In both Europe and the United States, contemporary immigration has dramatically affected the social construction of ethnic and racial diversity, reshaping political, public, and academic discourses about diversity, citizenship, and common belonging. This process has given rise to a broad range of policies, social practices, and political mobilizations and added new dynamics to the nature of inter-ethnic relationships. A new politics of immigration and identity has emerged as a strongly politicized issue in Europe and the US, but not in the same ways or with the same outcomes.

Understanding these issues of racial and ethnic diversity in Western Europe and the United States call for comparative analysis and research. Although much has been written about these changes and their impact in Europe and in the US, little attention has been paid to comparing these processes systematically within both contexts. The field of transatlantic research on ethnicity and race is still loosely organized.

A number of conceptual and methodological challenges are important to the development of a comparative field focused on racial and ethnic diversity in Europe and the United States. Cross-national comparisons are complicated by the fact that relations between immigration, race, and ethnicity are embedded in different historical, ideological, political, and social contexts. Questions that arise and that are critical to the field include: Which groups or aspects of inter-group relations should be compared in Europe and the United States and how should the different political and socio-cultural contexts be taken into account? What are the implications of comparing, for example, Muslims in Europe and African Americans in the United States? What advantages or disadvantages in transatlantic comparisons might come from focusing instead on immigrant groups and their relations with broader societies? Research methods to be used for comparisons ranging from multi-sited ethnographic studies to analyses of census material or other national datasets need to be examined and clarified.

In developing an international and comparative field of study of Multiculturalism, Immigration, and Identity in Western Europe and the United States, we are especially interested in projects that will explore social relations and interethnic relationships, ethno-racial identities, group mobilizations, practices in different institutional settings, national and local policies, debates about diversity, and the politics of memory related to immigration and ethnic and racial diversity. We seek projects based on the collection or analysis of empirical data, including those using qualitative and/or quantitative research methods. Although we anticipate that the most relevant disciplines to this field will be sociology, political science, anthropology, and history, we welcome the perspectives of other social science and humanities disciplines. Priority will be given to projects with a comparative, particularly cross-national, dimension. However, projects focusing on one country – or one group, policy, or institutional context – will also be welcome insofar as they can be useful for future comparison. Such projects could, for example, focus on topics and questions of broader relevance that promise to shed light on conceptual, methodological, and theoretical issues in transatlantic comparisons. Another possibility is that such projects could be a first-step in a larger cross-national comparative study.

NOTE: Unlike other fields of the DPDF Program, this research field will be organized internationally. Participating student fellows will include six French students (or foreign students enrolled in a French institution) and six American students.  Its research directors are based in both France and the United States.  The first field workshop will take place at the Institut d'Études Avancées de Lyon, France from June 10 to 14, 2010 (fellows in this field will not attend the first and earlier Spring DPDF workshop in San Diego). The first day of the workshop in France will be a conference at which six senior researchers from France and the United States will explore comparative perspectives on workshop themes as part of the field orientation offered to students. After the conference, some of the senior scholars will participate in the following workshop with the student fellows. After the summer research, the second workshop of this field will take place along with the other DPDF fellows’ workshop in Philadelphia, September 16 to 19, 2010.

The financial support and organization of this field is a collaborative undertaking between the Agence Nationale de Recherche (ANR) and the Réseau Français des Instituts d'Études Avancées (RFIEA) in France and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the Social Science Research Council in the United States.


  • Karim Amellal

    Grenoble Institute of Political Studies, Political Science

    Cultural demands from muslim community within health public services in France and the Netherlands
    The research aims to understand how public services manage the cultural demands or claim-makings, formulated by the Muslim community, within secular institutions such as Hospitals and Schools (often reorganized). These may take the form of quite particular requests that public service professionals are not used to. The most polemical example in the health sector concerns the Islamic (neo)fundamentalists, who require a specific treatment of Muslim women within hospitals. Being relatively a recent social phenomenon in Europe, service public professionals tends to treat these cultural demands, directly in a case-to-case basis, trying to find a consensual solution, to avoid conflicts. Theoretically, the research purposes to question whether or not the emergence and treatment of cultural demands within public services are influenced by the national political context. The first comparison will be based on three national models of integration – France, The Netherlands, and Great Britain (if possible) – described in the literature as contrasting in their ways to integrate migrants and ethnic minorities. The research will also compare both health and education sectors through two cases: “reconstruction of hymens” within hospitals and “muslim headscarf affair” within schools. The fieldwork will target young Muslim women, and particularly the second generation of immigrants.
  • Emmanuelle Cadet

    Institut d'Etudes Politiques, Aix en Provence, CHERPA

    Particular Cultural Heritages and Nations in search of Cohesion: Analysis of comparative cultural policy between France and Lebanon
    In recent years the international agenda has been particularly dense on the issue of cultural diversity. Therefore it seems appropriate to consider how states take the cultural diversity of their population into account. Indeed this concept and its corollary, multiculturalism, preclude in many ways the assimilation model built by the Western nation-states. The heritage sector is particularly relevant to addressing this research, since it is an external expression of collective identity. Investigating this phenomenon requires a comparative approach. This should be taken from an analytical standpoint so as to avoid an ethnocentric vision. France confronted with its colonial past and Lebanon, whose institutions have been defined under the French mandate, are two Mediterranean countries in which these issues bear different implications: in the first case, France needs to address the question of integrating cultural heritage of people from immigrant origins, in the second, Lebanon has to find ways to share cultural heritage of various community. But today, with global media flows and massive displacement of population, such investigations should not limit their analysis to the states in question: imagined communities with more complex contours also contribute to the definition and representation of cultural heritage. The future of these states is probably based on participatory and inclusive ways to recognize them.
  • Clara Rachel Casseus

    University of Poitiers, Geography and Regional Development

    Migrants as Transnational Development Actors: A Comparative Case of Haitians in France and US & Jamaicans in United Kingdom
    Abstract of Research Project Proposal. The growing emergence of a number of Franco-Haitian associations in France for the past fifteen years bears witness to an interesting dynamics of engaging migrants as partners in the development of their country of origin. The empirical study seeks to examine current and future potentialities development tied to a transnational social network. Specifically, the focus of our research deals with the transnational practices of Haitian migrants in metropolitan France on one hand, Jamaican in United Kingdom on the other hand: how do migrants' associations constitute themselves as transnational actors committed to a key role in the development of their regions of origin? From a broader perspective, it is argued that individuals collectively engaged in associative dynamics have a certain degree of influence on the socioeconomic development of the sending country. Beyond the question of migrants’ associations’ evolvement into transnational actors, the concept of citizenship in a transnational context is discussed from a comparative perspective between France and Britain. Ultimately, bringing to the debate United Kingdom, which shares with France a comparable colonial venture, precisely shows the interesting challenge for my proposed research to explore the pertinent evolution of the notion of citizenship, State and the mobility of migrants of Caribbean origin, as compared to the population in the State of New York and Florida.
  • Guillaume T. MA MUNG

    Université Paris Ouest Nanterre La Défense, Geography

    Representations of spatial practices in ethnic commercial districts : African and Caribbean Migrants in Paris and London
    The proposed subject of my dissertation aims at developing a research on African and Caribbean migrants. My work is based on a comparative study of their presence in places like Château Rouge (North of Paris, 18th district) and Brixton (South of London, Lambeth Borough). Both neighbourhoods gather a large number of those migrants and show a well developed ethnic retail business structure. The observation of these ethnic shopping areas has led me to question how these places of everyday interaction are the scene of specific practices which participate in a prospective process of space appropriation. Gatherings of African and Caribbean migrants are most observed in those highly concentrated shopping areas, which seem to be the theatre of alternative spatial practices and systems of representation, the nature of which challenges dominant and local norms. This research is based on the assumption that by their specific nature and function, commercial districts bear witness to a wide range of collective and individual displays of culture and identity expressed by their users during everyday life interactions. These distinctive demonstrations seem to play a significant part in the processes of appropriation, representation, perception and creation of such places.
  • Matthieu Mazzega

    Université de Grenoble, Sociology

    Constructions and expressions of ordinary anti-racist discourses within a particular national context. The case of the white anti-racist activism in the area of Boston
    This research will explore constructions and expressions of anti-racist discourses made by white individuals within their particular national context. By using a micro-social approach, I will observe how people use principles and values inherited from their own national context to build an efficient anti-racist stance in their daily life. More specifically, my dissertation aims at unpacking this kind of argumentation in order to highlight the mechanisms and the categories the actor uses to interpret situations linked with the issue of racism (often mixed with the issues of diversity, immigration and/or integration), and at the same time how he/she legitimates his/her stance towards the assistance to avoid any suspicion. In other words, I will attempt to make the particular uses of national principles and values visible, or those that people consider like this, in the conception and the expression of an "ordinary" anti-racist discourse. Furthermore, in a critical dimension, I would like to identify the limits of such mechanisms, pointing situations or individual constructions where this legitimate frame, organized by these national principles and values, does not conduct to a real anti-racist orientation, even in a counter-productive way. Following this problematics and this micro-social approach, I will focus on the American context trough the case of the white anti-racist activism. For an empirical work, based in Boston, I will analyze that kind of organizations through three axis privileging qualitative methods : (1) collection and analysis of anti-racist discourses made by their members, completed with in-depth interviews (2) study of the visibility and legitimacy of these structures in the local anti-racist sphere (3) collection of interpretations and opinions about a French issue concerning diversity through focus group interviews.
  • Krista Regina Noam-Zuidervaart

    University of California / Irvine, Sociology

    The influence of national context on the intergenerational transmission of culture by second-generation immigrants: an international comparison.
    The interactions between immigrants and their receiving society play a central role in shaping their identity. Whereas such interactions have important implications on integration processes, the effects that national policies and practices have on intergenerational cultural transmission remain largely unknown. By comparing between a country with an assimilative stance (the U.S.) and one with a multicultural legacy (the Netherlands), I will study the influences of the social context, national settings, and interethnic relations on the transmission of ethnic culture by second-generation Chinese immigrants. Given the rising numbers of intermarriages between the second-generation and native-born population, it will be especially instructive to see how intermarried second-generation parents navigate the transmission of their culture in different national settings. In this study, I will combine in-depth interviews of interethnic couples with data from large-scale datasets (ISGMNY, IMMLLA, and SING). I will examine both overt and covert elements of cultural transmission such as ethics and values, disciplinary practices, dietary habits, and holiday celebrations. By comparing between the different manifestations of cultural transmission in the two countries, this study will provide new insights into the assimilation process and ethnic identity of the second-generation in the context of their receiving society.
  • Dorothée Prud'homme

    University of Paris/I (Sorbonne), Political Science

    French healthcare institutions and Roma populations: representations of identities, perceptions of citizenship in a multicultural society
    This project aims at questioning the notion of citizenship within the framework of the relationship between French healthcare institutions and Roma populations. In accordance with their public service mission, healthcare institutions “can not establish any discrimination among patients regarding cares”. All patients should therefore be considered as equal French citizens despite their (actual or assumed) ethnic or cultural specificities. However, because the relationship of care implies a personal interaction between caregivers and patients, the perceived distinctive identity of some actors may affect this relationship, circumventing the equal treatment principle linked to French citizenship. Despite a long-term presence in France, the Roma population is perceived as an ethnic minority living on the margins of the French society and resisting to rules of republican citizenship. The analysis of the relation between healthcare professionals and Roma people will enable me to elucidate in what ways the demonstration, by patients, of cultural and ethnic characteristics may influence the work of a public service whose action is based on the values of the Republic, and how the multicultural patients transiting through the French healthcare system have to behave in order to fit the institutional definition of French citizenship and to respect the republican rules.
  • Angelika Frida Schlanger

    Yale University, Political Science

    The Integration of Religious Minorities in Western European Societies
    The demography of Western Europe has changed dramatically since WW2. The influx of Muslim guest workers during the post-war economic boom prompted Western European governments to shift from a postwar stance of “benign neglect” to a policy of “integration” (Klausen 2005, 5). In their effort to integrate the now-large Muslim population, states have varied their accommodation to Islamic religious practices. For instance, whereas in some countries Muslim students and/or teachers cannot wear the hijab (head scarf) in schools, they are free to do so in others; in most countries, the ritual slaughter of meat, halal, is legal, but not in all; Muslims in some states are able to establish Islamic primary schools with government funding, whereas Muslims in others have been prevented from doing so. My research explores this variation by creating a scale of “Accommodation” that reflects the degree of state accommodation of Muslim religious practices in fifteen Western European countries. I then draw on comparative historical and institutional methodologies to explain this variation in “accommodation schemes,” highlighting the primary role of confessional settlement and political power structure. The study’s conclusions are not limited to Western Europe and may also explain the high degree of policy divergence in other regions.
  • Thomas G. Soehl

    University of California / Los Angeles, Sociology

    Principles of Differentiaton: Comparing religious and linguistic boundaries in immigrant societies.
    Religion and language are two of the central bases of differentiation in Western immigrant societies albeit their relative salience varies across time and place. For example where in Europe starting in the mid 1980’s Islam became the major dividing line, in the US it is Spanish. Although there clearly are parallels, it is critical to pay attention to the specific characteristics of each phenomenon. My dissertation will consist of three essays, each presenting a comparative analysis of how linguistic and religious differences shape the integration of migrants: (1) A content analysis of media, both mainstream and immigrant, will focus on how religion and language are involved in the politics of immigration and the political claims making of migrants. I will choose two contexts where debates around exclusion shifted or intensified: the mobilizing around bilingual education in California and the Rushdie affair in Europe. Two other parts will be based on quantitative analysis of survey data: (2) How do linguistic and religious boundaries differentially affect political identification of immigrants with their host-societies? (3) How are religion and language embedded in migrant families, transmitted across generations and related to other dimensions of assimilation such as ethnic identity, political attitudes and homeland connections?
  • Jessica Sperling

    City University of New York (CUNY) / Graduate Center, Sociology

    The Contextual Basis of Ethnic Identity and National Belonging: A Comparative Study of Ecuadorians in New York City and Spain
    This study examines the role of national context in determining the identificational outcomes and perceived opportunities of belonging amongst first and second-generation Ecuadorian immigrants in New York City and Madrid. This includes a focus on the development and context of ethnic and national identity, including special attention to the understood compatibility between ethnic and mainstream identity and the relative prominence of pan-ethnic Latino identity. It also incorporates perceived barriers to educational and occupational attainment, including and the degree to which these perceived barriers are attributed to ethnic or racial background. When injustice or discrimination is perceived, it will examine what responses are seen as available and legitimate in the given context. The role of immigration and integration policy, the types of institutional support for immigrants, and cultural expectations of diversity serve as the main focal points of this contextual analysis. Empirically, this work will help to develop the sparse literature on immigration in Spain, on Ecuadorian communities in both Spain and the U.S, and on systematic transatlantic studies. Theoretically, this analysis can be used to crucially analyze the comparative applicability of European and American integration literatures to relatively unstudied cases.
  • Thomas Swerts

    University of Chicago, Sociology

    Political Subjectivation and the Urban Condition: A Comparative study of Undocumented Immigrants’ Struggles for Citizenship in Chicago and Brussels
    In our times characterized by globalization, more and more undocumented immigrants have come to occupy particular structural positions within their ‘destination’ societies that are characterized by exclusion, illegality and poverty. However, because of their ‘illegal’ status, most of the time these nomadic populations stay below the sociological radar. Nevertheless, over recent years, undocumented immigrants have come to dominate the Western media due to their struggles for citizenship. Subsequent series of church occupations, squatting of public buildings and hunger strikes have lead to fierce political debates and violent struggles in different cities across Europe (e.g. Paris, Brussels, Rome, Zurich, London, Berlin etc.). In a similar way, immigrant communities in the US have organized themselves collectively in cities like Chicago, New York, San Francisco and L.A. to demand immigration reform. Sociologically speaking, there is a real need to get a deeper understanding of the underlying conditions and processes that shape these emergent struggles for citizenship. In this respect, I propose to do a qualitative sociological research that compares undocumented immigrants’ political mobilization practices in Chicago and Brussels. On the one hand, the research will focus on the connection between undocumented immigrants' everyday life experiences of exclusion, subjection and interaction and the process of political identity formation. On the other hand, the process in which a broad coalition of undocumented immigrants, urban cosmopolitans and organizations is constituted around demands for citizenship and immigration reform will be studied in detail.
  • Evren Yalaz

    Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, Political Science

    Dynamics of Muslims’ Claims-Making, Integration, and Marginalization: Muslim Associations in France and the United States
    This project examines the role of Muslim immigrants’ associations in terms of facilitating or obstructing social, economic, and political integration of Muslim communities into their hosting western societies. By focusing on the cases of France and the US, it analyzes when and how Muslims’ associational life contribute to civic participation, democratic engagement, and claims-making from western political institutions and when and how they reinforce segregation, marginalization, and isolation of their members from the rest of the society. More specifically, it asks which integration regimes (e.g. civic assimilation vs. multicultural pluralism) and institutional settings provide more fertile soil for the development of democratic associational activities among Muslims. Through a multi-sited ethnographic research on Muslims’ associations in France and the US, I analyze dynamics of Muslims’ claims-making, participation into western public life, and development of ‘ethnic enclaves’ and ‘parallel societies’.