Second-Generation Turkish Immigrants in the United States and Germany: Dilemmas of Cultural Identity in Crossing Over: Comparing Recent Migration in the United States and Europe

Arguing that immigrants’ origin culture is not the main obstacle to integration, Zeynep Kiliç compares the experiences of second-generation Turkish immigrants in America and Germany. She observes high levels of integration in Turks living in New York, proving that Turkish culture is not incompatible with Western values as it appears to be in Germany. The difference lies in the host countries’ laws regarding citizenship and naturalization, as well as its geographical placement, size of its Turkish immigrant population, and stereotypes of the Turkish community.
Kiliç’s main idea is “fluid adaptation,” which she defines as immigrant strategies for living in the host society. In New York, Turkish Americans are well-integrated with an undisputed “Americanness.” They enjoy the advantages of being white and are sheltered from negative stereotypes because of the general lack of knowledge of Turks in America. Also, because naturalization is so effortless, they do not question their national identity. In Berlin, however, integration is far more complicated. Kiliç specifies three groups: those who identify as Turks, those who identify as German, and those who embrace a supranational identity, such as being a “Berliner.” She argues that the multiple possible identities are a result of the legal and social denial of a German identity to the Turkish population. Due to more restrictive naturalization laws, some second-generation immigrants may not even be citizens. For Turks in Berlin, citizenship and national identity is a conscious decision. Even those that are born into a German citizenship must choose between it and their parents’ Turkish citizenship by the age of 23. The Turkish immigrant population is also large in Berlin in comparison to New York. Combined with the proximity of Turkey, this increased visibility results in negative stereotyping of Turks.
I agree with Kiliç that to hold immigrants accountable for integration into society is unjustifiable. Though less restrictive immigration laws won’t solve all of Germany’s integration problems, legal recognition of an immigrant’s German identity is a start toward social recognition.

by Xiaoqian Lim

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