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Afghan Immigrants in the USA and Germany
A Comparative Analysis of the Use of Ethnic Social Capital
After the breakdown of all hopes in a peaceful settlement between the Afghan war parties many of the refugees who had just returned to their country saw themselves forced to emigrate again. But while the first waves of emigrants during the Soviet occupation had been welcomed and had abtained in West-Germany political asylum, the attitudes in many countries changed drastically to indifference and even to expulsion. This indifference in face of the largest national exodus after World War II must be classified as a scandal.
Maliha Zulfacar has engaged her studies to elucidate the social and cultural dimensions of this large diaspora in applying Bourdieu's categories of social and cultural "capital" as well as that of "habitus" to the different ways of adaptation to social and cultural conditions in two important countries: the USA and (West-)Germany.
In spite of difficult economic conditions afghans in the USA can maintain their kinship links and use them to reinforce their traditional habitus and to improve their material conditions by patterns of solidarity.
In Germany, on the other hand, the administrative rigidity which limits economic activities and regional mobility, in spite of relatively high public financial inputs the results are negative: The social condition of the Afghans is marked by dependence and exclusion.
Dr. Zulfacar's study suggests urgent modifications of the German policy towards refugees in general. Not withstanding the high theory level of her sociological analysis, its pragmatic aspect is considerable. The empirical results of Zulfacar's investigation reveal the high "achievement motivation" of the refugees who in their overwhelming majority emigrated just to save their lives.
Maliha Zulfacar's study constitutes a moving appeal to the humanitarian responsibility of the decision makers in industrial societies.