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Het zijn ook gewoon mensen: een onderzoek naar de werking van interetnisch contact

Geugies, Chris Jan (2009) Het zijn ook gewoon mensen: een onderzoek naar de werking van interetnisch contact.

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Abstract:Introduction As a result of events like the attacks of 9/11 and the assassination of Theo van Gogh, relations between ‘allochthonous’ and ‘autochthonous’ in the Netherlands have deteriorated. To prevent further polarization, numerous initiatives have started to enhance contact between people of different ethnic communities (‘interethnic contact’). Despite these enormous efforts, there is little knowledge whether and how interethnic contact ‘works’. Research that concentrates on interethnic has always been rather superficial. The SCP1 has therefore recently concluded that the answer on the question whether one should continue with policies that try to stimulate interethnic contact is ‘[…] one big question mark’ (2007, pp. 29-30). In-depth research that sheds light on how interethnic contact ‘works’ is therefore needed. Theory In order to present a researchable research question, theoretic concepts need to be introduced. The concept that is central to this research is ‘bridging social capital’ as the opposite of ‘bonding social capital’ (Putnam 2000). Bonding social capital refers to social connections between people that are in some important way similar to each other (‘homogenous people’). Together these homogeneous people constitute what Putnam calls the ‘in-group’. Bridging social capital consist on the other hand of connections between people that differ from each other (‘heterogonous people’). One refers to this as the ‘out-group’. There are numerous characteristics that determine whether one differs from other people. Age, gender, religion, and social-economic status are just a few of them. This research concentrates on ‘ethnicity’ as characteristic that distinguishes between people. Bonding social capital can be found in ‘black’ neighborhoods of larger cities. Migrants often decide to live with people of their country of origin. Names like ‘China Town’ or ‘Little Istanbul’ have therefore appeared in contemporary vocabulary. Also social connections between people that live there entire life on the countryside, stay along the soccer field on Saturdays and visit church faithfully on Sundays, can however be considered as bonding social capital. Bridging social capital could be realized when for example the Moroccan Muslim from the city comes in contact with the Dutch Christian from the countryside. According to Putnam (2000), a right balance between bridging and bonding is of great importance. That is, the social cohesion of a country is at stake when a multiform society only consist of bonding social capital and no bridges between (ethnic) communities exist. Literally: ‘[…] a society that has only bonding social capital will look like Belfast or Bosnia – segregated into mutually hostile camps’ (Putnam & Feldstein 2003, p. 2-3). Next to the distinction between bonding and bridging social capital, one can distinguish between two components of social capital: a objective component and a subjective component. Objective bridging social capital refers to the actual contacts between people that differ from each other; in this case people of different ethnic communities. Subjective bridging social capital does by 1 Sociaal Cultureel Planbureau 5 contrast not concern actual behavior, but refers to the attitude one has towards people that differ in an ethnical sense. So far, only the concept of bridging social capital is introduced. It is however also relevant to distinguish ways to realize bridging social capital. Pettigrew (1998, 2004) – one of the contemporary authorities on interethnic relations – has distinguished four different processes that can explain how bridging social capital can come about. Pettigrew stresses that research on these processes is far form definitive. The four processes are ‘learning about the out-group’, ‘in-group reappraisal’, ‘generating affective ties’ and ‘developing a shared identity’. First, ‘learning about the out-group’. By having contact, people can gather new knowledge about ‘out-group characteristics’ of people (learning). According to Pettigrew, this ‘new’ knowledge can correct ‘old’ knowledge (mostly stereotype views). Negative (existing) attitudes that are based on this ‘old’ knowledge can accordingly be corrected in more positive attitudes that are based on the ‘new’ knowledge. ‘In-group reappraisal’ is quite similar to this process. In this case however, new knowledge of out-group characteristics changes the view one has of its own group instead of the out-group. According to the logic of this process, interethnic contact can provide the insight that one’s in-group values and habits are not the only ones with which one can manage the social world. One starts realizing that ‘different’ does not necessarily equal ‘worse’: a less ‘provincial’ attitude develops. The third process is ‘generating affective ties’. Pettigrew argues that in developing positive attitudes, emotion can play an important role. Contact can both stimulate positive emotions (like sympathy and empathy) and diminish negative emotions (like fear and uncertainty). The fourth and final process that one can distinguish from the literature on interethnic relations is ‘developing a shared identity’. Interethnic contact can give someone the experience that there are – despite the difference in ethnicity – similarities between himor herself and people of different ethnic communities. On the basis of these experienced similarities, a shared identity can develop that bridges the ethnic difference. There is one final thing that needs to be mentioned with regard to what has been stated above. That is, authors have stressed that the causal direction between interethnic contact and bridging social capital is uncertain: interethnic contact does not necessarily have to lead to bridging social capital, bridging social capital could also explain interethnic contact between people. Powers and Ellison for example state that: ‘[…] initially tolerant attitudes may lead individuals to engage in, or even to seek out, interracial contacts, while less tolerant persons eschew such contacts’ (1995, p. 206). This could imply that projects that try to stimulate interethnic contact only attract a limited group of people. It is possible that interethnic people mainly reach people that already have bridging social capital, and not the people that one wants to reach: people with no or little bridging social capital. This research will also focus on this matter, as will become clear from the research question that are presented below.
Item Type:Essay (Master)
Ministerie voor Wonen, Wijken & Integratie
Faculty:BMS: Behavioural, Management and Social Sciences
Subject:88 social and public administration
Programme:Public Administration MSc (60020)
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