The Vague Feeling of Belonging of a Transcultural Generation. : An Ethnographic Study on Germans and their Descendants in Contemporary Helsinki, Finland.

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Title: The Vague Feeling of Belonging of a Transcultural Generation. : An Ethnographic Study on Germans and their Descendants in Contemporary Helsinki, Finland.
Author: Breier, Dorothea
Contributor: University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts, Department of Philosophy, History, Culture and Art Studies
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2017-11-10
Thesis level: Doctoral dissertation (monograph)
Abstract: Our world has always been shaped by mobility: moving animals and people are crucial for life on earth. Despite this, the overall scale of people moving has changed significantly in the past centuries and decades. The field of migration studies has adapted to this and is no longer only about actual migrants and their seemingly permanent one-way movements. Instead, the perspective has widened and now includes various shades of mobility, both different movements as well as groups of people affected by it. The study at hand provides an innovative approach and a still rather uncommon research setting. It focusses on Germans and their descendants in contemporary Helsinki and asks about the way they (de-)construct boundaries between German- and Finnish-ness, where they position themselves within such frameworks and what personal consequences could emerge from their background and a particular self-positioning. What makes this study novel, especially in contrast to most migration-related research, is that due to the long and intense connection between Finland and Germany the group in question is not regarded as problematic by the majority society. Therefore, their way of positing and feeling of belonging must be seen and interpreted in this specific light. Such a perspective complements the majority of migration studies that often emphasise questions concerning integration of and discrimination against perceived "exotic" and thus "problematic" migrants. With the help of 32 qualitative, semi-structured interviews, the author shows how people with a German-Finnish horizon express their often rather vague feeling of (not-)belonging. Taking the interviewees’ accounts as a point of departure, it became apparent that belongingness depends on many factors including time, place and social surrounding and that it could change several times in a person’s life. The study examines when and how people draw on national categories, only to deconstruct and question them moments later, and furthermore, what impact on a person’s life his/her self-identification could have. By connecting the findings to the relevant literature and to topical issues and discussions, the aim of the study is to emphasise how important it is to see phenomena as part of the big picture, in this case, an intergenerational, societal and historic context. As people’s experiences, emotions and behaviour are heavily influenced by such factors, their understanding becomes only possible when all dots are connected and seen as the inter-connected unit they in fact form.Tämä tutkimus käsittelee saksalaisia ja heidän jälkeläisiään nykypäivän Helsingissä. Se käsittelee kysymyksiä, kuten miten he purkavat raja-aitoja (omasta näkökulmastaan) saksalaisuuden ja suomalaisuuden väliltä, miten he asettavat itsensä vastaaviin viitekehyksiin ja mitä seuraamuksia heidän taustastaan ja kyseisestä viitekehykseen asemoitumisesta voi seurata. Suomen ja Saksan historiallisesti läheisen suhteen seurauksena kyseistä ryhmää ei pidetä ongelmallisena kantaväestön keskuudessa. Tästä syystä saksalaisten ja heidän jälkeläistensä asemointia suomalaiseen yhteiskuntaan ja kuuluvuuden kokemustaan pitää tarkastella erityisessä valossa. Tämä näkökulma täydentää valtaosaa maahanmuuttotutkimuksesta, joka keskittyy lähinnä ”eksoottisina” ja siten ”ongelmallisina” pidettyjen maahanmuuttajien integraatioon ja heidän kokemaansa syrjintään. Yhdistämällä tulokset asiaankuuluvaan kirjallisuuteen ja yhteiskunnalliseen keskusteluun, tutkimuksen tarkoituksena on painottaa, kuinka tärkeää on nähdä ilmiö osana suurempaa kokonaisuutta, tässä tapauksessa sukupolvien välistä, yhteiskunnallista ja historiallista kontekstia.
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