Skip to main content


We're creating a new version of this page. See preview

  • Open Access

Re-Imagining the Nation

Lessons from the Debates of Immigration in a Settler Society and an Ethnic Nation
Comparative Migration Studies20152:2010009

  • Published:


In the context of immigration and settlement, Canada and Germany are often portrayed as opposites: Canada represents a settler society and Germany an ethnic nation. The different approaches and attitudes of the two countries towards immigration can be linked to different historical understandings of nationhood. Canada could not be imagined as a country without its immigrants; immigration is an integral aspect of national identity. Conversely, although Germany has always received immigrants, national identity has historically been conceived in ethnic terms. In this paper, I explore some of the contradictions in Canadian and German immigration debates related to national belonging. For example, Canada’s identity as a settler society has long marginalized Indigenous populations, while in German debate the narratives of ethnically-belonging Germans and newly-arriving migrants openly engage with each other. By exploring these contradictions, I develop a perspective of the dialectic of migration and ethnic belonging that can be applied to both Canada and Germany.


  • immigration
  • migration
  • settler society
  • ethnic nation
  • national imagination
  • Indigenous
  • nationhood
  • dialectic
  • Canada
  • Germany