The Perception of Immigrants as a Threat to National Identity

Awarded Scholars:
Nancy Foner, Hunter College, City University of New York
Project Date:
Nov 2001
Award Amount:
Project Programs:

In Europe, the U.S., and Canada, recent demographic changes as a result of immigration have led to rising concerns about the possible weakening of a shared national identity. These concerns are especially pronounced in Europe where a growing Islamic population has led to a strong nativist backlash in many countries and widespread debates over the failure of integration and multiculturalism. In the U.S. and Canada, levels of anxiety have not yet reached those seen in Europe; however, concerns about the loss of an “American” or “Canadian” identity have emerged in the face of growing Latino and Muslim populations. In light of these political and cultural developments, it is important to examine how this pressure to comply with indigenous norms affects the integration of immigrant minorities and whether the discourse on national identity is contributing to a hardening of the boundaries between “us” and “them” and reinforcing exclusion.

Nancy Foner and Patrick Simon will organize two workshops and edit a volume on fear and anxiety over national identity in Europe and North America. The workshops and volume will bring scholars from the U.S. and Europe together to evaluate the impact of national policies, public discourse, and national identity on the integration and assimilation of immigrants. Participants will examine the literature on citizenship, transnationalism, identity and belonging, and integration. They will also explore the differences between Europe and North America, and what consequences these different national discourses have for the participation of immigrants and their children in political and social life.


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