Beyond national identities: the discontinuous sense of identity in immigrant communities

Maarten Van Craen, Hasselt University
Kris Vancluysen, Hasselt University

In the past, the research focus on ethnic identity implied looking at national identity (a feeling of connection to a nation state) or at identification with the people of a nation state. The regional, provincial and local identities of members of immigrant communities were ignored, even though they too are based on territorial and/or social-cultural characteristics. Furthermore, these identities also shape the self-images of members of immigrant communities, and their process of integration. In this paper we will answer three research questions: (1) how strongly do members of Turkish and Moroccan communities in Flanders have a sense of the national (Belgian) identity, the regional (Flemish) identity and the local identity (of Antwerp, Ghent and Genk); (2) are (some of) these identities more strongly developed in one minority than in the other; and (3) what factors promote or inhibit the sense of these three identities among members of immigrant communities. Our results make clear that the identity pattern of both the Moroccan and the Turkish community aligns with what Groenman (1960) calls the ‘discontinuous worldview’. Further we find that those from Moroccan backgrounds have a much stronger sense of Belgian and Flemish identity than do those from Turkish backgrounds. Of the four social-cultural factors we tested, two are highly important for the development of a national, regional and local identity: knowledge of Dutch and chatting with native neighbours.

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Presented in Session 20: Demography of minority and migrant cultural groups