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Berliner Institut für empirische Integrations- und Migrationsforschung

2. Racism and desolidarization

924 assaults were carried out against refugees and refugee shelters in 2015, show records from Germany’s Federal Criminal Police Office (Bundeskriminalamt). Sections of Germany’s population are reacting to the recent influx or forcefully displaced persons by de-solidarizing with immigrants and refugees. More and more, Germany’s ‘welcoming culture’ (its Willkommenskultur) – which was founded on Germans’ solidarity and practical support for refugees – is clashing with a burgeoning ‘rejection culture’ (Ablehnungskultur). This manifests itself escalating defensive attitudes toward different social groups (including refugees and Muslims), hate crimes and assaults, and the rise of the AfD political party.  Simultaneously, racial contexts, movements and discourses are re-ordering themselves.

If we are to understand this turnaround, we need to systematically revisit and reappraise existing racism research. How and when did stereotypes, discourses and racism change since the 1970s in Germany? Which historical events stood at the centre of these changes? And which were the discursive accelerators and decelerators? 

One of the aims of the present project is to provide an overview of the main access points to the field of racism studies, which can be used to build a racism research cluster. Indeed, in Germany the study of racism is poorly institutionalized and often marginalized. As such, a further aim of the project is to help build a network that connects academia, funding bodies and civil society working on racism in Germany.

Mixed Method Design

1. Field mapping

We will begin with a systematic literature review of existing research, as well as an analysis of Germany’s funding scene and institutional networks. This should help identify the key researchers in different disciplines currently working on racism in Germany.

2. Interviews

The selected experts will be questioned on four subject areas using problem-centred-interviews. The first area will look at their biography and socio-political experiences, and ask how these generated their interest in racism research. The next area will investigate the history of German racism research. It will identify which actors, publications, publishing houses, institutions and funding bodies shaped and continue to shape the racism study, and ascertain the economic conditions under which this line of research developed. This should lead to questions concerning the contours of racism research. A definition of racism will be presented, however, the challenges and hindrances, analytical insights, substitutions and desiderate will also be examined. Finally, participants will be asked to give their own opinion on what contemporary research racism should entail.

3. Focus group discussions

The research results will initially be discussed during an internal workshop. This will be followed by a public panel discussion in Berlin on the 02.12.2016, which will be attended by experts from academia, civil society and funding bodies. A paper on the current state of racism research and its challenges will be available during the discussion. This paper will subsequently serve to create a handout for political decision makers.