foreseen due to growing inequalities between the North and the South. Despite the fact that immigrant life is never easy, people still chose it over lives in their own country if they are threatened by war or poverty. History is nevertheless an important player within international migration; the colonial legacy is the cause of continuing underdevelopment, poverty and non-democracy in post-colonial countries (Castles & Miller 2009: 191). There is an evidence of a tendency of residential and labor segregation and ethnic group formation within the immigration countries, still there are differences in public attitudes and immigration policies (Castles & Miller 2009: 245).

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International migration has the effect of bringing about deep change in both sending and receiving societies. This on a political, economical and demographic level, as well as it also brings with it social and cultural changes (Castles & Miller, 2009: 123). To handle these changes a variation of immigration policies have been tried but it is possible to distinguish three groups of countries that, affected by their history, have chosen different paths. These policies have a direct affect on the lives of immigrants. One strategy can be seen in above all Germany which tries to apply a “guestworker” model, limiting immigrants civic rights, the second are former imperial states, where the policies where more favorable, allowing family reunion, granting citizenship etc. the group most prone to a multiculturalists approach are the “classical immigration” countries, where permanent settlement and family reunion were encouraged. (Castles & Miller 2009: 250). Independent of the model used difficulties will occur both in the public and private spheres of society. The main problem within the area of international migration is creating an integrated society and making all the people civic equals. Such policies for immigrant incorporation have often failed to stop the marginalization of immigrants and had to be rejected. Castles & Miller (2009: 275-276) conclude that this failure is caused by inability to handle two difficult problems, that are the so called culture of racism, colonialist and imperialist relic, and the ever increasing inequity created by globalization and immigration.

Fear of immigrant culture and need of immediate integration and creation of unified culture only deepen the gap between the host society and immigrants and makes the impression of static culture; therefore it stops the majority from seeing individuals in migrant groups (Ghorashi, Hylland Eriksen & Alghasi 2009: 4). To a great deal depending on the majority’s attitudes towards the minority the limits created between them can be a part of a hierarchical boundary drawing process causing conflicts and radicalization on both majority and minority (Purkayastha 2008). All the issues mentioned above are leading towards greater racialization of ethnicity and are a great threat to democracy and its ethics.

Our everyday life is visibly changing due to increased international migration, people, especially the younger generation, become more ethnically and culturally diverse. The immigrants most of the time have a distinction from the majority group, be it language, religion, physical appearance or just a different role as a citizen. Those differences would most likely be put into words such as “ethnicity” or “race”. (Castles & Miller 2009: 14). Some researches put the relationship between the majority and minority as “an independent power relationship” (Kjeldstadli 2009: 66), in this case the majority has the privilege to express problems. Categorizing may lead to a bigger extent of boundaries, marginalization and racialization in the society, so people have to be careful before making them as ethnicity is important not only in social life, but also in the political (Castles & Miller 2009: 37). Such manner is influenced by historical course of East being always subordinate to West and different ethnicities are seen in a light of evolutionism (Ghorashi, Hylland Eriksen & Alghasi 2009: 3). Whereas in the real life, ethnicity and personal qualities are never the same and depend on the context they are taking place in (Ghorashi, Hylland Eriksen & Alghasi 2009: 7). The social and cultural changes in society are a sign of just how relational ethnicity is. Here the concept of “ethnicity negotiating” creates a clear picture on the process. It highlights the fact that “ethnicity” is a social construction, it draws attention to the various actors in this process, and also to structures creating both hinders and possibilities on the limits of ethnic groups. The view of ethnicity as static is challenged and the individuals own choices seen as decisive to forming of what is part of their ethnicity. Thus this view also focus each individual in relation to both the own ethnic group and other. Individuals are affected by more than one culture; they are influenced by a wide range of circumstances and have the possibility of selection in order to create a way of life that according to themselves are the most suitable (Gutmann 2001: 10177).

Castles & Miller (2009: 33-34) explain a variety of explanations and derivations of the concept of ethnicity. It is said that ethnicity is primarily a “sense of group belonging, based on ideas of common origins, history, culture, experience and values” (Castles &miller 2009: 33). Interestingly it is very different from a concept of a race, it does not include any physical qualifications and as mentioned in Castles & Miller (2009: 33) it is based on only linguistic and cultural process. So we see the primary proof of ethnicity not being an unchangeable and static concept as it is the ever-changing process by people included in certain ethnic group.

However, such descriptions of ethnicity can be argued all together as some researches see it as a complete “myth” or “nostalgia” (Castles &Miller 2009: 34). Some mention that such group bonding factor as ethnicity helps in a difficult situations, it is seen as sort of mobilization against the oppressors and keeps the group together (Castles & Miller 2009: 34). But despite the fact that ethnicity can be seen as a mere fairytale and a simple instrument for reaching one’s goals in the eyes of scientists, it is undeniably gaining more and more power and influence in our modern societies.

Knowing the situation and background of ethnicity itself, we can now see the difference that Castles & Miller (2009: 32) lay between ethnic communities and ethnic minorities. The formations of those are highly dependent on the countries policies towards immigrants. On one hand, the country can be very open to everyone and grant equal rights to every newcomer, yet the other extreme is a complete denial of citizenship and settlement. It is said that most of countries still lie somewhere in the middle between the two extremes that makes ethnic minority a common site everywhere (Castles & Miller 2009: 32). Though an ethnic minority is not only produced by the majority population and their identification of others; the ethnic minority itself makes a clear identification of themselves as a group (Castles & Miller 2009: 33).


Scholarly literature content analysis is a very important part of any research as it gives one the basic understanding of the issue, helps to get to know both concepts and perspectives of researches.

Participant observation is giving you the chance not to only see the research objects in their daily life, but also lets you to participate in it with them and thereby achieve a better and deeper understanding of issues.

Interview is good to get to know a particular thing. It is therefore a part of qualitative research as only partly structured interview is used, which lets you to apply it to different situations and contexts and gives good quality outcome.


After carrying out our initial project we could see a clear path that is needed to be taken to avoid further alienation and marginalization of society. That is, clear social policies of integration and settlement, good base of education, teaching of social and civil responsibilities and also cultural understanding. It feels like a perfect world is only steps away with such an understanding, yet it doesn’t happen in the real life. Can we understand why?

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One of the main reasons can be seen as a natural human need of categorization. People need certain categories for everything in their lives and that is the only way they can keep it in order, they can keep track of what is happening. Despite a very innocent nature of categories, they can sometimes be cruel and misleading. Even without knowing that people tend to put some derogatory categories on people around them and it is most likely to happen to someone who is different, someone we don’t know that well and we might be scared of.

Second, with the increase of global economy and cultural diffusion, national culture has become much less powerful and more questionable. However, such a process has had an opposite outcome, not that we are heading towards a more integrated and heterogeneous society, but all the other way round. The immigrants are only seen as an increasing threat to already unstable national culture and society tends to get more homogenous. Although in most of the cases it can be seen as a simple fear of a takeover of a different culture, very often it can be a case of dominant group feeling superior to marginal groups, describing them as “primordial, static and regressive”. (Castles & Miller 2009: 39).

As it was already said, there is a high need of education about other cultures and civic society as the unknown always seems a lot more different from you than it actually is. Yet, people’s ignorance doesn’t let the information to get through to them, so we see here such a high responsibility for teachers to actually play a very active role in educating the society in trying to reach everybody and create a better environment at least in school. Schools are places where young people are shaped and learn both about the world, themselves and others. Different attributes such as gender, social economic background and ethnicity has proved to be markers when it comes to both the academic and the social development of the pupils. The work of creating an environment where individuals are free to act unattached to general stereotypes that may be hindering pupils’ progress is a great responsibility and challenge for any teacher. Swedish policies on immigration have been encouraging the growth of a multicultural society and thereby also schools. Every persons equal value and rights to develop his or her personality without limitations, and the fact that the diversity of cultures are a source of knowledge, is clearly stated in the Swedish curricula (Lpf-94: 3).

As we have seen in practice school environment is very often the start for a further segregation. This can be said about formal and institutional separation of non-native speakers in Lithuania, where they are sent to separate schools, where subjects are taught in their native language (Russian or Polish). This not only separates children of young age and limits their possibilities, but it goes on to further life as they do not acquire good level of Lithuanian, which prevents them from getting better jobs and being socially and politically active. Some researches even claim that it is a rarity to see an inter-ethnic marriage in Lithuania (Kasatkina, Leončikas, 2003).

A little different but yet the same situation could be seen at the high school in Trelleborg, segregation has proved to be a challenge that has not been properly addressed. Even though youngsters from all over the world are seated side by side they, in many cases, are separated by the ethnic boundaries created by themselves. This has been showed both in observations and in interviews. Of course the picture is more multifaceted and the situation varies between classes but in general the pupils are prone to socialize within their ethnic group and in many also play the stereotype role that is prevalent in society. In this case the school does not have any plan of action concerning these issues. It is not seen as part of the work to mind the relationship between the pupils. To a certain degree we consider this to be correct but when it comes to a situation where status quo is contributing to a segregated society and pupils with foreign background that are stepping, or being pressed, into roles that perceives ignorance and nonchalance as good qualities, something is needed to break this pattern.

Although it can be said that in many cases racial and ethnic prejudice comes out of fair of unknown, something you can’t understand, sometimes it can be some historical events that lead to distrust of people of other ethnic descent. Lithuania is a clear example of it, the country that suffered foreign ruling and influence for hundreds of years and struggled to keep its own cultural heritage so hard is simply too stigmatized and not ready for the talk of multicultural society. It can be upsetting and hard for ethnic minorities in such a country, but national identity building is their priority at the current time. In Western Europe everybody is accustomed with building a different type of environment, but it is good to know what is happening in other parts of Europe and understand the factors.

One of the last things to be said is as Castles and Miller say, there is no ethnically homogenous society, nor did one like that ever exist and all nation-states have to face it (Castles, Miller, 2003: 286). With this in mind as one of the main core basic ideas we can all start living in culturally and ethnically inclusive world. We should finally understand that living among people with different backgrounds is not to be stopped, but to be used as an enriching factor, as something you should be glad to be experiencing. Today, we do not have to travel 2000 miles to see the world, the world is coming right to our doorsteps.


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