The thematic focus of this issue was inspired by the latest conference of the Society for Cultural Psychology (Gesellschaft für Kulturpsychologie) and the Association for the History of Psychology (Fachgruppe Geschichte der Psychologie der DGPs), which was initiated by the Department of Psychology, Leibniz University Hanover, in September 2017. The conference’s discussions focused on historical and current aspects of emigration and migration in a cultural context along the lines of what scientific psychology and interdisciplinary research may contribute to this subject today.
Among other topics, the meaning of religion in the context of emigration and migration was discussed with regard to historical and cultural-psychological perspectives. In addition to this, the opportunities and challenges of intercultural coexistence were considered in an economic context. The main interest here was the micro-economic utilization of cultural diversity in a national economic sense, but also the internationalization of corporate activity in general. Furthermore, the migration experience of Syrian refugees was chosen as a central topic, focussing on their identity-based change from a complex being to becoming a refugee only. Closely connected to this, cultural-psychological research on the consequences of trauma and adequate therapy strategies were presented during the conference. The component of intercultural competence was exemplified in an article about British teenagers with bicultural backgrounds, which turned out to provide promising insights on the subject of ethnic identity. A further contribution was dedicated to the experiences of Chinese educational migrants in Germany, which has to be taken into account from a cultural-psychological point of view due to this group’s significant quantitative representation in Germany.
The following four articles approach the research field’s complexity from different perspectives. Peters Antes, professor emeritus for religious studies and a valued Islam expert, clarifies in his article Migration und Religion, which is based on his opening lecture, that the great European religions have reached the continent for different reasons and in different ways and have thus continuously changed over time. According to Antes, the resulting cultural diversity poses a challenge for psychiatry and psychotherapy in Germany, as western concepts of health and illness often differ strikingly from immigrants’ culturally-determined thinking. The distinct reconstruction of the interrelation between migration movements and religion brings light into the darkness of myths and legends, which— especially in current political discourses— blur the terms migration, religion and culture. Considering relevant historiographical developments helps objectify this complex field of discourse.
The religion sociologist and winner of the Ernst-Boesch-Nachwuchspreis 2017 Sarah Demmrich and the religious scholar Michael Blume approach the issue of (non-)religious positions in the context of migration in their article Nichtreligiosität und „religiöse Unentschlossenheit“ bei türkeistämmigen Migrantinnen und Migranten in Deutschland: Eine erste Beschreibung. On the basis of a representative survey, Demmrich and Blume show empirical correlations between different degrees of the characteristics religiosity, family structure, generation and acculturation strategies. The distinction of non-religious, religiously undecided and highly religious migrants descending from Turkey is an important contribution to an evidence-based analysis of integration issues, because including migrants who consider themselves non-religious and religiously undecided in this context is a novelty.
Health psychologist Olaf Morgenroth reminds us to take note of an impressive socio-philosophical reflection of migration experience in his article Vor allem mögen wir es nicht, wenn man uns Flüchtlinge nennt – Hannah Arendts Aufsatz „We refugees“ von 1943. It compares Hannah Arendt’s basic socio-philosophical thoughts concerning the reactions of Jewish emigrants with the observations of the psychologist Erich Stern, who also lived in exile. Arendt’s conclusion based on the different behaviors of exiled persons is that the assimilation strategypreferred by many, associated with denial of their Jewish identity, could not be viable in the context of the political situation of those times. The ambivalent situation for Arendt herself is highly interesting; she speaks both as a distanced philosopher and as a concerned person, trying to balance both levels of migration and identity, which offers a remarkably objective and reflected view on the catastrophic status quo of her time. Morgenroth explores this multifaceted essay and Eric Stern’s observations as important contributions to the current discourse about emigration, migration and culture.
The last article by the cultural psychologist Ralph Sichler is a historical-psychological study, titled Hugo Münsterberg in Amerika und sein unbeachteter Beitrag zu einer vergleichenden Kulturpsychologie. Usually valued for his experimental-applied research in the field of academic psychology, Münsterberg is here read along the lines of his cultural-psychological works which have been almost unknown up to now. Inspired by his own migration experience in the academic milieu, Münsterberg published cultural-psychological analyses concerning the self-conception of the American of his time: a characterization of basic values influencing the American way of life based on typicalization and idealization. In addition to critically appraising Münsterberg’s works, Sichler aims at showing the possibilities and limitations of cultural-psychological interpretations and the problems arising from cultural psychology directed at typical ideals.
The guest editors of this magazine wholeheartedly thank the authors for their excellent cooperation. For any requests and inquiries concerning the conference “Emigration, Migration und Kultur”, which inspired the articles, please contact the guest co-editor via eMail: Billmann@psychologie.uni-hannover.de.
Elfriede Billmann-Mahecha & Phillip Helmke
The guest editors: Phillip Helmke studied German and English/American Studies (B.A.) at Leibniz University Hannover. In his bachelor thesis entitled Lineare Progression: von vereinzelter politischer Satire zum transtextuellen Phänomen (Linear Progression: from a singular political satire to a transtextual phenomenon), published by scius, he dealt with the German satire controversy concerning the NeoMagazinRoyale and Extra3 in 2016. Phillip Helmke works as a graduate assistant at the Institute of Psychology and studies Modern German Literature (M.A.) at Leibniz University and at the Philological Faculty of the University of Barcelona.
Elfriede Billmann-Mahecha is Professor of Psychology at Leibniz University Hannover. Her research focuses on developmental psychology, the history of psychology and cultural psychology.
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