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Migration Studies Assimilation Integration And Multiculturalism Sociology Essay

There are different conceptual frameworks and theoretical models in social sciences to conceptualise and describe the relationship between different people and cultures. In this section, some of the various focal points regarding the process of integration of immigrants and minority groups into their host country or mainstream society will be discussed and used as a springboard for our analysis of the German Sinti and Roma minority integration in to the German society with particular reference to the city of Oldenburg.

2.1. Assimilation

Is a term that refers to attempts to incorporate one micro culture into another or efforts to make one group more homogeneous in relation to another. The term first surfaced during colonial times and re-emerged at the turn of the 20th century.  The term is used both to refer to colonized peoples when dominant colonial states expand into new territories or alternately, when diasporas of immigrants settle into a dominant state society. Colonized peoples or minority immigrant groups acquire new customs, language, and ideologies through contact and education in the dominant society. Assimilation may involve either a quick or gradual change depending on circumstances. Full assimilation occurs when new members of a society become indistinguishable from older members (Christine I. Bennett, 1995).

The term `assimilation' has been also used to describe both the model and the process of absorption of people from different countries and different cultures, brought together as the consequence of the migration process. In this context, assimilation is often interpreted as a process of progressive adaptation of leading towards inclusion in the host society whose final outcome should be the disappearance of cultural differences. This unidirectional process is considered the `natural' way for migrants to adjust gradually to their new environment by absorbing the values of the dominant culture. The model of assimilation is a precise political strategy which intends to keep the national community as homogeneous as possible by endeavouring to ensure that the same basic values are shared by the whole population (Bolaffi et al. 2003:19). Assimilation refers to giving up of one’s own ethnic identity and adopting that of the mainstream society. The American ‘melting pot’ concept is an example of assimilation.

2.2. Meaning of Integration/Social integration

The notion of integration is broadly employed by sociologists and social anthropologists to indicate the process of immigrant adjustment in their destination country and the experiences that could be acquired and shared between the new settlers and the host societies at the various levels of social organization.

According to different scholars “Integration is a long term and two way process of change that relates both to the that relates both to the conditions for and the actual participation in aspects of life in the given geographical area” (Ager and Strang 2008:12). The term integration is considered as the longer-term process through which immigrants or particular social groups become full and equal participants in the various dimensions of society (Gray and Elliott 2001).

Integration is also sometimes referred as a multicultural concept that denotes the removal of barriers that segregate human beings. For some writers integration can only happen when tolerance in the form of mutual respect and acceptance occurs on the part of racially and ethnically different groups of human beings (Banks 1994). Integration, in a sociological context, also refers to stable, cooperative relations within a clearly defined social system. It can also be viewed as a process that of strengthening relationships within a social system and of introducing new actors and groups into the system and its institutions.

Integration is accepting, recognizing, valuing and celebrating as well as giving equal rights for the participation of minority groups. This means social integration includes analysis of differentiation of ethnic groups’ action and relations, and of quantitative and qualitative aspects of relational structures (civic and political participation, participation in social networks, involvement in economic, political, cultural life of society, representation at different levels of governance, participation in units and organisations of fellow citizen (http://www.escwa.un.org)

Dimensions of integration

According to different social researchers there are four basic dimensions of social integration in which minority groups or immigrants use to integrate to the mainstream society social system.

Structural integration

Structural integration means the acquisition of rights and the access to position and status in the core institutions of the host society: the economy and labour market, education and qualification systems, the housing system, welfare state institutions (including the health system), and full political citizenship. These are ‘core’ institutions as participation in them determines a person’s socioeconomic status and the opportunities and resources available to them, in a modern market society.

Cultural integration

Acquire the core competencies of that culture and society. In this respect, integration refers to an individual’s cognitive, behavioural and attitudinal change: this is termed cultural integration. While cultural integration primarily concerns the immigrants and their children and grandchildren, it is also an interactive, mutual process – one that changes the host society, which must learn new ways of relating to immigrants or minority groups and adapting to their needs.

Interactive integration

Interactive integration means the acceptance and inclusion of immigrants/minority groups in the primary relationships and social Networks of the host society. Indicators of interactive integration include social networks, friendship, partnerships, marriages and membership in voluntary organizations. Certain core elements of cultural integration, particularly communicative competencies, are preconditions for interactive integration.

Identificational integration

It is not possible to participate in a host society’s core institutions without having first acquired the cultural competencies by which these institutions function. It is, however, possible to participate without identifying with the goals of these institutions and without having developed a feeling of belonging to the host society. This feeling of belonging may develop later in the integration process develop as a result of participation and acceptance.

Inclusion in a new society on the subjective level – identificational integration – is indicated by feelings of belonging to, and identification with, groups, particularly in ethnic, regional, local and/or national identification (Bosswick and Heckmann 2006).

Assimilation versus Integration

The conceptual dissection between assimilation and integration is controversial among sociologists in the analysis of minority groups and immigrant practices and interactions with their new societal setting. Some of them prefer integration, while others assimilation and some use the terms interchangeably to express the different aspects of the process.

Park and E.W. Burgess (1969) provided an early definition of assimilation, which showed assimilation as the one-way process:

a process of interpenetration and fusion in which persons and groups

acquire the memories, sentiments, and attitudes of other persons and

groups and, by sharing their experience and history, are incorporated

with them in a common cultural life (Alba and Nee, 1997:827-28).

The classical assimilation framework implies that the various dimensions of assimilation –socioeconomic, social, cultural, and spatial assimilation – are interconnected (South et al.,2005). The Socioeconomic assimilation as showed by high levels of education, income, and wealth is hypothesized to enhance immigrants’ mobility neighbourhoods. Social (or,Gordon’s terminology, structural) assimilation is also likely to increase immigrants’ prospects for spatial assimilation with the majority. Cultural assimilation (or, acculturation) – indicates ethnic minorities’ adoption of the cultural practices and norms of the majority and the degree to which minority group members identify with the host society. Spatial assimilation is expected to influence immigrants’ geographic mobility into neighbourhood with the mainstream population (South et al., 2005). Therefore, assimilation means replacing one’s previous identity with that of the host society. Whereas integration is refers to the capacity to access aspects of the dominant culture, while simultaneously retaining an ethnic identity.

Kritz and his colleagues have defined these concepts by corresponding to the two fundamental dimensions of societal systems: ‘structural’ and ‘cultural’. Integration refers to “participation in the structure of a societal system and measured as the degree to which a system unit occupies positions on structurally relevant status lines”. Whereas, assimilation is defined as “participation in the culture of a societal system and measured as a degree to which a system unit occupies positions on culturally relevant status lines” (Kritz 1981:80). Assimilation has also to be distinguished from acculturation, which is defined as cultural change resulting from direct contact between two cultural groups. It is unlikely to the accultured individual to completely ignore his/her ethnic identity, but adopts some elements of the immigration system (Ibid, 81).

In international migration, it is more likely for the immigrants eventually to come to terms with the question of whether or not they and their families maintain the language and culture of their home country or adjust to the culture and language of the host country. “With succeeding generations, assimilation to the new country becomes dominant, but the conflicts are most difficult for the first generation migrants” (Glazier and De Rosa, 1986:314). The first generation immigrants usually compromise and hesitate, which makes it difficult to relate to the new environment. If immigrants/minority groups have never expected of such prior to their migration, the outcomes to the crisis become rather strong, painful, and intense (Ibid, 305).

Immigrants and social groups develop about four strategies in terms of two major issues: cultural maintenance versus cultural contact. The question is whether to remain primarily among their original culture and community or to get involved in the host society, and several possible strategies exist (Kritz, 1981 Mesch, 2002).

2.3. Multiculturalism

In the cultural and political arena multiculturalism can be described as the coexistence of a range of different cultural experiences within a group or society. It is often used as being synonymous with `cultural pluralism', resulting in a certain amount of theoretical and conceptual confusion. More recently, the trend in literature has been to use similar terms, such as interculturalism and `trans-culturalism', with far more precise meanings (Bolaffi et al. 2003).

According to the International Organisation for Migration, a multi-cultural society aims to allow diversity, equal rights and equal opportunities to migrants and minority groups, at the same time allowing them to keep a cultural affiliation to their country of origin. [1] Multiculturalism rejects the simple integration process proposed by assimilation theory. Scholars from this perspective view multicultural societies as composed of a heterogeneous collection of ethnic and racial minority groups, as well as of a dominant majority group. This view has been forcefully illustrated in the context of the American society. Most scholars argue that immigrants actively shape their own identities rather than posing as passive subjects in front of the forces of assimilation and also emphasize that some aspects of the cultural characteristics of immigrants may be preserved in a state of un-easy co-existence with the attitudes of the host country. The multicultural perspective offers then an alternative way of considering the host society, presenting members of ethnic minority groups as active integral segments of the whole society rather than just foreigners or outsiders.

With large-scale immigration into Europe, ‘multiculturalism’ has become a major topic of political and intellectual discourse. The terms ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘multicultural society’ have been advocated as concepts that could help clarify the confusing picture of European immigration and integration, both in a descriptive-analytical and in a politico normative sense (Bosswick and Heckmann 2006).

Main variables to evaluate the integration process

In order to evaluate the Integration of German Sinti and Roma minority group in Germany we took the different variables presented by EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020.

In sociology and other social sciences Social integration requires proficiency in an accepted common language of the society, acceptance of the laws of the society and adoption of a common set of values of the society. It does not require assimilation and it does not require persons to give up all of their culture, but it may require forgoing some aspects of their culture which are inconsistent with the laws and values of the society. In tolerant and open societies, members of minority groups can often use social integration to gain full access to the opportunities, rights and services available to the members of the mainstream of society.

Social integration is inextricably linked to broad-based participation. This entails the participation of all social groups in the process of policy development, as well as in the benefits of economic growth and social progress.

Social integration strives to facilitate the emergence of a cohesive and equitable “society for all” through the inclusion of all people in social, economic and political decision-making and development. As such, social integration is considered both a goal and a process. It is a multidimensional concept that embraces socio-economic and political objectives and strategies.

There are different variables to evaluate the integration of minority groups such as ethnic minorities’ refugees and underprivileged sections of a society into the mainstream of societies. According to the EU Framework for National Roma Integration Strategies up to 2020 there are four main variables to evaluate the integration process of minority groups and immigrants in the host community. The framework uses four main policy indicators to measure integration. In Its latest report, in (2010), measured how well policies relating to integration in labour market access, family reunion, long-term residence, political participation, access to nationality and anti-discrimination helped promote integration. Overall, each policy area was found to be only halfway to best practice. The EU integration policy commonly includes work, education, housing, health service, social inclusion and active citizens to measure the successful integration of minority groups in the mainstream society.

Generally, In order to create a fertile ground for social inclusion Policies and strategies that promote the social, economic and cultural inclusion of migrants/minority groups within existing legal frameworks in the host countries needed. Minority groups need to have a chance to fully engage with their host society from a socioeconomic, political, and cultural perspective.

*Access to education, employment, housing, health Care, are the major variables in EU framework to evaluate the integration process.


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