The configuration of symbolic boundaries against immigrants in Europe


Journal Article

Recent studies report significant cross-national variation in the conceptual distinctions or "symbolic boundaries" used by majority groups to construct notions of "us" and "them." Because this literature compares only a handful of countries, the macro-level forces by which certain symbolic boundaries become more salient than others remain poorly understood. This article provides the first panorama of these processes by comparing the relative salience or "configuration" of multiple symbolic boundaries in 21 European countries. I use fuzzy-set analyses of data from the 2003 European Social Survey to create a typology of symbolic boundary configurations. The results indicate that the symbolic boundaries deployed by the general public do not correspond to the official "philosophies of integration" emphasized in the literature. Moreover, the data suggest previous comparisons have focused too heavily on Western Europe, overlooking important variation in other regions of Europe where immigration began more recently. I generate hypotheses to explain this newfound variation using demographic, socioeconomic, institutional, and historical data from quantitative and qualitative sources. The article concludes with examples of how these hypotheses can be combined by future studies toward a theory of "boundary-work".

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Bail, CA

Published Date

  • January 1, 2008

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 73 / 1

Start / End Page

  • 37 - 59

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 0003-1224

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1177/000312240807300103

Citation Source

  • Scopus