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National Identities, 2013

Vol. 15, No. 1, 18, http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/14608944.2012.733150


Migration Identity: Connections between migration

experiences and Europeanness
Jan Logemann*
German Historical Institute, Washington, DC, USA

This introductory essay places the articles of the special issue within the context
of current scholarship on Europeanness and European identities as well as on
transatlantic and inner-European migration. It probes the relationship between
various migration experiences and identifications with Europe and the possible
emergence of a European self-understanding among migrants. This exploratory
collection of papers puts the two bodies of scholarship in dialogue and several
case studies offer a wide variety of vantage points on the themes of Europe,
identity, and migration. Much can be learned, they suggest, by careful historical
and sociological investigations of the connections between migration experiences
and Europeanization.
Keywords: migration; Europe; Europeanness; identity; transatlantic history;
inner-European migration

Upon returning to postwar Germany from exile in the United States, sociologist
Theodor Adorno observed that Europe mysteriously condenses itself into one unit
to those returning from America. He was referring to more than a political union or
an, in his opinion, overdue elimination of inner-European borders. Rather, Adorno
was urging his German and European contemporaries to shift their cultural and
intellectual frames of reference from the national to the European level (Adorno,
1950, p. 476). Like many of his fellow emigres, who during the 1930s were forced to
seek refuge outside of the continent and particularly in the United States, Adorno
had discovered Europe from afar. In a 1958 radio interview, Adorno and writer Erika
Mann both reflected upon this Europeanization abroad. Mann pointed out that the
many temporary stops in various European cities had led emigres to experience
Europe as a common space even prior to their Atlantic voyage. The vantage point of
the United States, both Mann and Adorno furthermore agreed, enabled emigres to
perceive continental Europe as a whole and as a unified entity (Adorno & Mann,
1958). The contrast with the United States frequently heightened the sensitivity to
European commonalities and particularities among this group of migrants.
The experience of emigres to the United States, to be sure, was in many ways a
very specific case and hardly reflective of the wide range of transatlantic and
inner-European migration movements in the twentieth century. Still, it provides a
useful starting point for asking more general questions about the relationship
between migration experiences and identifications with Europe. What did Europe
mean to migrants abroad and within the continent? Can we trace the emergence of
*Email: logemann@ghi-dc.org
# 2013 Taylor & Francis

J. Logemann

European identities among different groups of migrants and, if so, what forms did
they take, e.g. as European-Americans in the United States or as modern-day
Eurostars moving between the metropolitan centers of the continent? To what
degree can such identities be compared to the crystallization of national identities
within migrant communities in nineteenth-century North America? These were
the questions that informed a workshop held in August 2011 at the University of
Minnesotas Immigration History Research Center in cooperation with the
Transatlantic Perspectives research project at the German Historical Institute in
Washington, DC. Drawing on papers from that workshop, this special issue will
explore connections between migration studies and research in the history of
Europeanization and Europeanness, areas which have generated much interest in
recent years.
The articles in this special issue understand Europeanization in relation to a
shared sense of belonging, or self-understanding as European. In contrast to
concepts of Europeanization in legal scholarship and the political sciences (e.g.
Graziano & Vink, 2007), the focus here is less on institutional integration processes,
and more on the emergence of a shared sense of Europeanness. Beyond histories of
European political integration and of the intellectual and elite movements that have
supported this process, scholars are paying increased attention to the constructedness of European identities, and to the multiplicity of ways in which this construction
happens (Conway & Patel, 2010; Kaelble & Kirsch, 2008). Discursive constructions
of Europeanness can be traced in the political realm as well as in the social and
natural sciences. On an everyday level, concepts of Europe and what it means to be
European have been constructed through sports, music, travel, and also migration.
Kiran Klaus Patels contribution to this issue takes stock of these debates on the
constructedness of Europeanness and connects them to the question of migration
Migrants can be a particularly useful lens through which to view such
Europeanization processes as they provide a perspective from the periphery in two
ways: by providing a view from the outside as in the case of those who have left the
continent, or by providing a view from the margins of the European societies within
which they live. The field of migration studies has long shifted away from
straightforward questions of assimilation and integration towards an interest in
more fluid and complex processes (e.g. Harzig, Hoerder, & Gabaccia, 2009). We now
see an emphasis on multiple, shifting, and hybrid identities, on transmigrants
who oscillate between countries and between national, ethnic, and cosmopolitan
affiliations, and on the transnational networks and institutions they build and
sustain. Considering Europeanness with its supranational, but also regional,
cultural, religious, ethnic, and racial connotations can provide an additional fruitful
dimension to such inquiries.
The concept of a European identity remains very much contested. As ubiquitous
as the term identity has become in historical and social science writing, it can be
opaque and problematic when applied to groups (Niethammer, 2000; SchmidtGernig, 1999a). Historians such as Konrad Jarausch, furthermore, have warned
against the temptation to historically construct a homogenous or overly narrow
concept of European identity. This would run the risk of repeating nineteenthcentury efforts by historians engaged in the construction of national identities.
Complex and contradictory cultures of memory in Eastern, Western, and Central

National Identities

Europe, he argues, demonstrate why it is impossible to forge a single narrative of

European history (Jarausch, Lindenberger, & Ramsbrock, 2007). Most recent
scholarship thus assumes European identity to be a patchwork of diverse and
overlapping identifications. In contrast to traditional notions of national identity,
some historians employ the term European consciousness which can coexist
with national identifications (Kaelble, 2001). A so-conceived European selfunderstanding provides a useful link to a growing emphasis on hybrid identities as
a consequence of transnational migration as discussed in historical migration studies
(Kirsch, 2002; Kohli, 2002).
There have been recurrent calls to put the history of migrants, a group
marginalized in various national historiographies, at the centre of new, post-national
approaches to European history (Ohliger, Schonwa lder, & Triadafilopoulos, 2003).
Some studies have suggested that a European self-understanding can be linked to
migration experiences. Hartmut Kaelbles work on European self-descriptions in the
nineteenth and twentieth centuries, for example, draws prominently on the travel
writing of European intellectuals abroad (Kaelble, 2001; on travelers from Germany
specifically, see: Schmidt, 1997). Travel outside of Europe (and in this case, especially
to the United States) often heightened a sense of shared European attributes and
problems. While exiled in America, Austrian sociologist Louise von Simson, like
Adorno, wrote that it is astounding how in America one completely forgets those
national differences which appear as such important lines of demarcation in Europe
[. . . This] made the unity of Europe apparent and made us feel as though we
were Europeans (Kaelble, 2001, p. 214). Research on identity transformation as
a result of labor migration and tourism within Europe suggests that this was not a
phenomenon confined to intellectual debates. To what degree this amounted to a
Europeanization from below, remains an unanswered question, however, and
preliminary findings are disparate and ambivalent (Mergel, 2007, 2008). As Karen
Scho nwa lder (2007) has noted, there is a need to systematically probe the relationship between European identities and migration experiences (p. 156).
Inner-European migration has a long history, but only in recent decades have
historians emphasized migration as a constitutive element of European societies
(Bade, 2003; Moch, 1992). Recounting the border-crossings of labor migrants and
refugees has provided a way to challenge national paradigms in historiography
and has furthered our understanding of longstanding transnational connections
among European societies, as Leslie Page Mochs essay in this volume makes clear.
In the first half of the twentieth century, war and nation-state building produced
forced inter-continental migrations on an unprecedented scale. The economic boomera that accompanied the nascent European integration process after World War II
saw a renewed wave of labour migration that made transnational encounters
an everyday phenomenon for millions of Europeans. Postcolonial migration to
Europe, furthermore, became an increasingly important source of reflections about
Europeanness (Schonwa lder, 2007; Strath, 2008). Jessica Sperlings contribution pays
close attention to one such group of new arrivals, Latin-American immigrants
to Spain. Increased education and labour mobility within the emerging EU, finally,
lifted traditional inner-European elite migration to a new scale and gave rise to
what scholars have identified as Eurostars, a new group of mobile professionals
who transcend national attachments with relative ease (Favell, 2008). Saara

J. Logemann

Koikkalainens essay focuses on this group, using the example of Finns abroad, and
provides a strikingly different perspective than Sperling.
The experience of European migrants to the United States underwent dramatic
changes following the interwar period. The ethnic communities of European
migrants that were so prominent during the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries
became less important. Especially for German- and Italian-Americans, the transatlantic migration experience and the ethnic communities in the United States had at
times helped national identifications to become more prominent than prior regional
affiliations  an invention of ethnicity mirroring the nation-building projects back
in Europe (e.g. Conzen, 1989; Gabaccia, 1999). A restrictive turn in US immigration
law during the 1920s largely cut off the influx of new arrivals, while the offspring
of first generation immigrants increasingly left ethnic neighbourhoods for suburbia.
In his longitudinal study of European immigrant communities after 1945, sociologist
Richard Alba (1990) found a weakening of ethnic identifications relating to
particular nationalities such as Polish- and Italian-Americans. Instead he saw a
new group of European Americans emerge whose ethnic identity was of a more
symbolic nature, as Herbert Gans (1979) has argued. The term European
American, however, not only enjoys limited currency within American debates,
but also carries racial rather than cultural overtones as it is at times used
synonymously with white, as Laura A. Millers piece in this issue underscores.
Connections to Europe among postwar European immigrants to the United
States also differed from those of previous eras. Changes in transport and
communication made their migration experience a substantially different one.
Temporary migration in the form of extended family visits, student exchange
programs, short-term labour migration, or longer stays by business migrants and
other career migrants was on the rise. To date, there is only limited research on
post-World War II European migration to the United States, despite the fact that
a substantial number of Europeans moved across the Atlantic during the 1950s
(Bade, 2000; Nerger-Focke, 1995). While the primary interest of historical migration
scholars used to be processes of assimilation, integration, and acculturation within
American society, recent scholarship has begun to understand migration as a
transnational process. Scholars are paying increasing attention to migrants ties to
their homelands and communication with those left behind, to temporary or
permanent returns, and to the complex path of migration itself (e.g. Harzig, 2006;
Elliott, Gerber & Sinke, 2006; Gestrich & Krauss, 2006). These facets of the
migration process foster the emergence of multiple and hybrid identities among those
transmigrants who are continuously engaged in border crossings as well as within
American immigrant communities more generally (Portes, 2000). The impact of these
encounters on the experience of European migrants in the United States, their ethnic
identification, and their perception of the Europe they left behind, however, has not
yet received much attention from historians.
More is known, by contrast, about those migrants who fled to the United States
during the 1930s and 1940s as e migre s and exiles due to political or racial
persecution by the Nazi regime. This group of migrants, which is at the centre of
Barbara Louis research in this issue, stands apart not only because of the forced
nature of its migration experience, but also because of its ethnic and social
composition (Krohn, 1998). Many of the e migre s were Jewish and many belonged
to Europes professional, political, or intellectual elite. While numerous studies now

National Identities

exist on prominent refugee artists, writers, academics, and professionals, as well as on

labor and political leaders (e.g. Coser, 1984), not much attention has been paid to the
immigrants Louis examines, who went into what Margaret Rossiter terms womens
work in the sciences and social sciences (Rossiter, 1980). The literature has traced
personal emigration experiences which, despite the diverse spectrum of individual
biographies and differences across gender lines, included many structural similarities
(Unger, 2009). Many migrants shared problems of professional dislocation, for
example, or had similar perceptions of the American host society (Coser, 1984; on
migre s often reflected prominently on their conflicted
gender, see: Quack, 1995). E
and hybrid identities (Krohn, 2009). While many of them came to also see themselves
as Jewish-Americans, or cosmopolitans, these often highly educated elite migrants
share some similarities with present-day Eurostars in their frequently pronounced
affinity towards identifying with Europe as well.
The present issue thus combines examples of inner-European and transatlantic
migration under this shared set of questions. The first two essays provide a thematic
frame. Leslie Page Moch approaches the topic from the perspective of migration
history. Europeanness, she argues, would be an anachronism if applied to most
migrants in European history. Unlike the mobile elite of Eurostars that moves
within the EU and between European capitals today, the majority of innerEuropean migrants over the past centuries remained attached to regions and states
or perhaps considered themselves to be internationals, but rarely Europeans first
and foremost. While European history is full of transnational migration movements,
cross-cultural integration was frequently only localized and temporary, depending
on political and economic circumstances as much as on the type of migration.
Coming from the field of Europeanization research, Kiran Klaus Patel stresses the
socially constructed nature of Europeanness and the importance of not essentializing this concept or conflating Europe with the European Union. Explicit European
identities, he agrees, are a rare and recent phenomenon. Especially since the
nineteenth century, however, being European has often been defined vis-a`-vis
the other by Europeans migrating abroad or in discourses over non-European
in-migrants. European imperialism, it should be noted, and the exchanges and
encounters it entailed, played a prominent role in this development (e.g. Frevert,
2003). The ethnic melting pot of the United States, Patel points out, was
envisioned by some as a place to create a new American, yet quintessentially
European man. While the term European-American has not enjoyed the level of
success of its hyphenated national counterparts (Italian-American, etc.) and has
remained both vague and secondary in the American discourse, Patel suggests that
it is still fruitful to look for the spaces and places where concepts of Europeanness
did pop up among migrants to the United States.
The following four essays provide historical and sociological case studies on
various migrant groups both in Europe and the United States. Consumer identities as
a way to negotiate transnational belonging are central to Laura A. Millers research
on ethnic resorts in New Yorks Catskill Mountains. Miller complicates the notion of
a postwar emergence of a white or European-American identity by demonstrating the
longevity of ethnic resorts for New Yorks immigrant communities, yet notes some

J. Logemann

degree of growing fluidity and exchange between various immigrant groups. The
contrast with African-American communities, however, also highlights the centrality
of race in constructions of European-American identities. The genderedness of
migration experiences is of special concern to Barbara Louis research. Using the
example of female e migre s trained in the social sciences in German-speaking Central
Europe, many of whom found careers in social work, she emphasizes the positive
opportunities afforded by American exile to some European women on both a
personal and professional level, thus qualifying existing research that has long
focused on the disadvantages and hardships experienced by female exiles. Few exiles,
furthermore, completely left their European past behind, but many, as her cases
show, were also unwilling to dwell on nostalgic memories of the ghosts of Europe.
While reflecting on Europe and European integration from an American vantage
point, professional and gendered self-understandings were of equal or greater
importance than any (supra)national or ethnic identification to the women in Louis
Europeanization has been of more immediate relevance for migrants within
contemporary Europe, as the two sociological essays that conclude this issue suggest.
Jessica Sperling shares aspects of her research on Latin-American immigrant
adolescents in Spain, among whom she found a subset who identified as LatinEuropeans for whom it was in some ways easier to identify with the supranational
than the national level. In contrast to Sperling, Saara Koikkalainen examines highly
educated Finnish labor migrants who worked in several European countries. While
the majority of her subjects continue to identify primarily as Finnish, a sizeable
percentage also self-identified explicitly as Europeans. In both these cases, however,
identifications with Europe often had to be prompted by the survey questions,
suggesting that outside of a small group of highly educated Eurostars (who often
see themselves even more broadly as global citizens), European identities are still
frequently secondary to other forms of collective identification.
Taken together, these snapshots provide significant and suggestive, if quite
specific, observations on the dimensions of the interplay of Europe, migration, and
identity. They suggest, however, that the connection between migration experiences
and identifications with Europe cannot be packaged into a single, neat story. To what
degree (if at all) migrants identified with Europe depended greatly on time and
circumstances as well as on the type of migration. Much like the Eurostars of today,
educated elite exiles and cosmopolitans were most likely to understand themselves in
terms of Europeanness, while for many others, national, regional, or ethnic
identifications remained primary. Beyond inner-European and transatlantic migration experiences discussed here, the integration of a more global perspective will be
necessary, drawing, for example, on the exchanges between European migrants and
non-European elites in colonial and postcolonial settings (Conrad, 2006). For
Europeanization research, the view from outside Europe is especially promising, and
the juxtaposition with postcolonial studies may provide a particularly fruitful avenue
for further study, which will lead to a more global understanding of what Europe and
Europeanness have meant and can mean.
The editors would like to thank the other participants of the workshop, Hartmut
Berghoff, Daniel Bessner, Tobias Brinkmann, Clelia Caruso, Gary Cohen, Mimi
Cowan, Andreas Heil, Poul Houe, Andreas Joch, Shira Klein, Corinna Ludwig,
Christine von Oertzen, Riv-Ellen Prell, Amanda Ricci, Aviel Roshwald, Jens

National Identities

Wegener, Thomas Wolfe, Elizabeth Zanoni, and Marynel Ryan Van Zee for their
contributions and comments, as well as Lauren Shaw for her editorial assistance. We
are furthermore grateful for the support from the German Ministry of Education
and Research, the German Historical Institute in Washington, and the University of
Minnesota which made this workshop possible.
Note on contributor
Jan Logemann is a research fellow at the German Historical Institute in Washington, DC and
director of the project Transatlantic Perspectives: Europe in the Eyes of European Immigrants
to the United States, 19301980. His work focuses on modern consumer societies and includes
his 2012 book, Trams or Tailfins: Public and Private Prosperity in Postwar West Germany and
the United States.

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