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Vernetzung: IMISCOE

Establishment and development of the institute

The Institute for Migration Research and Intercultural Studies (IMIS) is an interdisciplinary and interdepartmental research institute of the University of Osnabrück. IMIS includes scholars from various fields and disciplines: demography, geography, history, politics, law, economics, ethnology, sociology, intercultural education, intercultural management, gender studies, linguistics, literature, and psychology.

Within this interdisciplinary framework, IMIS is concerned with a variety of social aspects and problems arising from mobility and cross-cultural encounters, past and present. Complex social processes are at work, with a multitude of material and immaterial components and interactions. In the case of migration, this extends from the seperation from the area of origin to the integration at the destination, and from the determining factors, conditions of development and consequences of migration for both regions, to the tensions between them, growing out of the unequal levels of development between countries and regions which form an important background factor in migratory movements worldwide. Cross-cultural problems and the promotion of intercultural competence, even when not directly related to the migration process, are included among the interests andd tasks of the institute.

Prof. Dr. Hans-Joachim Wenzel, Dr. Albert Schmid, Prof. Dr. Rita Süssmuth, Prof. Dr. Klaus J. Bade and Prof. Dr. Rainer Künzel (from left to right) in the Aula of the Osnabrück Schloss on the occasion of the tenth anniversary of IMIS, December 17, 2001.

Early beginnings of IMIS were reflected in Professor Klaus J. Bade's endeavours to establish and organise interdisciplinary migration research in the late 1980s. He then pursued the idea of a double dialogue – between different disciplines on the one hand as well as between academic researchers and administrative and political practitioners on the other - with the aim of coordinating research, focusing results, and making them available to the public. In this sense, the aim was to encourage intercultural competence in the fields of migration and integration in general and especially with regard to minorities and majority in the immigration situation. Indeed, the situation in Germany in the early 1990s was characterised by a greatly increased in-migration, a complete absence of policy blueprints for an inclusive society, and various incidents of violence against foreigners. An absence of policy concepts on the one side and the lack of a real dialogue between politics and academia on the other all provided a strong impetus for the project. .

In June 1989 the Arbeitskreis Migrationsforschung und Interkulturelle Studien, a working group on migrration research and intercultural studies, was set up at the University of Osnabrück. This multi-disciplinary group met regularly to discuss various contemporary topics and to organise lectures and seminars. This was the nucleus of the now existing institue which was formally founded in June 1991 by an act of the Lower Saxony Ministry for Scholarship and Culture and effectually inaugurated in November 1991.

Many institutions helped along the way from a working group to a fully-fledged research institute, stimulated by the political conflicts of the day. Among others, the Stifterverband für die Deutsche Wissenschaft, the Volkswagen Foundation, and the Freudenberg Foundation gave financial support. This took place against the background of hysteria in the German population precipitated by the high numbers of asylum seekers and the resulting excesses of 1992 and 1993, and what Bundeskanzler Kohl in November 1992 characterized as a ›national state of emergency in issues of migration‹. IMIS entered this emotionally laden public debate by providing a whole series of publications with substantial information on the facts. The 1994 publicised Manifesto of the 60: Germany and its Immigration received a very strong response domestically and from abroad. Sixty German academics, professors from a host of different disciplines, called for the abolition of improvised politics and of social ad-hoc repairs which created a precarious mixture of non-policies. They demanded, instead that at long last, badly needed comprehensive concepts for the areas of migration and integration be firmly established in politics.

From the beginning, IMIS was designed to be a supra-regional, international centre for multi-disciplinary contacts and inter-disciplinary research. A crucial point was reached in 1993, when Professor Bade could muster finances from the state of Lower Saxony to equip the institute with some essential infrastructure. Since then, there has been an executive manager for the daily business, as well as two secretaries. In addition, there is funding for student staff and smaller research activities as well as special funds to build up the institute's library.

In 1996 IMIS moved into new premises. Since then, truly international and interdisciplinary research has developed even further in that several offices with complete workplaces stand open to researchers with their own funding for any amount of time from several weeks to a full year. Those residing at IMIS have full PC support, internet and email resources, including of course the IMIS reference library and its possibilities. Indeed, quite a number of researchers from elsewhere in Europe and also the US, Japan, Australia, and China, have made use of our facilities some of them supported by the Alexander-von-Humboldt Foundation, the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD), and others.

In more than ten years of interdisciplinary academic research and public engagement, IMIS has developed into a nationally and internationally respected institution with considerable impact on academic, political, and public debate. Topics like migration, integration, and cross-cultural encounters, especially the majority-minority dichotomy, will remain of crucial importance in the Institute's continuing work in research, publications, and consultancies, as does its aim of encouraging both inter-disciplinary work and the dialogue between academia and the larger society.