Unique: Study about Stereotypes in Germany and in Turkey

Germany and Turkey are closely connected – but what do we think about each other, what are the images we have in our heads when we meet each other? Where do these stereotypes come from, and how do they differ? This and other interesting questions are the subject of a current major study in the context of the idea competition. The German-Turkish research team has already received more than 2,000 responses from all over Turkey.

© Stefan Ossenberg

The research project "German and Turkish Stereotypes in Comparison" is unusual for a number of reasons: It is an intercultural project about intercultural issues. For the first time, a German-Turkish team of researchers examines the mutual perceptions we have about each other with regard to how the images that "the Germans" have about "the Turks" and the images that "the Turks" have about "the Germans" after 50 years of extensive contact, and which images of each other are particularly predominant among which segments of the population. Regional as well as migration-related differences were included in the study, for example in the examination of how Germans of Turkish origin view their "compatriots" in Turkey or how returned migrants or the German Community in Turkey view Germany. The scientists are also researching the hitherto unanswered question of where these images originate. The study connects sociolinguistic as well as linguistic and literary issues, with stereotypes being analysed both in contemporary texts (press and fiction) as well as in historical literary texts.

Bundled intercultural competence

It's clear that such a major project cannot be handled by only one university. The project partners are the Institute for German as a Foreign Language of the University of Duisburg-Essen, which has a great deal of expertise in intercultural studies, in collaboration with the Foundation Centre for Turkish and Integration Studies, the Marmara University in Istanbul and the Bahçeşehir University in Berlin. During the course of the project, more partners were added: Currently, 16 co-operation partner are researching and analysing the currently existing stereotypes in Germany and in Turkey.

Stereotype research raises awareness

Based on the 'classical' works about stereotypes by Lippmann (1922), Katz & Braley (1933) and Sohdi & Bergius (1953) as well as the more recent investigations by Apeltauer (2002) and Grünewald (2005), the partners are currently carrying out surveys in Germany and Turkey. The objective is to obtain statistically backed information about attitudes and national images in the German-Turkish context. "Stereotypes play a significant role in intercultural communication without the communication partners being aware of it. This can lead to far-reaching misunderstandings. Only when we know what stereotypes people have in their heads and where they come from can we effectively prepare people from different countries and cultures for intercultural contact," explains Professor Baur, who is conducting the research project in cooperation with Professor Hacı-Halil Uslucan.

140 characteristics available for selection

The basis for examining the stereotypes is a comprehensive list covering 140 characteristics. The survey aims to find out which characteristics Germans ascribe to Turks and which characteristics Turks associate with Germans. This list of characteristics has been compiled by the German-Turkish team in such a way that the characteristics are one third positive, one third negative and one third neutral. The 140 characteristics are available for selection in a specially developed online tool or in paper form. The participants of the study (students and their relatives and friends) are first requested to click all characteristics that they find appropriate and are then asked to select the five most important characteristics and to comment them. Participation is on a voluntary basis and is of course anonymous. Information gathered includes the gender, age and origin of the interviewees and of their parents as well as their level of education.

Differentiated insights

"With this study, we are for the first time creating an instrument that can be used for international comparisons. The collected data forms a basis of comparison for follow-up studies. This makes it possible not only to find out who has what images and attitudes, but also how the stereotypes change over time or as a result of current events in world affairs," says Baur.

The study already offers amazing insights, as an initial analysis of the 2,000 answers from Turkey shows: "the Germans" are seen by "the Turks" as eager to work, environmentally conscious, freedom-loving, animal-loving and happy to enjoy a drink.

Additional information about the project "German and Turkish Stereotypes in Comparison" can be found on the project homepage.

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Saying of the Day

„One never reaches home. But where paths that have an affinity for each other intersect, the whole world looks like home for a time.”

Hermann Hesse, Demian