BODYRULES - Migration-related Changes of Organizational Rules Regulating the Human Body


Theoretical Background

How do organisations change in reaction to societies that become more diverse through immigration and how in particular do they change rules relating to social norms that vary strongly across cultures? To what extent can we identify organization-specific particularities in the adaptation of such regulations? These are two research questions tackled by the joint research project BODYRULES which is funded by the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF, funding code 01UM1811BY) and which brings together the WZB Berlin Social Science Center, the chair of organisational sociology at the University of Potsdam, and the department of medical sociology at the Charité Berlin. The project focuses on formal and informal organizational rules that deal with the body, sexuality, and gender relations since cultural differences are particularly manifest here. BODYRULES compares three organisations that are particularly affected by the societal changes outlined above and that deal a lot with the human body: public hospitals, schools, and swimming pools.

The subproject led by the WZB focuses on public swimming pools and cooperates closely with the umbrella organisation of German swimming pool operators, the Deutsche Gesellschaft für das Badewesen e.V.. Conflicts around the body, sexuality, and gender relations regularly play a role in many swimming pools in Germany. Claims addressed to swimming pool operators include separate swimming times for women with only female lifeguards and the legalisation of the burkini both emanating from Muslim users as well as (rather conflicting) claims for unisex changing rooms emanating from the LGBTQ community and claims for nude swimming hours (FKK). Such developments reflect broader societal controversies including questions such as: to what extent should democratic and plural societies accommodate the claims of particular groups? Which cultural practices and which organisational practices are negotiable – and which ones are not? How frequent are such claims in German swimming pools and to what extent do the pools accommodate claims of different user groups? 

To answer these questions the WZB-led subproject gathers quantitative and qualitative data. The project starts with a claims analysis based on articles that appeared in selected German newspapers and magazines between 1998 and 2018 and dealt with migration-related conflicts in German swimming pools. The key objective is to identify and categorize the relevant actors, issue areas, and types of claims formulated in that field. Second, a survey of the members of the Deutsche Gesellschaft für das Badewesen e.V. (covering almost all public swimming pools in Germany) will ask about the regulation of social norms about how to deal with the body, sexuality, and gender relations. Third the project included qualitative interviews in two covered- and two open-air pools. While the survey exclusively focuses on formal rules, the qualitative study also seeks to uncover informal organisational rules as well as arguments for the legitimation of both formal and informal rules. In a final step, a comparison of the results from the different subprojects will help explore organisation-specific patterns of accommodation and legitimation. The project seeks to contribute to existing international debates about the accommodation of religious minorities by adopting the perspective of the sociology of organizations.   

Main content
Michalowski, Ines/Behrendt, Max (2020): "The Accommodation of Muslim Body Practices in German Public Swimming Pools". In: Ethnic and Racial Studies, Vol. 43, No. 11, Special Issue "Diversity in Local Political Practice", S. 2080-2098. (vorab online publiziert 19.06.2020)
Michalowski, Ines/Behrendt, Max (2019): Organisationaler Wandel für muslimische Badegäste in deutschen Schwimmbädern. Schnelle Anpassungen und Konflikte. WZB Discussion Paper SP VI 2019-101. Berlin: WZB.