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- Dr. Mark Terkessidis: Ist die Schule fit für die Vielheit der Bevölkerung?
- Interkultur, by Mark Terkessidis / Reviewed by Isabel Dzierson
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Terkessidis challenges the often polemic and reductionist debate about multiculturalism and integration of migrants in Germany by developing, in five chapters, a new pragmatic and radical, but long overdue attempt to transform institutional frameworks in order to foster an open, diverse society.
In the first chapter Terkessidis explains the notion of the Para-polis, going beyond the classical concept of the polis, which implies the permanent settling down of its inhabitants. The Para-polis is the result of a change in urban demography, facing different dynamics and new forms of mobility. It is a multi-faceted city in movement. Diverse life models and types of mobility challenge the ideas about integrating immigrants into a stable urban community.
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Instead, urban diversity demands new figurations in order to promote the participation of its inhabitants in urban life and to create solidarity and a feeling of community. Participation has become difficult due to increasing mobility. Thus, the cities have to develop an infrastructure and architecture of mobility to create mobilized urban spaces that are at the same time embedded in global networks. To pursue this project, the existence of migration needs to be accepted as a social reality in German cities and not any longer as an exceptional circumstance.
Too often do responsible authorities failure to grasp the new complexity of urban life and define migration as a problem of urban segregation and loss of control within cities. Cities should therefore strive for creative solutions that take into account both the heterogeneity of the society and individual needs and foster the active participation of their mobile inhabitants.
Terkessisis takes this new urban landscape as a starting point in developing his central critique of the paradigm of integration in the second chapter.
The author takes the reader from the historical evolution of the notion of integration since the s to its revival around the year He explains the multiplicity of definitions and meanings of the integration concept, which overlap in the public discourse with the assimilation and the multicultural model.
This concept tends to perceive the migrant as not engaged enough or even incapable of integrating into society, and therefore as the reason for the disruption of social unity. Migrants are said to be missing parts of their identity and to suffer from the rupture with their country of origin — a lack they could overcome by the act of integration. This discourse however applies different scales to migrants and non-migrant and thereby ignores the fact that an authentic German value system is nothing but an ideological myth.
Supporters of this concept seem to overlook the fact that society is transforming into a diverse, multifaceted one.
Furthermore, this narration of being incomplete can create negative feelings for migrants and have a socially destabilizing effect.
Terkessidis claims to overcome the notion of integration and to aim for a post-integrative concept. Diverse social structures need to be taken into account and the access to institutions and resources needs to be guaranteed for everyone. This means, for instance, on a practical level that the German educational system needs to be changed, its discriminatory structures having been criticized even by the UN.
The third chapter is a critique of racist mechanisms and cultural essentialism in Germany. Instead of open racism, we are facing today the phenomenon of cultural reductionism.
A Journal of Travel, Migration, and Multiculturalism in the German-speaking World
This means that cultural attributes and stereotypes towards minority groups become predominant and serve as explanations for actual social problems. In addition, migrants become representatives of a whole group, which reduces them to a supposed cultural membership and limits their individual personality.
Racism also exists on an institutional level, not in the form of open hostility, but as mechanisms that perpetuate the figure of the stranger. The author criticizes the lack of coordination and continuity in the prevention of racism in the German context, which tends to see racist acts as exceptional cases.
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Therefore he is drawing a comparison to the UK. In the UK institutional racisms is recognized as a structural problem and programs are developed to promote race equality and to educate concerning citizenship issues. Terkessidis argues that in order to change discriminating mechanisms, racism has first of all to be acknowledged as a structural, institutional problem in German society.
Furthermore the author inspires his readers to rethink ethnic categories and to question the way those are exploited for political purposes.
Dr. Mark Terkessidis: Ist die Schule fit für die Vielheit der Bevölkerung?
He wants to transcend the dichotomy of minority and majority and look instead at the entire social context which creates cultural assumptions and racist prejudices.
The author critiques the German tendency of long and misleading debates and the inability to undertake considerate political measures in time.
The first step for coming up with solutions and to accomplish a permanent change is therefore to acknowledge that structural discrimination and social complexity are existing — especially by the responsible political authorities. The author tries to answer the question of how intercultural opening can be implemented in a long-lasting and efficient way. This project requires as a first step the radical transformation of public and private institutions, because they form an essential part of our daily life.
The author is well aware of the difficulties and effort that this task demands and maintains a realistic perspective. Therefore he does not demand a revolution, but rather an evolution of institutions by reforming and restructuring them in order to overcome institutional inequalities.
Terkessidis takes his inspiration from the concept of a barrier-free environment which wants to guarantee everyday access for disabled individuals, and transfers it to the topic of immigration.
The change of institutions will ideally have an effect on all levels of the society; this is what Terkessidis calls migration mainstreaming both on an individual and community level.
Following the idea of gender mainstreaming, this means that migration needs to be discussed on a larger scale and should not be restricted to certain designated areas.
Therefore it is crucial to begin by investigating the state and type of the institution and by taking into consideration the opinions of employees.
The first level is the general culture of the institution. The author recommends changing norms and rules by deciding on a Corporate Code in order to fix diversity principles permanently and officially.
Strategies of recruitment need to be changed to avoid discrimination and guarantee unrestricted access to jobs. Quotas and campaigns can help to modify the structural injustice within human resource management.
Interkultur, by Mark Terkessidis / Reviewed by Isabel Dzierson
After elaborating those practical strategies, Terkessidis stresses the importance of cultural institutions adopting a broad notion of participation and diversity. This is especially relevant for migrant communities for which cultural production can be an important platform to participate and articulate.
However, works of cultural production such as those of theater, film and music have for a long time been linked to the project of nation building and identity formation and lead to categories of unity and cultural pureness.
To overcome this reductionist conception, cultural spaces have to be opened to everybody and the idea of cultural hybridity has to be incorporated.
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Instead he claims that cultural institutions should take into perspective a common daily practice of life in order to realize the formation of a new cultural and social space. Terkessidis pursues with his book an explicit politically and socially relevant goal: creating a profound change towards a diverse society and guaranteeing the same access conditions for every individual.
Terkessidis sees the institutional changes as a first step in the direction of profound social transformation, considering that individual beliefs and ideologies are very difficult to change. He motivates his readers to think beyond multicultural debates and discriminatory demands for assimilation and to aim for real diversity and equality of opportunity.
Terkessidis applies a notion of culture that focuses on practices and interaction rather than on notions of identity and ethnicity.
He sees himself inspired by the Anglo-American tradition of a Cultural Studies approach and by a postcolonial theory background — in particular referring to Homi Bhabha and Raymond Williams.
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At times however, the book tends to be slightly repetitive and misses a bit of lucidity in the definition of the term Interkultur. Skip to primary content. Skip to secondary content. Search for:. Berlin: Edition Suhrkamp,