Conflicting cultural identities may foster political radicalism

Jan 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: Devices or divisive: Mobile technology in the classroom

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

Related Stories

How has American identity changed?

Mar 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

A call to US educators: Learn from Canada

12 hours ago

As states and the federal government in the U.S. continue to clash on the best ways to improve American education, Canada's Province of Ontario manages successful education reform initiatives that are equal parts cooperation ...

Devices or divisive: Mobile technology in the classroom

Apr 17, 2015

Little is known about how new mobile technologies affect students' development of non-cognitive skills such as empathy, self-control, problem solving, and teamwork. Two Boston College researchers say it's ...

Forming school networks to educate 'the new mainstream'

Apr 17, 2015

As immigration increases the number of non-English speaking "culturally and linguistically diverse" students, schools will need to band together in networks focused on the challenges of educating what has been called "the ...

User comments : 0

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.