Conflicting cultural identities may foster political radicalism

January 30, 2013

New research suggests that dual-identity immigrants—first-generation immigrants and their descendants who identify with both their cultural minority group and the society they now live in—may be more prone to political radicalism if they perceive their two cultural identities to be incompatible.

The new research is published in Psychological Science, a journal of the Association for .

Psychological scientist Bernd Simon from Kiel University in Germany and colleagues hypothesized that perceived incompatibility between the two cultural identities may pave the way for controversial or even destructive forms of politicization, such as political radicalism.

Simon and colleagues surveyed 341 university students from two of the largest in Germany—Turkish and Russian immigrants—asking questions about which cultures they identified with and whether they perceived any identity incompatibility. The researchers also gauged the participants' sympathy for political radicalism, asking them whether they would show understanding for people who participated in radical activities, including participating in an illegal or violent demonstration, blocking the road, and occupying or damaging other people's property.

The researchers found that dual-identity immigrants who perceived their two cultural identities to be incompatible were more likely to sympathize with radical political action, even after taking many other factors into account (such as age, citizenship, percentage of lifetime spent in Germany, and past radical activity). This finding was true for both Turkish and Russian immigrants.

While previous research has suggested that dual-identity immigrants are more likely to demonstrate their politics in more "legitimate" ways, such as nonviolent protest, the results of this study indicate that dual identity, coupled with identity incompatibility, can also foster political radicalism among immigrants.

The authors emphasize that society plays a significant role in contributing to this "aura of identity incompatibility." As such, it is the responsibility of both immigrant groups and society as a whole not to exaggerate identity and undermine the otherwise positive aspects of dual identity. Rather, dual-identity immigrants should be recognized as "different equals."

Interestingly, Simon and colleagues also asked participants questions about religion and found no evidence to suggest that religious identity fosters political radicalism. In fact, a strong religious identity seemed to counteract political radicalism, particularly among Muslim Turkish .

Explore further: Parents can play an active role in the identity formation of their adolescent children

More information: www.psychologicalscience.org/index.php/publications/journals/psychological_science

Related Stories

At odds in Europe over differing visions of multiculturism

November 15, 2010

The government of Germany has announced that it will place more stringent demands on all immigrants in an effort to better integrate them into society. Since then, a growing debate about multiculturalism has brought to light ...

How has American identity changed?

March 30, 2011

First-generation West African immigrants from Nigeria and Ghana transition smoothly into major societal institutions, such as the workplace and the neighborhood, but have not built stable, mutually beneficial friendships ...

Recommended for you

Fossil specimen reveals a new species of ancient river dolphin

September 1, 2015

The careful examination of fossil fragments from Panama has led Smithsonian scientists and colleagues to the discovery of a new genus and species of river dolphin that has been long extinct. The team named it Isthminia panamensis. ...

Early human diet explains our eating habits

August 31, 2015

Much attention is being given to what people ate in the distant past as a guide to what we should eat today. Advocates of the claimed palaeodiet recommend that we should avoid carbohydrates and load our plates with red meat ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.