2019-09-26Zeitschriftenartikel DOI: 10.18452/21492
Same same but different. How the play of difference intersects female refugee support workers’ constructions of a common identity
Kultur-, Sozial- und Bildungswissenschaftliche Fakultät
As in most parts of Europe, the influx of a large number of refugees from the summer of 2015 on has greatly stirred German society and politics and deeply divided the population on how to deal with asylum seekers and immigration. This article enters this controversy by examining supporters committed to the pro-refugee side of the debate – female volunteers in refugee support work. It investigates how the volunteers interpret their relationship with refugees and adopts the social-psychological hypothesis claiming that the construction of a common identity helps decrease prejudice and facilitate intergroup relations. However, I go on to argue that manifestations of difference continuously interfere with these conceptions of ‘sameness’, as difference is fundamental for the construction of identities and meaning in general. Drawing on 22 in-depth interviews with female refugee support workers in Germany, this paper then traces how female volunteers imagine and locate ‘sameness’ and ‘difference’ when working with refugees. The article shows that while outwardly, participants are keen to develop a sense of a shared identity with the refugees, distinctions through power hierarchies or cultural or gender identities disrupt their experience in ambivalent, complex and covert ways.
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This article was supported by the Open Access Publication Fund of Humboldt-Universität zu Berlin.