German Welcome Culture Then and Now. How Crisis Narration Can Foster (Contested) Solidarity with Refugees


  • Carolin Gebauer


The initial response of German civil society to the so-called European refugee crisis in 2015/2016 is often framed as a welcome culture. How does this narrative of solidarity relate to the narrative of crisis which dominated European migration policy at the time, giving rise to right-wing populism in several member states of the European Union? And how does it differ from the narrative of solidarity we have been recently witnessing in the wake of the ongoing war in Ukraine, which has caused new refugee movements toward Europe? This article sets out to investigate the dynamics of narratives of public solidarity with refugees in Germany by juxtaposing what is now often called the “long summer of migration” with representations of the Russian invasion of Ukraine in 2022. Drawing on insights from crisis research and interdisciplinary narrative research, I will first argue that framing of historical conditions as crisis situations is based on the interplay of retrospective and prospective worldmaking – a key concept in the philosophy of mind and cognitive narrative theory – which sets in motion a complex (counter-) narrative dynamics. I will then proceed to investigate how such dynamics played out in the periods under investigation: Public debates of the refugee ‘crisis’ of 2015/2016, I will show, produced diverging counter-narratives (i.e., pro-migration vs. anti-refugee narratives) that competed for discursive hegemony, whereas representations of the war in Ukraine generated a widely shared narrative of solidarity with refugees.