Germanness or Rights? Second Generation Young Adults and Citizenship in Contemporary Germany

in German Politics and Society

Scholarship on citizenship-in its definition as nationality or formal membership in the state-has been both the basis for evaluating and comparing national citizenships as "ethnocultural" or "civic," and used to imply the meaning of citizenship to prospective citizens, particularly immigrants and non-citizen residents. Doing so ignores a perspective on citizenship "from below," and oversimplifies the multiplicity of meanings that individuals may attach to citizenship. This article seeks to fill this gap in scholarship by examining young adult second-generation descendants of immigrants in Germany. The second generation occupies a unique position for examining the meaning of citizenship, based on the fact that they were born and grew up in Germany, and are thus more likely than adult immigrants to be able to become citizens as well as to claim national belonging to Germany. Among the varied meanings of citizenship are rights-based understandings, which are granted to some non-citizens and not others, as well as identitarian meanings which may depend on everyday cultural practices as well as national origin. Importantly, these meanings of citizenship are not arbitrary among the second generation; citizenship status and gender appear to inform understandings of citizenship, while national origin and transnational ties appear to be less significant for the meaning of citizenship.