May 19, 2016
This article summarizes an empirical research project on the importance of ethnic culture and community in immigrant societies. Three immigrant neighborhoods in Berne, Zurich, and Basel were chosen as research sites. The research team used semi-structured interviews and network analysis to understand the social categories with which Swiss, Italian, and Turkish residents described their neighborhood environment and to grasp the everyday social relations they maintained. Three major results are reported: a) Ethno-national groups and identities do not represent the most important principles of classification in the eyes of local residents. Rather, the social world is described in terms of a basic scheme distinguishing between order and disorder. b) From this, a transethnic definition of the us-group results, which does not, however, entirely conform to actually observed networking behavior: three quarters of the social networks were mono-ethnic in their composition. c) In the second generation, the structures of these networks show no differences between the three ethno-national groups. The results conform in part to the multicultural theory of ethnic community formation (b), in part to its competitor, the theory of ethnicization (or racialization) of immigrant societies (a and c). As a concluding point I recommend reorienting research toward a non-teleological, multi-linear model of immigrant incorporation.