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WCED Lecture. “Redefining the State: Center-Right Party Outreach toward Ethnic Minorities in Western Europe.”

Tuesday, April 7, 2015
12:00 AM
1636 International Institute/SSWB, 1080 S. University

In this talk, Miller-Gonzalez asks why some mainstream, center-right parties in Western Europe seek the votes of ethnic minorities, non-Western immigrants, and their descendants, at some times and not others? The conventional wisdom is that center-right parties would forgo minorities’ votes and would concentrate instead on mobilizing native voters by expressing antagonism to these groups and portraying the presence of cultural diversity as a threat to national identity. After all, defense of tradition and the nation’s cultural self-understanding are central to these parties’ identity, and thus the retention of “core” supporters. Yet considerable spatial and temporal variation in center-right party strategy toward ethnic minorities challenges this view. These differences matter as they have distinct policy correlates as well as implications for the political incorporation of ethnic minorities.

To explain the timing and rationale behind outreach, Miller-Gonzalez will discuss how the way politicians see the complexity of this population drives their outreach strategies. Specifically, rather than treat all ethnic minorities the same, center-right parties distinguish between those with citizenship and those without. She will illustrate these factors in the context of six Western European countries—Denmark, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Sweden, and the UK—from 1970 through 2010. The comparative evidence suggests that changes in citizenship rates best explain party positions toward ethnic minorities, despite differences in institutional, competitive, and economic conditions. These findings have implications for our understanding of immigrant incorporation, the dynamics of national identity, and the relationship between party politics and identity more generally. 

Jennifer Miller-Gonzalez is a WCED Research Fellow for the 2014-15 academic year. Her primary research interests revolve around the topics of race and ethnicity and party politics in Western Europe. She completed her PhD in Political Science at the University of Michigan in 2013. Her graduate studies were supported by National Science Foundation grants and a Jean Monnet Fellowship from the Center for European Studies.

Sponsors: Weiser Center for Emerging Democracies, Center for European Studies

Jennifer Miller-Gonzalez (PhD political science ’13), WCED Research Fellow, U-M