Germany in the Twenty-First Century: Who’s Allowed to be German?


The debate about who or what is “German” did not fade after reunification in 1990. And it is about more than “Ossis” and “Wessis.” Global migration processes that began in the 1990s played into ongoing discussions that revolve around the imagined opposition between “Germans” and “foreigners” or other “others.” Culture, as a concept, continues to play an important role when questions arise about who is—or who can become—German. In a multiethnic German society, gestures are made toward a so-called “lead” culture or “guiding” culture [Leitkultur], which is sometimes based on customs and behavior, sometimes on religious traditions. When it comes to religion, either Christian or Judeo-Christian traditions are invoked as foundational, whereby the latter is especially useful in glossing over both German history and ongoing antisemitism.


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