Social identities are of crucial concern. Collective social identities stand out and are articulated when groups coming from different social, cultural, ‘racial’, national, ethnic, religious and linguistic backgrounds share societal space in public places and arenas, in residential areas or when people compete in schools and in the labour market. ‘Race’, ethnicity and nation are represented in these identities, stereotypes and collective/social representations. However, the concept of representation also pertains to issues of power and influence in political assemblies, that is, political representation of the interests of disadvantaged ‘racial’, ethnic and social groups. In this chapter we will cover a broad range of issues with a number of perspectives on interethnic relations in EU member states.
Dealing with relations between national, ethnic, ‘racial’, religious and cultural groups in concrete societies leads to differential outcome, depending on historical and demographic factors. In some countries this will primarily entail a focus on majority-minority relations (ethnoterritorial, linguistic, religious, cultural minorities) in the nation-state. In other countries, countries of immigration, the focus will rather be on relations between native-born populations and migrants and their descendents (first and second generation) as well as between different migrant groups. In a third set of countries, probably most of the present 25 EU members states, interethnic relations will apply to ethnocultural and ethno-territorial minority-majority relations as well as relations between groups of migrant origin and native populations. The term interethnic relations covers a broad range of encounters between people and groups of diverse origins that take place in European societies of immigration. Often the emphasis is on problematic dimensions or aspects of these relations – racism, social exclusion, discrimination, segregation, inequality and injustice. However, interethnic relations should also be understood to include processes of incorporation and acculturation often referred to as assimilation, integration and comparable terms, as well as various aspects of diversity management.
Although we will start from the broad field of study of identity, interethnic relations and discrimination, including minorities within societies that do not have a migration background (or a very ancient one), we will focus more specifically on the nexus with migration. Our central question is concerned with how migration and integration affect the social and geographical space of the receiving (multiethnic) society, across social class and gender.