MIE – the qualitative project about religious immigrant communities

Comparative qualitative findings for Germany and Switzerland

The comparative research design relies on two exemplary cases of religious immigrant communities, namely Bosnian Muslims and Croatian Catholics in defined regions of Germany and Switzerland. It intends to scrutinise concepts of belonging to a religious group in view of self- and external ascriptions. In terms of methodology the project relies on semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions with both leaders and members from Bosnian and Croatian communities.

Bosnian Muslims

Around 50'000 Bosnians live in Switzerland and around 200'000 in Germany.

Croatian Catholics

Around 60'000 Croatians live in Switzerland and around 395'000 in Germany.

Immigrant communities, religious identities and incorporation in civil society

In this research, the project’s key is that in Western Europe the general, societally constructed idea of a socially accepted religion takes on lead orientation for immigrant religious communities in order to gain societal legitimacy and recognition. For this reason, two closely linked research units in Germany and Switzerland with Prof. Dr. Alexander K. Nagel and Arnela Balic MA (Göttingen University) and Prof. Dr. Martin Baumann and Rebekka Rieser MA (University of Lucerne), aims to analyse strategies of adaptation, preservation, and change of the collective identity constructions of religious immigrant communities and their impact on civil society.

In Europe, qualitative studies on the interrelation of religion and migration have long focused on issues such as social incorporation, processes of exclusion, and general questions of the social cohesion of a nation state. At the same time, the role and importance of religious immigrant communities as a part of the civil society has remained under-researched. Furthermore, most of the recent studies on religious immigrant communities have focused on Muslims and Islam, whereas comparative studies of two or more different religious communities as well as research in particular on Christian immigrant communities have been widely neglected. The aim of the qualitative research project “Migrant Communities, Religious Identities, and Civil Incorporation” is to help overcoming this lacuna. Based on a neo-institutional understanding of institutional myths the project therefore explores the double-sided myths as articulated in the self-image of immigrant communities and the public image of these communities. Identification and categorization are closed interwoven as public images of a religious community or tradition can change and may trigger an adaptation of religious self-images to social constructions of a “good” or “legitimate” religion.

In the sense of a mixed-methods design the project is closely linked to the quantitative sister project “Configurations of Individual and Collective Identities and their Potentials in Civil Society: Representative Results for Germany and Switzerland in Comparison (KONID” led by Prof. Dr. Gert Pickel (Leipzig University) and Prof. Dr. Antonius Liedhegener (University of Lucerne).

"We expect from the research new findings on adapted self-presentations of religious immigrants communities in view of the socially constructed myth of a "good religion"."

~Martin Baumann

Our work


This project is part of the greater research framework “Social Groups and Religious Identities in Civil Society (RESIC)” funded by the German Research Foundation (DFG) and the Swiss National Science Foundation (SNF) on the Lead-Agency-scheme.