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Citizenship, Nativism, and Belonging


Over the past few years, citizenship has been profoundly reframed by new anti-immigrant discourses in Western countries, focusing on national identity, multiculturalism, and Islam. During this period, citizenship has shifted from an issue of rights (civil, political, and social) to a matter of values attached to certain national traditions – French "laïcité", the critique of Dutch multiculturalism, national identity in Italy, and Britishness in the UK. However, these public perceptions of immigration and diversity hardly account for many complex realities. The integration of immigrants and their offspring in public institutions (military, schools, hospitals, police forces) and the labor market have imposed the issue of antiracism and discrimination on the agenda. European societies are immigrant societies in which immigrant integration functions as magnifier of profound social transformations concerning the interplay between citizenship and belonging.


Ifri’s Center for Migration and Citizenship undertakes field-work based empirical studies in collaboration with international experts and scholars, presented in publications and events, with a focus on:

  • Participation of migrants and their offspring in national institutions through cross-country- (France, Canada, Netherlands, UK, Germany, etc.) and cross-institution comparisons (military, police forces, hospitals);
  • Ethnocultural and religious diversity in private companies and trade unions;
  • The impact of the Islamic veil politics on Muslim women’s labor participation in France and in Europe;
  • The impact of anti-immigrant perceptions on European societies, with a special attention to migration history and memory in each country.

On December 9, 2020 will be celebrated the 115th anniversary of the 1905 law on French secularism (laïcité). On the very same day, a new law project will be presented by the French government, with the objective of further strengthening the “republican values” in order...


Citizenship is a major issue in public debates when it comes to immigration in France. Passionate talks illustrate the current disagreements on the meaning of value such as “laïcité”, “universalism”, “equality”, “community” and on the way these should apply in social and political...

By: Christophe BERTOSSI, John R. BOWEN, Jan Willem DUYVENDAK, Mona Lena KROOK, (eds.)

This book responds to the often loud debates about the place of Muslims in Western Europe by proposing an analysis based in institutions, including schools, courts, hospitals, the military, electoral politics, the labor market, and civic education courses. The...

By: Christophe BERTOSSI, Dorothée PRUD'HOMME

"Diversity" is a structuring dimension of healthcare institutions in France today. Public and private hospitals employ a very socially and culturally diversified staff, to which they offer upward social mobility opportunities. This diversity constitutes an asset, which allows healthcare...


For a long time, French military with migration background have been counting on the army to erase the social and cultural prejudice they have been suffering. But are they really military as others or are they constituing a specific population? Does the French army offers the opportunity for...


The identities issue still does not find a legitimite place in the debates on the future of the french republican model. At the time of questionning the integration models in most of european immigration countries, the french model should now answer the question: How french citizenship should...

Tuesday 06 December 2022
from 09:30 to 14:00 - Conférences

While Europe is facing the largest displacement phenomenon since World War II, we are experiencing an unprecedented wave of solidarity for refugees from Ukraine in all parts of the continent. The mobilization of Europeans for refugees and migrants has been rising since 2015. It is both a...

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SUCCESS / Voicing Democracy in Successful European Societies

SUCCESS was a European network of citizens that live and work in disadvantaged neighbourhoods across four countries: Ballaro in Palermo (Italy), Ladywood in Birmingham (United-Kingdom), Morillon in Montreuil (France), and Outurela-Portela in Oeiras (Portugal). The project served as a laboratory for ideas on the future of citizenship in Europe, through a dynamic and original synthesis of the analysis of lived realities of the citizens, the practices of local institutions, and the European ideal.

See the video of the project

A European project initiated by the Ifri

The Centre for Migrations and Citizenship at Ifri launched the SUCCESS project in 2011, in collaboration with the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation, the Padre Antonio Vieira Institute, and the University of Palermo, with the support of the “Europe for Citizens” Programme of the European Union and by the “Projets Citoyens” Programme of the Conseil régional d’Île-de-France.

Giving meaning to citizenship

SUCCESS brought together citizens from various countries and cultural, social and national backgrounds in order to go beyond the populist, racist and xenophobic sentiments concerning citizenship, social cohesion, integration of migrants, and multiculturalism in Europe today. The project went to the heart of local communities using a “bottom-up” approach that provided a voice to residents of these neighbourhoods who are rarely heard in the European debates on citizenship. Each local group brought together residents and professionals (including health care and education professionals, and police officers) who worked within the neighbourhood. The groups met frequently.

The participants met each year for three days of workshops in one of the four cities of the project: Lisbon in 2012, Palermo in 2013, Birmingham in 2014, and Montreuil in 2015. It was an occasion for them to share the results of their discussions and the projects they developed locally. It was an occasion to reflect, to meet different personalities, and to share festive moments that provide substance and meaning to their conception of citizenship. The participants identified 14 themes in order to structure their thinking on the future of citizenship in Europe.


How can we bring institutions and citizens closer together? In disadvantaged neighbourhoods, this relationship is perceived as being difficult, if it exists at all. Many prejudices exist in the interactions between citizens and the police, the school system, and more generally public services and local authorities. These are reinforced by practices which are seen by the population as lacking legitimacy, like “stop-and-search”. As the SUCCESS groups analysed this issue within their respective countries, they made recommendations on ways to enhance citizens’ trust in their institutions. This includes, for example, possible incentives for institutions to provide better information and greater transparency on their functioning, and to create or strengthen mediation practices and bodies.

“What changes will the police forces make to convince young people that they can go and seek help from the police and get it?” Alex, Ladywood, Birmingham, UK


What does it mean to be part of Europe? The issue of a common European citizenship is often associated with the absence of one single European identity. However, it is the plurality of feelings of belonging that makes Europe so unique, encompassing local, regional, national, cultural, linguistic, and religious identities, and various traditions and histories, including immigrants’ ones. The SUCCESS groups placed these diverse but shared legacies at the heart of their reflection on being young citizens. They described Europe as made up of all these feelings of belonging nourrishing their commitment as active citizens, far beyond the traditional frameworks usually associated with the nation-state or exclusive identities.

“When I’m involved in local projects, I feel like a Ladywood citizen. When we have national celebrations, I feel like a UK citizen. Learning different languages allows me to feel a part of Europe. When I visit my family back in India I feel like a world citizen.” Manraj, Ladywood, Birmingham, United Kingdom


How can we create a direct dialogue among Europeans? The SUCCESS groups worked together to develop new methods to enable dialogue between citizens of different countries who live diverse national and local realities but who still face many common issues; namely, social exclusion, economic inequality, discrimination, various forms of racism and xenophobia, populism etc. By comparing the contexts, historical traditions and institutions of the four countries/cities/neighbourhoods in question, the SUCCESS groups developed a bottom-up analysis, based in the local experiences of citizens, of the challenges of performing citizenship at the local, national and European levels.

“Learning about issues in disadvantaged immigrant neighbourhoods all around Europe, and how they deal with issues, will help us find new ways to deal with our own issues.” Helder, Outurela-Portela, Oeiras, Portugal


What education for citizenship? This question does not limit itself to civic education. The SUCCESS groups focused their thinking on the interplay between education and social mobility, employment, inclusion, access to rights and the fight against various forms of prejudices. More education results in greater inclusion and life chances. It also helps eliminate negative attitudes towards immigrants and ethnic minorities and fight against all forms of discrimination. Education is also a vehicle for transmitting memories, be they local or national, from “here” or a legacy of immigration.

“School is the first instrument to improve integration in a country. To that end, school teachers need to be trained to work in a context where language and culture might be seen as an obstacle.” Giacomo, Ballarò, Palermo, Italia


How can citizens think about equality in societies that produce discrimination and exclusion? One answer lies in the fight against discrimination, already at the heart of the European project. The issue also concerns inequality between neighbourhoods in the same city or among different cities. The complex issues surrounding inequality make the very project of equality-based societies a complex, multileveled question involving equal rights as much as equal opportunities, as well as social, institutional and territorial logics. The SUCCESS groups reflected on possible methods to bind together the cultural, social, economic and territorial dimensions of equality and of promoting this approach through European policies.

“When you are in Morillon, you are in Morillon, and you have the impression that things are happening around you, but you can’t access them.” Omar, Le Morillon, Montreuil, France


Can Europe enhance young people’s active citizenship in disadvantaged neighbourhoods? Public debates in Europe reflect increasing nationalist, populist, xenophobic and racist sentiments that both stigmatize immigration and multicultural neighbourhoods in European cities, and reject Europe as a political and cultural project of a common citizenship. To address these debates, the SUCCESS groups questioned how EU institutions can encourage the local and national participation of citizens living in multicultural neighbourhoods. Through this pragmatic perspective, they placed Europe at the heart of their definition of citizenship.

“If we see that Europe is consulting people in the community about the future of citizenship, if we feel that our opinion matters and that we can make a difference, then people will start to reflect upon these questions and give their opinion.” Amilcar, Outurela-Portela, Oeiras, Portugal


How can we think about diversity also in terms of gender and sexuality? To varying degrees, discrimination and the moral boundaries that fragment European societies contradict the principle of equal rights. These relate not only to exclusion due to racism, Islamophobia and the rejection of immigrants but also to sexism and homophobia. The SUCCESS groups analysed the relationships that exist between different types of exclusion and place particular emphasis upon the role of women, and especially immigrant women, in creating social ties within their neighbourhoods. The groups also underlined the importance of fighting against all forms of discrimination based upon gender and sexual orientation.

“Whether they are Romanian or Nigerian, it’s often the women who open their doors, take interest in social life, at what is going to happen, what is going to change and how, and not only to our role in society but also to the cultural and human evolutions.” Giuppa, Ballarò, Palermo, Italia


How can we guarantee the right to healthcare for the most vulnerable populations? Some voices today call for a restriction of foreigners’ access to medical care, as a way of fighting “unwanted” immigration. This anti-immigrant rhetoric masks the actual problem of adapting healthcare institutions in order to respond to the most vulnerable sections of European immigration societies. Based on the daily realities of their neighbourhoods, the SUCCESS groups weighed up the costs, for citizenship, of such large gaps in access to care among the different communities. Their reflection focused on solutions such as professional training and improved ways to reach out to and accommodate immigrants.

“At the international level, the right to health must be recognized as a fundamental right for  people, which creates the possibility for their active participation as citizens and their contribution to the development of our society.” Ana, Outurela-Portela, Oeiras, Portugal


How can we make citizenship a concrete practice? Citizenship is not a question for cultural or economic elites only, nor is it an abstract and theoretical idea. It is above all a practice. The local level represents a concrete space for such a practice, where citizens can address the important question of living together through a shared reality and lived experience. Democratic participation at the local level provides a laboratory for innovation, questioning, and dialogue between institutions and populations at the local level. The SUCCESS groups thought of their neighbourhoods as a reference point for the concrete practice of citizenship which can then inform and improve the actions of national and EU institutions.

“My neighbourhood is the most important place for me because it’s where I’ve lived all my life. My work is going to be more global now but Outurela-Portela will always be an example. You’re always working for a community, no matter how big it is.” Helder, Outurela-Portela, Oeiras, Portugal


How can we reverse the negative stereotypes of certain neighbourhoods? Public debate in Europe has established a link between immigration, delinquency, and insecurity, which stigmatizes disadvantaged neighbourhoods and their residents. Notions like “banlieue,” “youth” and “Muslims” mask realities that are very different from the rhetoric put forth but are difficult to transmit to the public. In their analysis, the SUCCESS groups thought about how they could work directly with the media, by providingtraining for journalists on this subject, for example, to promote alternative perceptions and deconstruct received ideas and their negative consequences on the notion of “common belonging”.

“The Office of Budget Responsibility notes that immigrants make a positive contribution to UK finances. However, public perception of immigrants ‘overburdening’ the welfare system is based, not on the figures, but on inaccurate media and stereotypical portrayals.” Amy, Ladywood, Birmingham, United Kingdom


How can we reconcile Europeans with multiculturalism? Since the early 2000s, the “crisis of multiculturalism” has been at the centre of debates in Europe. Those who condemn multiculturalism claim it has led to a “failure of immigrant integration.” Such claims are mostly based on misconceptions and/or electoral considerations and do not stand up to scrutiny. Moreover, cultural diversity in Europe is not a question of opinion or preference. It is already a reality, lived by Europeans. The SUCCESS groups thought about how they could break down the fears and prejudices promoted by dominant public discourses and search for ways to present multiculturalism as a standard dimension of citizenship.

“We must take multiculturalism into account, because it exists. It’s here every day. We say ‘hello’ and ‘goodbye.’ We may or may not like it, but it is here.” Fouzya, Le Morillon, Montreuil, France


How can we convince citizens of the importance of participation within institutions? Citizenship cannot exist if citizens to do not have an active relationship with their political and civic institutions, especially at the local level. Elections, neighbourhood councils and consultations, parent-teacher meetings etc.: all serve as important forms of citizen participation. Such participation reinforces the capacity of citizens to be recognised as full participants in the transparent and democratic functioning of institutions. The SUCCESS groups worked together to find ways to convince their neighbourhood residents of the significance of such participation. In this way, they tried to have an impact on relevant policies and to strengthen the sense of being fully-fledged citizens at the local, national and European levels.

“We the youngsters could, from the ground, break the barriers. If we don’t do it, there won’t be a future.” Aroua, Ballarò, Palermo, Italia


How can citizens be better represented? A central problem of citizenship has to do with citizens’ lack of trust in national and European institutions which are often perceived as far removed from the reality of their daily lives. The under-representation of women, young people and people of ethnic minorities in certain institutions contributes to this perceived distance. By comparing situations that vary from one country to another, the SUCCESS groups analysed the factors that could promote better representation of these minorities.

“Institutions must look and sound like the people it represents and embrace their diversity. Democracy is about that: not being excluded but being part of it, regardless of one’s age, gender, ethnicity and social status.” Tyrone, Ladywood, Birmingham, Grande-Bretagne


How can we promote citizenship in a period of economic crisis? A lack of perspective coupled with the economic crisis represents a significant obstacle to citizen participation. This is especially true in neighbourhoods where the unemployment level is two or three times higher than the national average and where young people, women and minority and immigrant populations are disproportionately affected. Therefore, to understand citizenship today it is also necessary to consider the socio-economic dimensions of the issue and the importance of the welfare state in the age of globalization. The reflection of the SUCCESS groups focused on the importance of understanding these issues in Europe today.

“We continue to place people back to back, creating fear with the image of the “Polish plumber” or of Greece. I think that it is necessary to create economic harmonization for the situation to improve, and to highlight our common experiences and viewpoints on the issues.” Aurélie, Le Morillon, Montreuil, France