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Ethnic Identity: Socio-cultural belonging of immigrants in the US and Germany

Grant Winners

  • Julia Chaitin, Ph.D. – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • John Linstroth, Ph.D. – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Patrick Hiller, (Student) – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Denese Edsall, (Student) – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences
  • Gabriele Rosenthal – Georg-August University Goettingen, Germany
  • Michaela Koettig – Georg-August University Goettingen, Germany


  • Honggang Yang – Graduate School of Humanities and Social Sciences


Award Winners

Together with German colleagues from the University of Goettingen, we are researching and teaching issues connected to identity and ethnic belonging. We are using biographical-narrative interviews and ethnographic techniques for different groups of migrants from Cuba, Haiti and Guatemala, who have settled in the United States, and of migrants from Sierra Leone, Iran, Bosnia and other countries who have settled in Germany, due to ethnic conflicts or very difficult life conditions in their countries of origins. In particular, we are examining how different life conditions and societal contexts influence the immigrants' sense of collective belongings and transformations of these ideas of belonging. In our work, we are employing a contrastive comparison of life and family experiences embedded in a variety of social contexts in order to develop an empirically grounded theory of "ethnic identity" or "sense of belonging." Therefore, we are linking together different perspectives from sociology, psychology and social anthropology and triangulating different qualitative methods of data collection and analysis.

The different steps planned for this collaboration include:

  • Discussion of our different conceptions/understandings of the topic of ethnic identity
  • Discussion of data collected by the German partners.
  • Interpretation of our data from different perspectives and methods of analysis
  • The gathering of new data and triangulation of different forms of data collection
  • Teaching and mentoring MS and PhD students at both universities
  • The holding of a joint conference on methodologies and identity among migrants to the United States and Germany.
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