Employing the Cultural Broker in the Governance of Migration and Integration (BrokerInG)

Das Projekt

Projektleitung: Sara deJong

finanziert durch: Marie Curie Intra European Fellowship

Projektzeitraum: 1 March 2014 - 30 June 2016

Research Aims

The BrokerInG project takes as its central objective the investigation of the role of migrant employees as ‘cultural brokers’ in the social and political context of migration and integration. It examines national and local integration discourses and regimes, as well as the reflections on work practices of migrant employees and their managers who work for institutions that deliver ‘integration services’ in Austria, the Netherlands and the UK. The three countries are selected as case studies because of their differing migration histories and regimes and allow the researcher to observe more precisely the dynamic discursive and material relation between integration and diversity.

Research Context

Since the much documented ‘crisis of multiculturalism’, new responses are searched for, ranging from resurgence to assimilationist perspectives focusing on integration and social cohesion to new models of diversity. Diversity politics takes as its point of departure the idea that diversity is no longer the exception but the norm, focuses on the individual rather than on collectivities, and, importantly, emphasises that migrants’ skills, in terms of their intercultural competences, need to be utilised. The governance of migration and integration is increasingly relegated from the state to public, semi-public institutions and NGOs. In recent years, these organisations have adapted their services to address their diverse clientele, by among other things, recruiting employees with a migration background for their linguistic and intercultural competences.

Methodological Framework

The interdisciplinary theoretical approach of this project combines two different perspectives, a governance/governmentality framework and the concept of the cultural broker. The concept of the ‘cultural broker’, is used in anthropology to describe mediators between ‘different cultures’, often in the context of unequal power relations such as for example in the colonial era, with prominent (gendered) examples including Pocahontas, La Malinche and Krotoa. This concept aids the analysis of the ways in which the migrant employee, as cultural broker, is positioned in the governance of migration and integration. A governance perspective is used to draw attention to a broader field of political practices outside the classical parliamentary political area, such as through NGOs. Governance can be intertwined with governmentality, which, borrowing from Foucault, describes the way in which power functions not through coercion but through the establishing of norms to manage (self-)conduct.

A document analysis of policy papers and reports is carried out in each of the three countries to gain an overview of the national integration, migration and diversity discourses and policies. In all of the three countries, semi-structured interviews with migrant employees working for NGOs that deliver ‘integration services’ are conducted in order to analyse the ways in which they are implicated in processes of governance of integration and migration. These are complemented by semi-structured expert interviews with the managers within these organisations, to investigate the ways in which diversity (management) is understood and how this relates to the integration agenda of the organisation as well as to wider integration and migration discourses.

Read about the project in the University of Vienna research newsletter 'Intermediaries under difficult circumstances', Forschungsnewsletter Juli/August 2016 | 13. Juli 2016

or read my blog post 'Diversity in the Migration Third Sector: Practicing What We Preach', Migration Pulse, Migrants' Rights Network, August 2016



De Jong, S. (2016) Civil Society Dissemination Brochure: Employing the Cultural Broker in the Governance of Migration and Integration. Summary of Research Results - Samenvatting Onderzoeksresultaten - Zusammenfassung der Forschungsergebnisse

De Jong, S. (2016) 'Cultural Brokers in Post-Colonial Migration Regimes', in: Negotiating Normativity: Postcolonial Appropriations, Contestations, and Transformations (eds. N. Dhawan, E. Fink, J. Leinius, and R. Mageza-Barthel). Springer, p. 45-59.

De Jong, S. (2015) ‘Female migrants as ‘Mediators between Two Worlds’: Spatial-Temporal Articulations of Intersectional Positions’, Journal of Diversity and Gender Studies (DiGeSt); 2(1-2): 111-126.

De Jong, S. (2015) ‘Converging Logics? Managing Diversity and Managing Migration’, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, 42(3): 341-358.

De Jong, S. (2014) ‘Diversity Politics and the Politics of Difference' in: Revisiting I.M. Young on Normalisation, Inclusion and Democracy (ed. Ulrike M. Vieten). Palgrave, pp. 87-105.