University News

Marinić discusses refugee crisis, Trump

German intellectual compares American, German political climates in talk about immigration

By
senior staff writer
Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Jagoda Marinić discussed xenophobia as a rising global phenomenon at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs.

Jagoda Marinić, a German author of short stories, plays, essays and novels, engaged in a “transatlantic conversation” on questions of immigration and integration in the United States and Germany at the Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs Monday night.

Marinić’s work addresses issues of diversity and inclusion, which are extremely relevant in Germany, in the United States and on the University’s campus, wrote Jane Sokolosky, senior lecturer in German studies and one of the event’s organizers, in an email to The Herald.

As a framework for the lecture, Marinić compared her talk on campus to the last time she visited the United States for a lecture at Davidson College last year. Twelve months ago, Marinić was showing students photos of German Chancellor Angela Merkel welcoming Syrian refugees into Germany, but this year, everything is “so different,” she said. “We live in quite turbulent times.”

To try to explain this change in the political climate, Marinić tied together the German backlash against Syrian refugees, the rise of AfD — a far-right alternative political party in Germany — and Brexit.

In 2015, Germany accepted about one million Syrian refugees, Marinić said. While this effort was supposed to be a part of a larger European intake of refugees, “Merkel is alone at the top,” she said.

This year, some of the German populace has rebelled against its singular role in the refugee crisis and has demanded Merkel close Germany’s borders to refugees. Protestors are yelling “ugly things” at Merkel, Marinić said.

To make matters worse, the AfD party has capitalized on the increasingly xenophobic rhetoric surrounding refugees and has spread “ideas that have not been discussed since Nazi Germany,” Marinić said. For example, one of the party’s leaders demanded that police shoot refugees as they cross into Germany, she said, adding that 15 percent of Germans now support the AfD party.

This trend toward xenophobia and distrust can be seen throughout Europe, most notably in the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union in the Brexit vote, Marinić said. “A lack of solidarity lies at the heart of the European crisis,” she added.

Marinić then linked Germany’s situation to the paradoxical nature of the United States, as the country is both the traditional haven of immigrants and the home of Donald Trump. Quoting Paul Krugman, Marinić said, “the (United States) has become more nationalist — more European.”

People in the United States and in Germany feel they are “losing ground,” Marinić said. As a result, the world is becoming “less liberal, less diverse and less interesting.”

After the lecture, an audience member asked Marinić how countries can combat xenophobia. “Everyone is around people who have the same mindset,” Marinić said, adding that people have become increasingly polarized and are turning against each other.

Nations need to “re-create a bigger space for the common ground,” Marinić said. “We have individualism, but we have too little community.”