From 'Race Relations' to 'Super-Diversity': Where does an Individual Immigrant Fit in the British Discourses over Migration and Integration?
Unutulmaz, K. Onur
Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology University of Oxford Oxford, United Kingdom
Most mainstream sociological and political science studies and politicians alike talk about "Turkish immigrants" or the "Muslim community" in relation to their processes of immigration and integration all over Europe. The current context in Europe, however, is one of "Super-diversity" where diversity is marked with an unprecedented level and kind of complexity created by a dynamic interplay of variables including the country of origin, ethnicity, language, religion, local identities carried over from the sending context, migration channels, legal status, and personal strategies. In such "super-diversity", then, both the way of framing the public debates and political and legal frameworks in relation to migration and integration should be reconsidered.
Through a critical review of the academic and political discourses over immigration and integration in the UK, this paper addresses the question of where an individual immigrant fits in the debates over immigrants, particularly in relation to the issue of integration. The paper discusses the implications of the "race relations", "multiculturalism", and "cohesion and integration" frameworks in the UK as public debates, policy-relevant research and political discourses revolve around these frameworks. The critical review aims at showing how these discourses undermine (i) the complexity, multiplicity and fluidity of immigrant identities; and, (ii) the importance of the various migration processes as experienced and perceived by the individual immigrant.
The paper is based on an extensive review of the integration literature and various policy reports published between 1996 and 2008 in the UK. The critical account produced in this research constitutes the fundamental starting point of an ethnographic field-study on the integration experiences of the "Turkish immigrants" in London which has received funding and will be conducted starting from October 2009. Based on the findings of this paper, London field-study aims at illustrating the undermined heterogeneity of the community of "Turkish immigrants" in terms of the complex ways in which they experience, perceive and assess the immigration reality in the UK, and how these interact with, transform and/or consolidate their identities in various ways.