A Comparative View of Ethnicity and Political Engagement
Annual Review of Sociology
US : Annual Reviews
241 - 260 p.
Ethnicity, Western Europe, Political engagement, Political participation, Transnational participation, Migrants
This article reviews approaches to ethnicity and political engagement, with particular emphasis on Western Europe. It argues that studies were at first marked by a structuralist approach and later turned to a more culturalist understanding of ethnic mobilization. Also, owing to increased labor migration after World War II, researchers shifted their attention from ethnic separatism to the ethnic identifications and mobilizations of migrants. While the political mobilization around (or based on) ethnicity was long seen as a disruptive factor within states, then also as a resource or barrier for migrant political involvement within national contexts, it is now studied under the auspices of increasing transnationalism, too. Simultaneously, religion, and especially Islam (in the European context), has come to be seen as one of the most important markers of identity and difference in European societies. This article's theoretical reflections concentrate on the juxtaposition of these two developments—increasing transnationalism and the (re)emergence of religion as a relevant boundary marker. To analyze these shifts, the article contrasts three theoretical approaches with regard to ethnicity: theories of integration, resource mobilization theory, and the political opportunity structures approach. It suggests the revision of the traditional understanding of integration as nationally bounded, and it highlights the need for new perspectives for the study of ethnicity and political participation in the context of globalization.