Understanding the Other in an Integrational Conflict: A Case Study of a Dispute between a Host Society and Free Church Immigrants
Antagonism between members of a host society and immigrants is characterized by a powerful tendency to focus on what is regarded as socially or culturally divisive. However, an orientation that centers on differences makes attempts at understanding social or cultural differences rather challenging them. Using the example of a conflict between Free Church repatriates of German origin and a local population, this study examines how such a group-related, difference-based orientation affects the interpretation of activities and positions of the others. The conflict taking place between the two groups was primarily caused by the obligation to participate in class trips; however, there were also more fundamental differences. The evidence of this conflict is documented in letters to the editors of newspapers. Due to the sequential order of some parts of these letters, it is possible to ask how the system of values and norms of the others was interpreted. This study illustrates how the value system of a host society is used to elaborate positions concerning pedagogical, religious, and integration-related questions. The study asks to what extent orientations that are focused on cultural differences and antagonistic positions affect the processes of understanding the stranger of the other culture. Three interpretive approaches are differentiated. They are characterized by the variety of ways individuals attempt to understand cultural differences.
understanding the other; cultural difference conflict; immigrants and host society; fundamentalist Christians; reader’s letters; interpretative sociology; sociology of knowledge; ethnographic analysis of interaction