This paper explores how refugees integrate into German society and to what extent their integration disrupts traditional theories of cultural assimilation utilizing qualitative data from interviews and online surveys with refugees residing in suburban areas of former East Germany. This paper provides a counterpoint to prevailing scholarship on socio-cultural integration that frequently centers itself in urban areas with large existing immigrant populations. Comparing interview and survey data, this work examines to what extent refugees signal the destabilization of a homogenous German national culture by pioneering their own cosmopolitanized sense of cultural selfhood through consumption of social and digital medias. In viewing the self as a reflexive project whereby an individual engages in a constant construction of identity, this paper will argue that integration is not a top-down process whereby the immigrant is influenced by the host society, but rather that integration is a multifaceted process between the individual, local community, and global media ecosystems. This paper views the construction of cultural identity, particularly in digital spaces, as embedded within broader political structures and reads the cosmopolitan cultural affiliations of refugees as indicative of a political challenge made to Germany’s historic ethno-cultural model of national belonging. In exploring how refugees in diaspora articulate a multifaceted form of cultural identity this paper challenges both expectations of communalist belonging in Germany as well as within the diaspora and argues that due to the fragmenting and cosmopolitanizing forces of globalization nation and culture have become increasingly uncoupled.
Diaspora, Social Media, Cosmopolitanism, Germany, Globalization, Identity, Nationalism
Paper Presentation in a Themed Session
School of Cultural and Critical Studies , Bowling Green State University , United States
Emily Edwards is currently a doctoral candidate at Bowling Green State University. She received her Master's from New York University's Center for European and Mediterranean Studies and her Bachelor of Arts in History from Loyola University New Orleans. She is concerned with the negotiation of identity, race, and power through cultural and media forms and has most recently explored these issues in the context of the refugee crisis and integration in former East Germany as a Deutscher Akademischer Austauschdienst (DAAD) sponsored visiting researcher at the University of Leipzig. Her work has appeared in online news and cultural publications including Public Seminar and New York Transatlantic, as well as in the peer-reviewed journal Glocalism. She is currently the Graduate Student Assistant for the School of Cultural and Critical Studies at Bowling Green State University. Her current research interests include the relationship between diasporas, globalization, and the production of white identities in physical and cyberspaces in the American Midwest.