Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2014

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Horst Mewes

Second Advisor

David Mapel

Third Advisor

Michaele Ferguson

Fourth Advisor

Steve Vanderheiden

Fifth Advisor

Paulo Zagalo e Melo

Abstract

Immigration is a global trend, which increases the ethnic, racial and religious diversity in the immigrant-receiving countries. This diversity that immigrants bring is usually perceived as a threat to national security and social cohesion. In the face of these perceived threats, the term “integration” referring to commonality within diversity has come to the forefront as an ideal goal in the public debates on immigration. However, this dominant perspective on the issues of immigration orients us to understand the goal of integration from the receiving country’s perspective, approaching the integration of immigrants as a necessity for social cohesion and security of the host country rather than as a democratic justice problem. This dissertation provides a distinctive perspective on the issue of immigrant integration. As an interdisciplinary research project, it strives to accomplish this task by employing Axel Honneth’s recognition theory as an analytical tool to understand and criticize existing institutional and societal structures of integration in the host societies. In Part One, my basic argument is that immigrants cannot integrate to the overall society unless the recognition order of the host society provides normative conditions such as equal respect and esteem for its immigrants’ healthy self-realization. As opposed to the dominant approach, I propose to understand the ideal of integration as a concrete process, which is strongly related to the immigrants’ feelings of misrecognition and denigration. After articulating the advantages of employing Honneth’s recognition theory for the issue of the integration of immigrants; in Part Two, I consider the application of the theory to the specific experiences of Canadian immigrants. I present how economic integration mechanisms for immigrants in Canada may systematically devalue immigrant labor, transform their self-esteem, and as a result inhibit their integration into the host society. Specifically, I investigate several economic barriers specific to Canadian immigrants such as the non-recognition of foreign credentials, the lack of “Canadian experience,” limited English skills as the reasons for the higher rates of poverty and unemployment that many immigrants experience compared to their Canadian counterparts. Finally, through an application of Honneth’s recognition theory, I contend that in addition to improving state institutions to provide fair terms of integration to immigrants, we need to examine the economic and social barriers that immigrants are subject to in their search for meaningful, fair employment and social networks.

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