Posts tagged ‘immigration’

19 February 2011

“hier bei uns”

Connection of the day: Reading a lot of good work about memory and remembering at the moment. Harald Welzer, Sabine Moller and Karoline Tschuggnall, for instance, on the dynamics and contradictions of remembering in families (“Opa war kein Nazi”). Very interesting study on how memories are passed on – including, for instance, how a gran’s vague ambiguous memory of certain events becomes ever more concrete and definite as it passes down through the generations.

One of the things Welzer and colleagues critique is that in remembering WWII, very often a distinction is drawn between “the Germans” and “the Jews”. An us/them dinstinction is made, even when nothing malicious or discriminatory seems to be intended.

Is that so very surprising, given today’s constellations of group identies? Today I am reading a valiant attempt in the weekly newspaper Die Zeit to point out how the revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt etc. could “improve the world – from Kreuzberg to Peking and Ramallah”.

And what do they say – bearing in mind this is an entirely well-intentioned article, and bearing in mind that Muslims living in Germany are often of the third generation born here. Writing about the dramatic contradiction between the imagined Muslim of “the Sarrazin year” (Muslims in this hugely problematic view are uneducated, violent, dole scrounging machos who mass produce babies to get more dole money) and the Muslims of the recent revolutions(democratically engaged, equality promoting, intelligent), Die Zeit writes:

Immerhin könnte es sein, dass man sich getäuscht hat. Die Vermutung war, dass die meisten Schwierigkeiten, die es in Deutschland und Europa mit Muslimen gibt, aus deren Kultur, aus Rückständigkeit und Religion entspringen. Nun legen die arabischen Ereignisse nahe, dass es eher an den Umständen liegt, unter denen die Muslime dort unten und hier bei uns leben.

“Hier bei uns” (“Muslims living down there and here with us”)? So, despite generations of living together, Muslims in Germany are still not the “us” of …what? White/Christian/atheist Germans? And, once again, as with Welzer and co’s study: An us/them dinstinction is made, even when nothing malicious or discriminatory seems to be intended.

(And, yes, more could be said about the previous sentence in thw quote: “The assumption was that most of the difficulties that Europe and Germany have with Muslims stem from their culture, from backwardness and religion”. Paul Chilton write beautifully about the packaging involved in this kind of statement. Even though the author explicitly presents “culture, backwardness and religion” as a flawed assumption, he (implicitly) reproduces the presupposition that it is Europe and Germany which have (currently) “difficulties” “with” “Muslims”, i.e. which positions Muslims as causing the difficulties, rather than any particular forms of social organisation, exclusion, discrimination, etc.)

6 January 2011

Sarrazin “statistically illiterate”

Finally, a major story in a major German newspaper which contests Thilo Sarrazin’s argument about Germany becoming increasingly stupid because more stupid people, especially Muslim immigrants, are having more children than university educated white non-Muslims (yes, he really does argue that).

Der Tagesspiegel quotes Hans Wolfgang Brachinger who sees “statistical illiteracy” at work in the whole Sarrazin debate. Not only Sarrazin but also the journalists and critics commenting on the book have no idea how to interpret the statistics.

Texts on the topic, offering an alternative reading of the statistics, via Der Tagesspiegel (in German):

The German blogs, of course, said all this back in September (e.g. nachdenkseiten, spiegelfechter, bildblog, and my favourite blog post on this: at weissgarnix)

17 September 2010

Immigrant ducks threaten Europe

I do wonder if this research finding would have been reported in quite this language if there wasn’t such legitimacy for anti-immigration discourse at the moment.

Meet Ruddy (pictured left), who accompanies the following BBC news story:

Leading experts on invasive species are demanding Europe-wide legislation be put in place by next year to tackle the threat to native wildlife.

The researchers want urgent action from the EU to protect Europe’s indigenous species from these “alien invaders”.

Invasive, non-native animals, plants and microorganisms cause at least 12 billion euros of damage in Europe each year.

The scientists are meeting at the Neobiota conference in Copenhagen.

They are demanding Europe-wide legislation to be in place by next year to ensure the threat doesn’t worsen.

Invasive species are defined as those that are introduced accidentally or deliberately into a place where they are not normally found.

A European inventory in 2008 found more than 10,000 alien species in Europe, with 1,300 having some kind of impact. This impact was exerted either on the environment, economy or, on human health.

Am astounded at the articulations: invasive-threaten-native; protect-indigenous species-from-alien invaders (okay, yes, in scare quotes); invasive-non-native-cause-damage.

One could historicise this and wonder about the ‘alien species’ which Europeans brought to their ‘colonies’ which ‘had an impact’ on the environment, economy and human health (I’m thinking diseases which decimated indigeneous populations; American Indians; plants in Australia; opium wars in China…).

Not that I want to dispute the findings of the inventory. It just seems a peculiar way of framing the story.

4 September 2010


I really didn’t want to write anything about Thilo Sarrazin and his racist comments which have been swirling round the German media. But today I finally found a gap in the discourse. And it’s even in Die Zeit, a newspaper not known for its pro-Muslim or pro-“foreigner” (referring to the ridiculous legal situation in which people born in Germany are still considered and called “foreigners”) or for rendering a complex picture of migration in Germany. Not online, but in the Feuilleton (“Das Letzte”, p.59 on 2. Sept. 2010).

In a story about the Mainz university hospital in which three newborn babies died two weeks ago, Die Zeit tells its readers that the hospital is enjoying its refound innocence. It was not to blame; cost-cutting or incompetence was not to blame. To blame was a bottle. A bottle with a fine splinter which was not visible to anyone and which let the germs get in to the babies’ feed. The article ends:

Und es ist noch schöner. Es war keine deutsche, es war eine ausländische Flasche. Keine gute ehrliche Flasche, sondern eine tückische, ihren feinen Riss berechnend verbergende Ausländerflasche. Da stellt sich doch wirklich die Schuldfrage neu, nicht wahr. Wer hat diese Flasche einwandern lassen – und wann? Waren das vielleicht die Gutmenschen in ihrem multikulturellem Überschwang? Und welche Gesetze haben das möglich gemacht? Und wie kann es sein, dass man Thilo Sarrazins Thesen über die Verkeimung der deutschen Gesellschaft durch Ausländer zurückweist, aber bei verkeimten Flaschen die ausländische Herkunft nur wie nebenbei erwähnt?

Das darf doch alles nicht wahr sein! Ist das ganze Land denn blind geworden für seine Gefährdung? Weil es kein Brillenglas, sondern nur noch Flaschenglas auf den Augen hat? Eines ist jedenfalls gewiss: Deutschland wird sich am Ende wirklich abschaffen, wenn es sich von Flaschen tauschen lässt.

12 October 2009

Scientists horrified at “flawed” chemical nationality tests

This is the sort of thing you learn preparing a workshop for the “hard sciences”… Chemical tests are to be used in the UK to check if asylum seekers are really from where they say they are.

Basically, it seems that analysing the isotopes of, say, a Bordeaux wine can tell you if it really came from the region its label says or if it’s a fraud. Analysing isotopes can determine where confiscated drugs originate. And now the UK has launched a pilot project to determine where asylum seekers come from – by analysing their isotopes (e.g. through hair, fingernails) and DNA. The problem is, say the scientists, that immigrants travel and move. This sort of analysis can only trace the last few months.

CAMBRIDGE, UNITED KINGDOM—Scientists are greeting with surprise and dismay a project to use DNA and isotope analysis of tissue from asylum seekers to evaluate their nationality and help decide who can enter the United Kingdom. “Horrifying,” “naïve,” and “flawed” are among the adjectives geneticists and isotope specialists have used to describe the “Human Provenance pilot project,” launched quietly in mid-September by the U.K. Border Agency. Their consensus: The project is not scientifically valid–or even sensible. (Sciencemag)

German article. Update: After the outcry, the border agency has pulled back its plans.