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EASP – European Association of Social Psychology

Report on the Joint EASP-SPSSI Meeting: To be both (and more)”: Immigration and identity multiplicity

16.11.2017, by Sibylle Classen in meeting report

Zeist (The Netherlands), 15-17 September 2017
Organisers: Fenella Fleischmann, Kay Deaux, Maykel Verkuyten & Shaun Wiley


The current swell of immigrants moving into virtually all Western countries has challenged once-stable notions of social identity, and in particular the sense of an ethnic, national (or regional), and religious identity. Both from the perspective of the immigrants, who confront the task of defining themselves in a new and unfamiliar context, and from the perspective of members of the host country, who encounter new residents that challenge their own sense of ethnicity and nationality, these demographic changes highlight a host of psychological issues, and in particular the concept of identity. Against the background of these recent demographic developments and increasing scholarly attention to identity multiplicity in the context of immigration, we organized a small group conference to address and explore three facets of the identity issue: (a) how immigrants and their offspring define, replace, and/or combine their ethnic, national, religious and other relevant identities; (b) how citizens of the receiving country as well as members of one’s own ethnic/national group, define and accept or reject the immigrant group’s portrayals; and (c) the consequences of various patterns of identity definition for individual (e.g., sense of well-being, academic performance), interpersonal (e.g., friendship, intermarriage) and intergroup (e.g., political participation, collective action) outcomes.

Thanks to generous funding from EASP and SPSSI (and ISPP, as noted below), we were able to organize a successful small-scale Joint Meeting this September at a conference venue near Utrecht, located in a beautiful, if somewhat remote, estate surrounded by woods. Twenty-seven participants (17 EASP and 9 SPSSI members) from eleven different countries gathered to give presentations and engage in discussions on the topic of immigration and identity multiplicity. The group included mainly social psychologists, but also scholars from adjacent disciplines such as Developmental Psychology and Sociology. Scholars at different career stages participated, from early career scholars just starting their theses to postdoctoral scholars to senior researchers. The latter served primarily as discussants. They identified common themes in sets of up to four presentations and stimulated discussion and debate among the group. This set-up allowed us to keep with the long, participatory tradition of the interactive small group meeting. In addition to the discussions at the end of six thematic sessions, we held one general discussion during the meeting, as well as informal talks during breaks and meals, facilitated by the fact that all participants stayed on site for the duration of the program.

Day 1
After a get-together with drinks and a BBQ dinner on the night preceding the first day of conferencing, the meeting began with a session on multiple identity development in context. Sarah Martiny (Arctic University), Charissa Cheah (Maryland), Nadya Gharaei and Jessie Hillekens (both Leuven) presented research on identity multiplicity in adolescents with a migration background in the US, Germany and Belgium, focusing on minorities who are not only set apart from the mainstream by their ethnicity but also by their Islamic religion. The discussion that followed these four presentations was initiated by Rupert Brown (Sussex). In the second session on identity compatibility, Judit Kende (Leuven), Fredrick Sixtus (Free University Berlin), Fenella Fleischmann (Utrecht) and Peary Brug (St. Mary’s, London) presented recent empirical work, followed by a discussion led by Kay Deaux (NYU & CUNY). After lunch, the third and last presentation session of the day focused on identity content and mobilization. Two papers, by Ann Wilson-Daily (Universitat de Barcelona) and Meral Gezici-Yalcin (Abant Izzet Baysal University), were delivered in person, while the third speaker, Shaun Wiley (The College of New Jersey) sent in a presentation he audio-recorded the previous night. Anca Minescu (Limerick) started up the discussion after these three contributions. After a short coffee break, the participants gathered again for a general discussion led by the organizers that was mainly devoted to the envisioned outputs of the meeting. Among many interesting possibilities, the greatest consensus was for a Special Issue that could bring together some of the research that was presented, as well as to facilitate cooperation between participants with mutual research interests. Between this discussion and dinner, participants enjoyed a well-deserved break that many used to explore the wonderful paths laid out in the woods surrounding the conference center.

Day 2
The second day started off with presentations on the topic of intergroup similarity and distinctiveness. Aharon Levy (IDC Herzliya), Özge Savas (Michigan), Maria Olsson (Arctic University) and Emanuele Politi (Lausanne) presented their work, after which Veronica Benet-Martínez (Pompeu Fabra) initiated a discussion. The second session of the day brought together three studies taking a social network approach to identity multiplicity (by Lydia Repke, Pompeu Fabra; Angelika Love, Oxford; and Lars Leszczensky, Mannheim) with longitudinal research relating dual identity to intra- and intergroup contact by Laura Fröhlich (Hagen). Karen Phalet (Leuven) led the ensuing discussion. During the sixth and final session of the conference, Olivia Spiegler (Bochum), Gülseli Baysu (Kadir Has) and Analia Albuja (Rutgers) presented research on outcomes of identity multiplicity, covering topics such as executive functioning, school engagement, school success and well-being. Maykel Verkuyten (Utrecht), was the discussant of this session and, in his role as one of the conference organizers, also wrapped-up the two-day conference. We concluded that the two days of conferencing yielded many new insights and new perspectives on this emerging and interdisciplinary research field. An important lesson we learned regards the different conceptual and operational approaches to dual identity and identity multiplicity that require further systematic review to allow for theoretical and empirical progress to be made in future research. A second major outcome of our meeting was the extensive networking that took place between participants, many of whom had not encountered each other before, but discovered shared research interests and started making plans for future collaborations.

In addition to the funding from EASP and SPSSI, we received a Small Grant from the International Society for Political Psychology for this meeting. This allowed us to limit the costs that participants had to incur during the meeting, and to offer a number of travel grants to early career researchers and scholars from low-income countries who would not have been able to attend otherwise.

We are grateful for all the support of our meeting that made the event both fruitful and pleasant for participants, not least the organizers.