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European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations (ERCOMER), Utrecht

Christian Berger

The ERCOMER, a research institute based at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University, the Netherlands, is committed to comparative studies on international migration and ethnic relations. Research projects in these fields are mainly carried out with a focus on European countries. Apart from research, the institute is engaged in the publication of the joint book series 'Research in Migration and Ethnic Relations', publishes a monograph series and created 'The WWW Virtual Library on Migration and Ethnic Relations'. Only recently, the institute started an online information system on migration and ethnic relations.


Experience has shown that 'research institutes seldom appear overnight' (ERCOMER. Report on the first three years 1994-1996. Preface, 1997). The ERCOMER is no exception to this 'rule'.
At Utrecht University, the largest of the 13 Dutch universities in terms of the number of staff and the budget and the second largest as far as the number of students is concerned, 'the existing team [¼] seemed to have an unusual potential for building a new-style research centre' in the early 1990s (ERCOMER. Report. Director's introduction, 1997: 1). Malcolm Cross, the first Director of the institute, also emphasized that the 'sizeable group already containing a mixture of leading names and new talent [¼] was multidisciplinary and multinational' (ibid). Against this background, the University of Utrecht granted resources for three years to develop the idea of a European research centre on January 1, 1994 (ERCOMER. Report. Preface, 1997). Moreover, a 'contract with the European Commission for a programme of Human Capital and Mobility Fellows' was signed in the same year (ibid.).
Cross regards the Netherlands as an ideal location for the ERCOMER:

  • 'Post-war migration has been as significant as in any other European country and it has broadly been divided into a 'colonial' and 'gastarbeiter' variant.

  • The Dutch pioneered pluralism, seeing in new cultural forms further pillars to their twin religious traditions.

  • Above all, trading relations, small size and physical location near the European centre of gravity combine to make the Netherlands an easy place to extoll the virtues of comparative social sciences.'

(ERCOMER. Report. Director's introduction, 1997: 1-2).
But why were both migration and ethnic relations chosen as objects of research? Cross explains this by referring to the phenomenon that 'the rise of ethnonationalist movements often produces conflicts which generate migration and flight' (ERCOMER. Report. Director's introduction, 1997: 2). Additionally, this connection allowed a consideration of 'the consequences of increased population mobility' and 'added a dynamic perspective to the study of minority-majority relations' (ibid.).

Research Agenda

The ERCOMER hopes for intriguing insights from comparative and interdisciplinary research in six fields:

  • Racism, ethnic conflict and nationalism in Western and Eastern Europe;

  • migration and asylum in Europe;

  • migrants and minorities in European cities;

  • comparative studies in multi-cultural education;

  • migration, health and social integration;

  • the governance of multi-ethnic states.

(Cf. ERCOMER. Report. 1997: 5-11).
Within these six fields, there are 32 running research projects (Cf. Latest update: July 19, 2000). 25 scientists are currently working at the ERCOMER. Han Entzinger, professor of the Department of General Social Sciences at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Utrecht University, is the present Chair and Academic Director of the institute.
Results of research are published in journals, in the joint book series 'Research in Migration and Ethnic Relations'--a project of the Danish Centre for Migration and Ethnic Studies, South Jutland University Centre (DAMES), the Centre for Research in Ethnic Relations, University of Warwick (CRER) and the ERCOMER--or in the ERCOMER Monograph Series (dissertations and monographs). Moreover, some members of the ERCOMER publish their results of research independent of the institute.
In the joint book series, the volume on 'European Nations and Nationalism. Theoretical and Historical Perspectives', published in 2000, contains studies of 15 Western, Central and Eastern European countries: the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary, Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Poland, Germany, Sweden, the Netherlands, Belgium, Britain, France, Spain and Italy. In their introductory analysis, Louk Hagendoorn and José Pepels from the ERCOMER provide a theoretical approach to nationalism. According to them, the intensity of nationalism varies between a 'mild' version which is 'patriotic and ingroup oriented' and the 'hottest' version which is 'aggressive, derogative toward outgroups, and aims to dominate' (24).
The decisive role of a nationalistic elite in activating an 'echo effect' is emphasized in this approach (21). Once awakened by an elite, nationalism will 'swing around' in the form of a 'triangle': 'from a national majority, to a national minority, to a neighbouring motherland, and so on' (20; with reference to Rogers Brubaker's 'triangle concept' (publ. 1996): Nationalism Reframed. Nationhood and the National Question in the New Europe. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP).
Hagendoorn and Pepels refer to Karen Phalet and Edwin Poppe from the ERCOMER who 'found the two general dimensions underlying national and ethnic stereotypes that can be used when nationalistic elites want to evoke feelings of threat. These are competence (or incompetence) and morality (or immorality) which are attributed to outgroups [¼]' (21; Phalet, Karen, and Edwin Poppe (1996). Competence and Morality Dimensions of National and Ethnic Stereotypes. A Study in Six Eastern European Countries. Utrecht: ERCOMER, unpublished paper).
In 'European Nations and Nationalism', data on migration, elections and attitudes towards the mother country and foreign countries are presented. The volume may serve as a reference guide for students and scholars.

The WWW Virtual Library on Migration and Ethnic Relations

The 'World-Wide Web Virtual Library on Migration and Ethnic Relations' is a collection of links to major Internet resources in the field of migration and ethnic relations: research centers, journals and newsletters, conferences and meetings, data archives, documentation centers and NGOs etc. are listed. It was establised by the ERCOMER on September 7, 1995, as a part of the 'WWW Virtual Library' that comprises many other subjects. ERCOMER's contribution is available on the Internet site http:// wwwvl/index.html

The European Current Research Information System on Migration and Ethnic Relations (ERIS-MER)

This information system is still in its infancy. If finally established, it ought to provide 'information on research projects from their inception to their completion, but will also incorporate additional information: on participating persons and their expertise, on the [¼] organisations, on the results, events, research funding sources related to the research etc.' (http://www.ercomer. org/research/ReSchools/Re_plans.html). The ERCOMER hopes that 'the system will result in improved scientific communication and increased public awareness of the research in the area of 'Migration and Ethnic Relations'' (ibid.).


Joint Book Series: 'Research in Migration and Ethnic Relations'

Hagendoorn, Louk, et al., eds. (2000). European Nations and Nationalism. Theoretical and Historical Perspectives. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
Ter Wal, Jessika, and Maykel Verkuyten, eds. (2000). Comparative Perspectives on Racism. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
Hagendoorn, Louk, and Shervin Nekuee, eds. (1999). Education and Racism. A Cross National Survey of Positive Effects of Education on Ethnic Tolerance. Aldershot: Ashgate Publishing Limited.
(only ERCOMER publications in the series are listed above)

ERCOMER Monograph Series

Verkuyten, Maykel, and Jochem Thijs (2000). Leren (en) Warderen. Discriminatie, Zelfbeeld, Relaties en Leerprestaties in 'Witte' en 'Zwarte' Basisscholen. Amsterdam: Thela Thesis.
(the only available monograph title in July 2000)
Pepels, José (1999). The Myth of the Positive Crossed Categorization Effect. Amsterdam: Thela Thesis.
Poppe, Edwin (1999). National and Ethnic Stereotypes in Central and Eastern Europe. A Study among Adolescents in Six Countries. Amsterdam: Thela Thesis.
(dissertations published within the ERCOMER Monograph Series)

ERCOMER former Book Series: 'Comparative Studies in Migration and Ethnic Relations'

Martiniello, Marco, ed. (1998). Multi-cultural Policies and the State. A Comparison of two European Societies. Utrecht: ERCOMER.
Kempen, Ronald van, ed. (1997). Turks in European Cities. Housing and Urban Segregation. Utrecht: ERCOMER.
Muus, Philip, ed. (1997). Exclusion and Inclusion of Refugees in Contemporary Europe. Utrecht: ERCOMER.
Benda-Beckman, Keebet von, and Maykel Verkuyten, eds. (1995). Nationalism, Ethnicity and Cultural Identity in Europe. Utrecht: ERCOMER.
(only available titles (in July 2000) are listed above)

Recent and Selected Works Written by Members of the ERCOMER not Published within any Book Series

Dekker, Henk, and Robert Aspeslagh (1999). Ein besonderes Verhältnis. Deutschland und die Niederlande. Baden-Baden: Nomos.
Poppe, Edwin, and Hub Linssen (1999). 'Ingroup Favouritism and the Reflection of Realistic Dimensions of Differences between National States in Central and Eastern European Nationality Stereotypes'. British Journal of Social Psychology, 38: 85-102.

European Directory of Migrant and Ethnic Minority Organisations

ÓMaoláin, Ciarán, ed. (1996). European Directory of Migrant and Ethnic Minority Organisations 1996. Utrecht: Published for the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants by the ERCOMER.

Further information:

European Research Centre on Migration and Ethnic Relations (ERCOMER), Utrecht University,
Heidelberglaan 2,
3584 CS Utrecht, The Netherlands

Tel.: +31 (0)30 253 92 12
Fax: +31 (0)30 253 92 80