'Ja die müssen sich halt integrieren': Ethnizität und Religion in Grenzziehungen unter jungen Erwachsenen.

Auteur Kerstin DUEMMLER
Directeur /trice Janine Dahinden
Co-directeur(s) /trice(s)
Résumé de la thèse

When looking at discourses in the media and in politics, ethnicity and religion are categories that are frequently used to construct notions of ‘us’ and ‘them’. This thesis investigates the roles of religion and ethnicity in boundary work processes among young people in schools in the Swiss canton of Lucerne. It examines the mechanisms and narratives used to construct and legitimise differences, hierarchies and inequalities between people. Contributing to the discussion on symbolic boundaries, this thesis builds bridges between social identity theories, as well as between theories on social inequality, ethnic and religious boundary work. This theoretical framework allows to study the manipulation of boundaries by social actors and to surpass static analysis of the positioning of social boundaries. The thesis draws on a telephone survey with young people aged 16 to 20 living in the canton of Lucerne as well as on ethnographic, interview and focus group data that were collected through observations in four classes in different Lucerne schools.


The study highlights how ‘Foreigners’, ‘Albanians from Kosovo’ and ‘Muslims’ have become the most stigmatised categories. These three boundaries do not have arbitrary relevance but are related to social inequalities institutionalised in social key spheres (e.g. media, labour market, education, immigration policy, legal framework to accommodate religious diversity, access to citizenship). Historical boundaries from the 19th and 20th century (between Catholics and Protestants, Swiss and Italians) have become, in contrast, irrelevant for young people, which points to the fact that boundaries can change if social inequalities diminish.


This thesis addresses in detail the logic of three narratives that legitimise daily stigmatisation: these are paradigms to (1) integrate, (2) to respect gender equality, and (3) to follow one's religion in a secularised way as well as to inscribe oneself in a Christian tradition. These norms form a basis to judge who can claim to be Swiss and who is seen as a typical ‘Foreigner’, ‘Albanian from Kosovo’ or ‘Muslim’. Although strategies and narratives exist that aim at manipulating those boundaries and hierarchies (e.g. by drawing on universal human rights and values like respect or tolerance), the young people do not have the capacity or will to dissolve or change the three boundaries. The focus on the deviations from the three norms demonstrates a general suspicion and a refusal of equal recognition.


The institutional school context frames the young people’s narratives and practices since teachers are rarely aware of subtle mechanisms and routines contributing to daily stigmatisation. Although the schools encourage boundary crossing, blurring or shifting, they also help to construct manifested religious and ethnic boundaries.


In studying those who suffered from stigmatisation and symbolic exclusion, the study reveals various strategies of positioning – assimilation, symbolic ethnicity/religion, claim for equal recognition, reactive ethnicity/religion – depending how stigmatisation and exclusion is experienced. Yet, none of those strategies have the capacity or intention to rigorously question the symbolic boundary work. Sometimes, they even contribute to the maintenance of boundaries. This is mainly due to a lack of social cohesion among youngsters who suffer from stigmatisation which prevent to counteract boundaries.


As a conclusion the thesis stresses that the maintenance and transformation of boundaries does not so much depend on the individual capacity or power but rather on the mutual engagement of social actors and on shrinking social inequalities in various social key spheres.


Statut terminé
Délai administratif de soutenance de thèse 2012
URL http://www2.unine.ch/maps-chaire/