From “Kanak Attack” to the “GerKish Generation”: Second-Generation Turkish Narratives in German Culture and Politics

Jens Schneider

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Most studies on young people of Turkish descent in Western Europe, i.e. the post-“Gastarbeiter” generation, present them as a homogeneous group without major changes over time. Research results from the 1990s are treated as current evidence, and little effort is put into longitudinal study designs. The only major internal distinction introduced recently has been the focus on the second generation. Yet definitions of second generation almost exclusively work with demographic criteria (either place of birth or age of entrance to the country), while even basic elements of generational sociology are not considered. This article approaches the Turkish second generation in Germany from the perspective of generational sociology in the Mannheimian sense, i.e. to look for generational identity and the main ingredients of young German Turks' self-definitions. This concept of generation introduces an important additional dimension, absent in most sociological research on migrants and their children: the dimension of time or history. Based on examples from the cultural production of the Turkish second generation, it is argued that even within the relatively short duration of Turkish immigration to Germany life experiences of young people of Turkish descent have fundamentally changed – and continue to do so. So what integration actually means depends not least on age and generational experience.

Suggested bibliographic reference for this article:

Schneider, From “Kanak Attack” to the “GerKish Generation”: Second-Generation Turkish Narratives in German Culture and Politics. IJMS: International Journal on Multicultural Societies. 2009, vol.11, no.2, pp. 212-229, UNESCO. ISSN 1817-4574.

About the author:

Jens Schneider received his Ph.D. in social anthropology at the University of Tübingen (Germany) in 2000. He spent two years at the Federal University of Rio de Janeiro and lectured at several universities in Germany. He has extensive ethnographic fieldwork experiences in Chile, Germany and Brazil. His main fields of interest are national and cultural/ethnic identities, and the influence of the majority identity constructions on migrants and ethnic minorities. He is senior researcher at the Institute for Migration and Ethnic Studies in Amsterdam (Netherlands), and co-coordinator of the TIES survey on second-generation integration in Europe ( E-mail: sfager(at)

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