The other aspect, of course, is compensating for the loss of "Heimat". In North and South America, for example, there are numerous reproductions of places from whence the immigrants originally came, including so-called "German" centres. Such places simulate a "Heimat" that, in most cases, never existed in the real "Heimat".

Does the establishment of a federal Interior, Construction and Heimat Ministry, as well as "Heimat" ministries in the states of Bavaria and North Rhine-Westphalia, have special significance at this time?

Homeland Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) (photo: Imago/J. Heinrich)
Armin Nassehi: "The homeland minister has yet to tire of emphasising that ʹIslam doesn't belong to Germany.ʹ Identity politics donʹt get much sillier than that"

Nassehi: Well, there's something funny about the fact that a Catholic Bavarian has become "Heimat" minister in Protestant Prussia. It's a tough fate for Mr. Seehofer.

But on a more serious level, we should note that Germany's first Heimat ministry came into existence in the state of Bavaria, not to maintain some romantic ideas about "Heimat", but to create similar living conditions in cities and the countryside. That means the extension of broadband and the construction of bypass roads. Interestingly, all this is being inflated by the term "Heimat".

How else is the term being used in the political sphere?

Nassehi: The term "Heimat" is currently being used to address questions of identity politics. I see it as a strategy to prevent further growth of the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD). If the far-right are focussing on people's identity, then we will do the same.

But the term "Heimat" also stands for a tactical romanticised concept. For example, the Heimat minister has yet to tire of emphasising that "Islam doesn't belong to Germany." Identity politics donʹt get much sillier than that.

Interview conducted by Klaus Kramer

© Deutsche Welle 2018

Professor Armin Nassehi was appointed chair of sociology at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich in 1998. His specialist areas include cultural and political sociology, as well as the sociologies of religion, knowledge and science. In 2012 he became editor-in-chief of the cultural magazine "Kursbuch".

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