Publication date:
Nina Mühe and Werner Schiffauer

This article gives a broad overview of the major German debates concerning cultural diversity challenges that have taken place during the last thirty years, and of the most relevant groups and their different labels within these discussions. After summing up historical developments with respect to German national identity, and the politics of naturalisation and citizenship, we present the major debates on issues of immigration and diversity and how they were framed in the different decades, starting with the 1980s, the 1990s, and into the first decade after 2000. The public debates and political ideas around issues of immigration have long been discussed in the atmosphere of a general rejection of the fact, that Germany has been a de facto country of immigration since the beginning of labour immigration after World War II. The perception, that immigrants would one day return home made it possible to ignore important issues of diversity, the necessity to politically address the social participation of immigrants and their children, as well as the changing demographic structure and national identity of Germany becoming an immigration country. It was only in the year 2000, when the reform of citizenship laws gradually enabled non-ethnic Germans to become citizens, that politics officially declared Germany as a country of immigration and, at the same time, pointed out the necessity to urgently design integration policies.