Handling the “Others”

Inequality in Policies for Integration and Ethnic Minorities

Perceived “otherness” – seeming different in look, language, behavior, manifested in the form of a foreign passport or merely based on supposition – often leads to inequality rooted in social, economic and legal disadvantages. It doesn’t matter whether politicians have to deal with new immigrants from distant countries or with minorities that have been residents for a long time: it is almost always a huge challenge for them to protect these people from disadvantaging circumstances, to support their co-existence within a society predominantly made up of another ethnicity and to foster their integration.


Germany’s pluralistic society has an ambivalent relationship with immigration. When the refugee crisis hit its peak in 2015, German people showed an unprecedented solidarity with the refugees. At the same time though, at least prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, there were few other topics that sparked similar heated, polemical and in parts also populist debates. Immigration motivated by economic reasons is openly rejected by some parts of the population. But there are also the ones who appreciate it, with trade associations in some industry sectors that even call for it given a shortage of skilled workers.

Employment is a field in which successful integration is key for all parties involved. In order for employees with migrant background to succeed in their career and for employers to boost business, many language-, culture- and administrative-/legal-related issues have to be solved. The project Integration at Work (Principal Investigators: Claudia Diehl, Sebastian Koos, Florian Kunze, Stephan Schumann) finds that integrating apprentices with migrant background successfully at work is an important index for successful social integration as a whole.

Ethnic Groups and Policies

Many a public discourse is concerned with ethnic identities: minorities construct their identities on the belief in a common descent, on a common language or culture. These identities often result in the formation of social networks and spatial segregation. In groups with pronounced identities, interests are commonly perceived to be shared group interests, such as in battling discrimination and unequal access to important resources. Therefore, it is a major challenge for the state to handle ethnic diversity and balance interests between the majority and minorities.

The project “Ethnic Policies”: Remedy for Between-Group Inequalities?" (Principal Investigators: Katharina Holzinger, Tanja Kupisch) investigates how policies that target specific ethnic groups, in this case the Sámi in Norway and Sweden, have an impact on inequality and can contribute to equality for ethnic minorities.

The project "Mobilizing Inequalities: From Grievances to Conflict" (Principal Investigators: Miriam Butt, Nils Weidmann, Christina Zuber) deals with specific processes of mobilization against the background of structural inequality among groups and ethnically motivated violence.

This Is How We Work on These Issues


Panel discussion at the Berlin Science Week 2019: „Populismus und Soziale Ungleichheit – Aktuelle Debatten“, – 7 November 2019

As part of the 2019 Berlin Science Week, the two social sciences Clusters of Excellence "The Politics of Inequality" and "Contestations of the Liberal Script - SCRIPTS" invited the public to take part in a panel discussion on the question how populism and social inequality are related.

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