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Organizing Fellow:
Peter I. Rose, Sophia Smith Professor Emeritus of Sociology and Anthropology

The Issues

Immigration, Nativism and the Limits of Tolerance

In Europe today, one of the biggest topics of dispute is over the influx of “outsiders.” While many are political refugees seeking asylum, many more are economic migrants hoping to improve their life chances and those of their children and to support families with remittances sent back to their home countries. Opposition to the presence of such newcomers has come from a wide range of concerned people: from workers who feel threatened by those they claim undercut the labor market to nationalists who see their societies threatened by the influx of “unassimilable aliens.” Many others argue that, while they are willing to keep the doors open, all who enter—and all who are there—must adhere to the principal rules of their civic cultures.

In the United Kingdom and on the Continent, where few ever think of their societies as “nations of nations” or invoke the idea of E pluribus unum, the resentment of foreigners, particularly those from North Africa, the Balkans, Turkey, South Asia, and the Middle East, is widespread and growing, even in the most ostensibly liberal of countries. In many places, widespread concern about the threat of “Islamic fundamentalism” has contributed to and intensified paranoia and resurgent nativism readily exploited by extreme nationalists. There, old arguments about the challenge of diversity and the limits of tolerance, familiar to American social scientists and policy-makers for decades, have become dominant themes heated debates in the parliaments, in the media, and in the streets, but they are often addressed from very different cultural perspectives.

The Colloquium

Can we identify the key causes—whether they be social, economic, political, and religious— of the mounting tensions over migration in today's Europe? What are results for so-called host societies, their citizens, as well as for petitioners for admission and, especially for those who are citizens but share particular racial, religious, or ethnic backgrounds with those who are " suspect"? Participants in the short-term Kahn colloquium will address these issues. While not ignoring the situation in the United States and our own debates about immigration, the focus will be on Europe—and on similarities and differences based on culture and history and social policies.

The colloquium—consisting of Kahn fellows and several visitors—will have two or three preliminary meetings preceding a symposium, scheduled for April 9-10, 2010. Papers prepared by participants relating to these matters, on general themes or in the form of case studies examining interactions of groups in particular societies (e.g. Moroccans in The Netherlands) will be discussed in several sessions. For those interested, finished papers will be considered for inclusion in a special issue of the social science journal, SOCIETY, to be published later in 2010.

Proposed Project Schedule (subject to change):

  • Friday, April 9, 2010, 4-7pm

  • Saturday, April 10, 2010, 9am-4pm


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