Civic Engagement and Identity Formation: Narrative Identities of Swiss Muslim Youth Actively Engaged in Voluntary Associations

  • Amir SheikhzadeganEmail author
Part of the Boundaries of Religious Freedom: Regulating Religion in Diverse Societies book series (BOREFRRERE)


Drawing on narrative autobiographical interviews with three young Muslims who are actively engaged in religious as well as non-religious voluntary associations, this study delivers an analysis of the dialectics of volunteerism and identity formation. All three interviewees belong to the second generation of Muslim migrants in Switzerland. For its theoretical orientation, the study draws on Georg Simmel’s thesis of intersecting social circles and on the concept of social identity complexity proposed by Sonia Roccas and Marylinn Brewer. The study is part of a larger research project that explores Muslims’ engagement in different types of voluntary associations and examines the question whether this engagement has an impact on the social identities of the respective individuals and on their attitudes towards outgroups. The three case studies discussed in this study represent the three modes of impact of civic engagement on identity formation which emerged from the wider research project.


Civic engagement Identity formation Narrative identity Muslim youth Switzerland Voluntary associations Outgroup tolerance 


  1. Allport, G. W. (1954). The nature of prejudice. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.Google Scholar
  2. Anthias, F. (2013). Moving beyond the Janus face of integration and diversity discourses: Towards an intersectional framing. The Sociological Review, 61(2), 323–343.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Arndt, S. (2005). Weißsein: Die verkannte Strukturkategorie Europas und Deutschlands. In M. M. Eggers, G. Kilomba, P. Piesche, & S. Arndt (Eds.), Mythen, Masken und Subjekte: Kritische Weißseinsforschung in Deutschland (pp. 24–28). Münster: Unrast Verlag.Google Scholar
  4. Bilge, S. (2010). Beyond subordination vs. resistance: An intersectional approach to the agency of veiled Muslim women. Journal of Intercultural Studies, 31(1), 9–28.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Bleisch Bouzar, P., & Leuenberger S. (2012). Doing Islam, undoing Swissness: Konversion zum Islam im 21. Jahrhundert im Kontext von Geschlecht, Kultur und Körper. In D. Luginbühl, F. Metzger, T. Metzger, E. Pahud de Mortanges, & M. Sochin (Eds.), Religiöse Grenzziehungen im öffentlichen Raum: Mechanismen und Strategien von Inklusion und Exklusion im 19. und 20. Jahrhundert (pp. 245–259). Stuttgart: Kohlhammer.Google Scholar
  6. Bourdieu, P. (1979). La distinction: critique sociale du jugement. Paris: Les Éditions de Minuit.Google Scholar
  7. Bourdieu, P. (1986). The forms of capital. In J. G. Richardson (Ed.), Handbook of theory and research for the sociology of education (pp. 241–258). New York: Greenwood Press.Google Scholar
  8. Bracke, S. (2008). Conjugating the modern/religious, conceptualizing female religious agency contours of a post-secular conjuncture. Theory, Culture & Society, 25(6), 51–67.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Bracke, S., & Fadil, N. (2012). Is the headscarf oppressive or emancipatory? Field notes from the ‘multicultural debates’. Religion and Gender, 2(1), 36–56.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Brewer, M. B. (1999). The psychology of prejudice: Ingroup love or outgroup hate? Journal of Social Issues, 55(3), 429–444.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  11. Brewer, M. B., & Pierce, K. P. (2005). Social identity complexity and outgroup tolerance. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 31(3), 428–437.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cesari, J. (2004). When Islam and democracy meet. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Coser, L. A. (1977). Masters of sociological thought: Ideas in historical and social context. Second edition. New York: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.Google Scholar
  14. Cox, K., & McAdams, D. P. (2012). The transforming self: Service narratives and identity change in emerging adulthood. Journal of Adolescent Research, 27(1), 18–43.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Crenshaw, K. (1991). Mapping the margins: Intersectionality, identity politics, and violence against women of color. Stanford Law Review, 43(6), 1241–1299.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. De Fina, A., & Georgakopoulou, A. (2012). Analyzing narrative: Discourse and sociolinguistic perspectives. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Esposito, J. L. (1999). Contemporary Islam: Reformation or revolution. In J. L. Esposito (Ed.), The Oxford history of Islam (pp. 643–690). New York: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  18. Fürstenau, S., & Niedrig H. (2007). Hybride Identitäten? Selbstverortungen jugendlicher TransmigrantInnen. Diskurs Kindheits-und Jugendforschung, 2(3), 247–262.Google Scholar
  19. Göle, N. (2011). The public visibility of Islam and European politics of resentment: The minarets-mosques debate. Philosophy & Social Criticism, 37(4), 383–392.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Grigo, J. (2015). Religiöse Kleidung: Vestimentäre Praxis zwischen Identität und Differenz. Bielefeld: Transcript.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Grönlund, H. (2011). Identity and volunteering intertwined: Reflections on the values of young adults. VOLUNTAS: International Journal of Voluntary and Nonprofit Organizations, 22(4), 852–874.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Jouili, J. S. (2011). Beyond emancipation: Subjectivities and ethics among women in Europe’s Islamic revival communities. Feminist Review, 98(1), 47–64.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Jouili, J. S., & Amir‐Moazami, S. (2006). Knowledge, empowerment and religious authority among pious Muslim women in France and Germany. The Muslim World, 96(4), 617–642.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  24. Keupp, H., & Höfer, R. (Eds.) (1997). Identitätsarbeit heute. Frankfurt a.M.: Suhrkamp.Google Scholar
  25. Kosic, M. (2010). Patterns of ingroup identification and outgroup attitudes on the Italo-Slovene borderland. PhD Diss. Triest: Università degli Studi di Trieste.Google Scholar
  26. Kukatas, C. (2003). The liberal archipelago: A theory of diversity and freedom. Oxford: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Lucius-Hoene, G. (2000). Constructing and reconstructing narrative identity. FQS online, 1(2). Accessed 5 July 2015.Google Scholar
  28. Lucius-Hoene, G., & Deppermann, A. (2000). Narrative identity empiricized: A dialogical and positioning approach to autobiographical research interviews. Narrative Inquiry, 10(1), 199–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Lucius-Hoene, G., & Deppermann, A. (2004). Rekonstruktion narrativer Identität: Ein Arbeitsbuch zur Analyse narrativer Interviews. Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.Google Scholar
  30. MacNeela, P., & Gannon, N. (2013). Process and positive development: An interpretative phenomenological analysis of university student volunteering. Journal of Adolescent Research, 29(3), 407–436.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Marta, E., & Pozzi, M. (2008). Young people and volunteerism: A model of sustained volunteerism during the transition to adulthood. Journal of Adult Development, 15(1), 35–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Metz, E., McLellan, J., & Youniss, J. (2003). Types of voluntary service and adolescents’ civic development. Journal of Adolescent Research, 18(2), 188–203.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Miller, K. P., Brewer, M. B., & Arbuckle, N. L. (2009). Social identity complexity: Its correlates and antecedents. Group Processes & Intergroup Relations, 12(1), 79–94.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  34. Mirza, H. S. (2013). ‘A second skin’: Embodied intersectionality, transnationalism and narratives of identity and belonging among Muslim women in Britain. Women's Studies International Forum, 36, 5–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Nakano, L. Y. (2000). Volunteering as a lifestyle choice: Negotiating self-identities in Japan. Ethnology, 39(2), 93–107.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Nollert, M. (2010). Kreuzung sozialer Kreise: Auswirkungen und Wirkungsgeschichte. In C. Stegbauer & R. Häussling (Eds.), Handbuch Netzwerkforschung (pp. 159–167). Wiesbaden: VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften.Google Scholar
  37. Nollert, M., & Sheikhzadegan, A. (2014). Vereine als Quelle von Identität und Toleranz: Narrativ-biografische Interviews mit engagierten MuslimInnen in der Schweiz. In K. B. Schnebel (Ed.), Europäische Minderheiten: Im Dilemma zwischen Selbstbestimmung und Integration (pp. 297–336). Wiesbaden: Springer VS.Google Scholar
  38. Nollert, M., & Sheikhzadegan, A. (2016a). Kreuzung sozialer Kreise, multiple Identitäten und Toleranz: Eine Analyse zivilgesellschaftlich engagierter MuslimInnen in der Schweiz. In M. Nollert & A. Sheikhzadegan (Eds.), Gesellschaften zwischen Multi- und Transkulturalität (pp. 129–165). Zürich: Seismo Verlag.Google Scholar
  39. Nollert, M., & Sheikhzadegan, A. (2016b). Participation and sharing or peaceful coexistence? Visions of integration among Muslims in Switzerland. Social Inclusion, 4(2), 95–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Patton, M. Q. (2002). Qualitative evaluation and research methods. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.Google Scholar
  41. Putnam, R. D. (2000). Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.Google Scholar
  42. Putnam, R. D. (2007). E pluribus unum: Diversity and community in the twenty-first century. The 2006 Johan Skytte Prize Lecture. Scandinavian Political Studies, 30(2), 137–174.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Roccas, S., & Brewer, M. B. (2002). Social identity complexity. Personality and Social Psychology Review, 6(2), 88–106.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. Ryan, L. (2011). Muslim women negotiating collective stigmatisation: ‘We’re just normal people’. Sociology, 45(6), 1045–1060.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Schiffauer, W. (2004). Vom Exil zum Diaspora-Islam: Muslimische Identitäten in Europa. Soziale Welt, 55(4), 347–368.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Schmid, K., Hewstone, M., Tausch, N., Cairns, E., & Hughes, J. (2009). Antecedents and consequences of social identity complexity: Intergroup contact, distinctiveness threat, and outgroup attitudes. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 35(8), 1085–1098.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Sheikhzadegan, A. (2007). Islam in the world system. In M. Herkenrath (Ed.), The regional and local shaping of world society (pp. 151–175). Münster: LIT Verlag.Google Scholar
  48. Sheikhzadegan, A. (2015). Freiwillige Arbeit, Identitätswandel und Toleranz: Selma, Fallbeispiel einer zivilgesellschaftlich engagierten Muslimin in der Schweiz. Newsletter Studienbereich Soziologie, Sozialpolitik und Sozialarbeit, 17, 30–34.Google Scholar
  49. Simmel, G. (1908). Die Kreuzung sozialer Kreise. In G. Simmel (Ed.), Soziologie: Untersuchungen über die Formen der Vergesellschaftung (pp. 305–344). Berlin: Duncker & Humblot.Google Scholar
  50. Tajfel, H., & Turner, J. C. (1986). The social identity theory of intergroup behaviour. In S. Worchel & W. G. Austin (Eds.), Psychology of Intergroup Relations (pp. 7–24). Chicago, IL: Nelson-Hall.Google Scholar
  51. Tidwell, M. V. (2005). A social identity model of prosocial behaviors within nonprofit organizations. Nonprofit Management and Leadership, 15(4), 449–467.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Tocqueville, A. de. (2004) [origin 1835/1840]. Democracy in America. Translated by Arthur Goldhammer. New York: Library of America.Google Scholar
  53. Verkuyten, M., & Martinovic, B. (2012). Social identity complexity and immigrants’ attitude toward the host nation: The intersection of ethnic and religious group identification. Personality and Social Psychology Bulletin, 38(9), 1165–1177.PubMedCrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Wachendorfer, U. (2001). Weiß-Sein in Deutschland: Zur Unsichtbarkeit einer herrschenden Normalität. In S. Arndt (Ed.), AfrikaBilder: Studien zu Rassismus in Deutschland (pp. 87–101). Münster: Unrast Verlag.Google Scholar
  55. Welsch, W. (1999). Transculturality: The puzzling form of cultures today. In M. Featherstone & S. Lash (Eds.), Spaces of culture: City, nation, world (pp. 194–213). London: Sage.Google Scholar
  56. Wieviorka, M. (2001). La différence: identités culturelles. Enjeux, débats et politiques. Paris: Balland.Google Scholar
  57. Wilson, E. K. (2011). After secularism: Rethinking religion in global politics. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  58. Youniss, J., McLellan, J. A., & Yates, M. (1997). What we know about engendering civic identity. American Behavioral Scientist, 40(5), 620–631.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Youniss, J., McLellan, J. A., Su, Y., & Yates, M. (1999). The role of community service in identity development: Normative, unconventional, and deviant orientations. Journal of Adolescent Research, 14(2), 248–261.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Social SciencesUniversity of FribourgFribourgSwitzerland

Personalised recommendations