Migrations and Multiculturalism

The mass migrations that have taken place since the 1950s have profoundly changed the demographic, social, political and economic structures of many societies around the world, and particularly European societies. The long-term settlement of immigrants, the growing visibility of the “second generations”, the increasing spotlight on multiculturalism and the existence of ethnic and/or racial minorities, are redefining the processes – and even the models – of integration. These developments are superimposed on older divisions, inherited from the dislocation of the multinational empires, from colonisation and decolonisation, or from the slave trade. These conditions of internal diversity are arising at a time when nation states are entering a new stage of reconstruction, accompanied by a fear of dilution. They therefore challenge the dynamics of state transformation.

The political management of diversity takes varied forms, depending on the historical configurations of societies and their political syntheses. However, although national idiosyncrasies remain strong, the circulation of models, the flattening role of supranational bodies, the transpositions of experience from one society to another, are leading to a form of (albeit limited) uniformisation in models and repertoires of action, mirroring an approach that is increasingly comparative. The “European” dimension should not, therefore, be neglected. The adjustments are accompanied by intense debates about the future of multicultural societies, whether in political arenas or in the social sciences. And the link between politics and policy needs to be examined, as does the use of scientific debates by politicians. Indeed, these political processes are taking place against the background of revisions in the theories and concepts dedicated to the study of migrations, integration and discriminations. 

There is a significant body of literature on immigration policies, on the one hand, and the conditions of arrival and integration of immigrants, together with the role of the host society, on the other. The concepts of transnationalism, the interest in so-called return migrations, in the conditions of emigration and the changes that migrations bring about in the countries of origin, the study of the interactions between control policies and migratory careers, illustrate how the focus of research has broadened beyond the specific issue of immigration. The theories of assimilation and integration that were developed in Europe and North America have been contradicted and reformulated to cast light on the changes currently underway. While the multiculturalist approach is the target of convergent attacks in both the political and academic spheres, equality policies are challenged by the persistence of social, gender and racial inequalities, to the point that their legitimacy is still a subject of intense debate.

So there is still much work to be done on the questions of migration and multiculturalism. The purpose of this seminar is to sort through a few of them in relation to contested themes. The aim is also to remove silos in a field where, as in others, there is a tendency towards sub- specialisation. The seminar topic picks up the subjects that structure research at the Centre for European Studies. Moreover, this initiative draws on a critical mass of researchers and PhD candidates at CEE and, beyond that, in Sciences Po’s research centres, to discuss research conducted within other frameworks. Indeed, the seminar embodies some of the founding qualities of CEE: strong interdisciplinarity, openness to comparative and multilevel approaches, methodological pluralism, involvement of PhD researchers, and active dialogue on questions of concern to public decision-makers.

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