Becoming Multicultural: Immigration and the Politics of Membership in Canada and Germany. By Triadafilos Triadafilopoulos. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2012. i–ix, 290 pages, Can$ 90.00 hardcover, Can$ 32.95 paper.
Article first published online: 18 MAR 2013
© 2013 by the Center for Migration Studies of New York
International Migration Review
Volume 47, Issue 1, pages 239–240, Spring 2013
How to Cite
Bauder, H. (2013), Becoming Multicultural: Immigration and the Politics of Membership in Canada and Germany. By Triadafilos Triadafilopoulos. Vancouver: University of British Columbia Press, 2012. i–ix, 290 pages, Can$ 90.00 hardcover, Can$ 32.95 paper. . International Migration Review, 47: 239–240. doi: 10.1111/imre.12019
- Issue published online: 18 MAR 2013
- Article first published online: 18 MAR 2013
Do not judge this book by its cover! While the cover depicts a fairly bland image of a circle made up of red and colored dots, the book's content is empirically rich and astonishingly insightful. These characteristics enable Becoming Multicultural to make a significant contribution to the literature on immigration and citizenship.
The book adds, in particular, to a growing body of migration-related literature that compares Canada and Germany. It uses the two countries as case studies to explore what Triadafilopoulos calls the migration-membership dilemma. This dilemma is created by the contradiction between state practices of admitting migrants to fill labor shortages or pursue political aims and the lack of commitment to include these migrants into the national community. Despite Canada's and Germany's different histories, understandings of national belonging, and attitudes toward migration, Triadafilopoulos uncovers similarities in the manner in which immigration and citizenship have unfolded in both countries and seeks to “explain why two countries so determined to limit cultural diversity through the application of restrictive immigration and citizenship policies during the first half of the twentieth century found themselves transformed into highly diverse, multicultural societies by its end” (p. 158).
The book contains six chapters. In the Introduction (Chapter 1), Triadafilopoulos develops a theoretical framework of analysis that draws on a political-science perspective. According to this framework, policy trends can be explained by the interaction of the overlapping dimensions of normative contexts, national traditions, and political practices. While an emerging “global human rights culture” (p. 8) after the Second World War framed the immigration and citizenship policies in both Canada and Germany, these policies were also influenced by the legacies of different traditions related to being a classical immigration country (i.e. Canada) and an ethnic nation (i.e. Germany), as well as by different political institutional systems and historical contingencies. In addition to these normative, historical, and political contexts, both Canadian and German immigration and citizenship policies were affected by practices of policy stretching, policy unraveling, and policy shifting.
The subsequent substantive chapters apply this theoretical framework to an empirical context. Chapter 2 examines Canadian and German policies and politics from the turn of the century through the inter-war period. Chapter 3 explores the consequences of the transformation of the global normative context in the wake of the Second World War and the horrors of Nazi ideology and the Holocaust. Chapters 4 and 5 then investigate separately for Canada and Germany the more recent transformations of immigration and citizenship policies and the convergence by both countries toward multiculturalism. A short conclusion (Chapter 6) summarizes the main argument and speculates about the future of the ongoing process of immigration and integration in light of emerging tensions around religion.
The strength of the book is its empirical rigor and attention to historical detail. It is probably the best source of factual information comparing Canada's and Germany's immigration and citizenship policies and practices over the last century currently available. Although the empirical parts of the book are extremely well researched, a section or appendix explaining the method of analysis may have helped to clarify how exactly the data were collected and interpreted. Overall, the book is written in accessible language, avoids jargon, contains an index for easy referencing, and is well organized. These features make it suitable not only for research purposes but also for teaching in specialized graduate classes in political science and migration studies. The book may furthermore appeal to policy makers on both sides of the Atlantic, not only in Canada and Germany but also to anyone interested in learning how traditional immigration countries and ethnic nations are wrestling with similar overarching questions of immigration, inclusion, and membership.
Over the last decade, a substantial literature has emerged that compares Canada and Germany in a migration context. I was slightly disappointed to see that the book does not engage in greater depth with some of the material and arguments presented in this literature perhaps due to the fact that I, too, contributed to it. For example, as Triadafilopoulos points out, the contradiction between the politics of migrant admission and membership addresses “basic questions of identity: Who are we? Who do we wish to become?” (p. 2). The established literature could have fruitfully informed the dialectical relationship between migration and the national imagination that Triadafilopoulos sets out to explore in the particular empirical context of Canada and Germany. It could have provided further insights into the “migration-membership” contradiction that is at the core of this book. This literature also resonates with the contradictions of the competing political positions and the relation between powerful normative discourses and material immigration and citizenship practices and policies that the book explores. To be fair, engagement with this multidisciplinary literature would have pushed Triadafilopoulos beyond his disciplinary boundaries and, perhaps, comfort zone. Nevertheless, such inter-disciplinary engagement might be a direction that future work related to migration and inclusion in Canada, Germany, and elsewhere could assume.
By demonstrating with remarkable detail how the dialectical relationship between normative context, political process, and material transformations has shaped migration and citizenship practices in both Canada and Germany, Triadafilopoulos provides, with Becoming Multicultural, a sound foundation on which future work on migration and membership policies and practices in contemporary “Western” nation-states can build.