BRIDGES Working paper nº 12

Innovative strategies against exclusionary narratives. The case of Germany

Fecha de publicación:
Markus Rheindorf, Research Fellow at the Catholic University of Applied Sciences Mainz

BRIDGES Working paper 12 (June 2023)

Since the beginning of the so-called refugee crisis of 2015, German migration policy has been the subject of controversy in public discourse across Europe, with Germany either praised or criticised for its ‘open door’ policy. In Germany itself, hegemonic discourse has largely supported this policy, focusing on whether or how Germany can deal with its intake of asylum seekers, the significance of Germany’s migration policy for Europe; little attention is given to alternative, counter-hegemonic narratives about migration that go beyond the status quo, especially from non-hegemonic positions such as migrants and refugees themselves. This report investigates such narratives in Germany, the movements, organisations and civil society initiatives that develop and spread them, and the strategies and circumstances that allow such narratives to successfully enter hegemonic discourse. After mapping thirteen recent initiatives that hold a salient position in Germany, two initiatives were selected for in-depth analysis for their success in spreading inclusive narratives across Germany: Seebrücke (Sea Bridge) and Netzwerk medien.vielfalt! (Network Media.Diversity!).

Seebrücke is a nation-wide platform founded in 2015 to advocate for safe pathways and safe havens for migrants and refugees to/in Europe; it comprises hundreds of local, largely independent chapters that, while subscribing to the same global aims, organise local campaigns, as well as a Germany-wide network of communes who have declared themselves ‘safe havens’ for refugees and jointly support Seebrücke’s campaign to shift responsibility for refugee intake and integration from the state to the commune level. Netzwerk medien.vielfalt!, similarly founded in 2015, aims to change the German media landscape to address its discrimination and lack of diversity with respect to ‘people with migration or flight experience’. It works as a platform to network, share experiences and provide vocational trainings, to foster critical media literacy in the general population.

Providing an in-depth qualitative analysis of these two initiatives based on interviews and document analysis, this report examines their work along five key dimensions. The findings are discussed in terms of success factors regarding narrative salience and reach. The report concludes that, while both initiatives have been successful in terms of social and media impact, there are crucial differences in their organisational structure and strategies, in particular with regard to narratives. Using a highly flexible approach, Seebrücke has managed to mobilize local communities and leverage established power structures in commune-level politics, building up momentum to affect more large-scale change. Netzwerk medien.vielfalt! has succeeded in building a nation-wide platform by securing funding and establishing a network that has increased the resilience, reach and success of local, alternative media projects run by people with migration or flight experience. Both initiatives must be considered unique in Germany and both have achieved short-term successes. Their narrative and structural success is difficult to compare: While Seebrücke has managed to tap into hegemonic power structures and mobilize segments of the autochthonous population, Netzwerk medien.vielfalt! is producing media content with growing reach and impact every day. Their positionality as migrant or refugee media makers is a source of both strength and limitations within a media landscape that remains inimical to their positionality.