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FP7

UNITED BY DIVER-FRI Report Summary

Project ID: 625341
Funded under: FP7-PEOPLE
Country: Switzerland

Final Report Summary - UNITED BY DIVER-FRI (United by diversity - Management policies of cultural and linguistic diversity in Switzerland and Canada : Two reference laboratories for European Union?)

The first objective of my research project (1) was to complete a habilitation à diriger des recherches (Accreditation to Supervise Research) in political anthropology. To achieve this, I had planned to write a thesis of 400 pages. I completed this objective by submitting my 484-page habilitation thesis at the University of Fribourg on 4th June and will defend it in December. My second (2) and third objectives (3) were to obtain a diploma in political anthropology in order to teach this subject and to familiarise myself with the discipline’s methods, which I have done these past two years. My fourth objective (4) was to complete a list of my publications and to hold conferences on my subject in order to diffuse my ideas. On this point I have also fulfilled my objectives. I wrote two articles that I submitted to the reading committees of international journals. Following the defence of my habilitation, I will submit the thesis that I wrote to several publishing houses with a view to its publication next year. Furthermore, I promoted and launched my book that was published in 2015: Multiculturalisme et identité nationale: deux notions antagonistes? (Classiques Garnier, 2015).

Research progress and results:
Canada and Switzerland represent two types of consociations. According to Lijphart, a consociation is defined by the way in which power is shared between the different constituent segments of society, but not only this. I have demonstrated that a consociation is also and above all characterised by the way in which groups cohabitate within these political spaces. Lijphart defined this model in reference to political mechanisms such as the right to veto for groups, the formation of a large coalition government and the existence of proportional representation. The result was that certain countries could be considered consociations at certain periods in their history, while at other periods they were not. I have proposed a new conception of consociation in reference to the objective pursued by the implementation of such tools. The goal of a consociation, regardless of the policies adopted in the territory, is to assure the preservation of groups, their autonomy and the maintenance of their particularities. Conforming to this new definition of consociation, the tools put in place by the state are not essential in defining a consociation. What is essential, however, is the objective pursued by these policies. Therefore, this makes it possible to consider Canada a consociation because it works to preserve three national groups, the Anglophone, Francophone and Indigenous populations, although its government is not the result of a large coalition government. However, the study of the European Union has revealed that, despite the similarities between the workings of the state union and consociational mechanisms, it could not be conceived of as a consociation insofar as it is not managed by a single government equipped with an objective. Only a state has both the ability to define a political project and the coercive means to implement it. In consociations, the state unit is essential for assuring the role of mediator, representative and regulator between groups.

Conclusions :
These analyses provide valuable explanations to understand the workings of consociations and the relationships that exist between groups. They serve to prove that in certain political areas, characterised by the coexistence of several cultural, linguistic and religious groups, recognition, protection and the promotion of diversity foster social cohesion and the emergence of a collective identity. On the contrary, the refusal to grant groups the right to preserve their respective differences causes divisions, conflict and fuels secessionist desires. This analysis proves enlightening for two reasons: on one hand, the nation state is hardly a model applicable to all countries of the world, which are often composed of several groups who do not wish to have their language, culture and way of life imposed on them by the majority. On the other hand, even in European countries where this model has long been considered a legitimate form of government, problems start to appear. Regional communities are expressing more and more openly their desire to preserve their distinctive linguistic and cultural features, as demonstrated by the example of Corsica. As for immigrants, they are increasingly resistant to cultural assimilation, an implicit guarantee of their “successful integration” into the state. This trend is the result of two opposing forces at play in the contemporary world. The first is a result of economic globalisation and leads states to establish ever-wider free-trade zones that challenge national borders. The second is due to the reaction of individuals to this movement, which leads them to increasingly identify with nearby communities. These communities represent an immediate frame of reference, as opposed to the political-economic associations of states that appear as abstract and remote centres of identification.The analysis and conclusions drawn from the comparative study of Canada and Switzerland serve to highlight a series of measures likely to promote the harmonious coexistence of groups within the European Union. They also serve to highlight that the blindness of policy towards cultural differences, which is at play in most nation states, is insufficient when tensions emerge between minorities and the majority. Only a policy that addresses these differences is capable of implementing effective mechanisms to reduce tensions and avoid the confinement of communities themselves.

Socio-economic impact:
The concept of consociation has emerged as a promising model to allow groups to coexist peacefully in a territory while respecting each other’s particularities. The recognition of diversity and the right of groups to express their particularities are necessary conditions for peacekeeping in countries marked by great cultural, religious and linguistic plurality. The nation-state model, based on the imposition by a majority of its language and culture on the entire population present in a state territory, cannot function in this type of country.
The social impact of this research is to highlight that the blindness to differences that characterises many European nation-states does not facilitate meeting the challenges of the contemporary world. The diversification of populations in nation-states because of migration requires rethinking diversity management and giving high priority to the fight against discrimination, racism and the perverse effects of social, cultural and religious exclusion of certain citizens. The radicalisation of certain citizens from immigrant backgrounds highlights the existence of an identity crisis that must be taken into account if states wish to tackle the root of the problem. Security measures, although necessary, are not enough to curb the phenomenon. The inclusion of religion, which includes the training of Imams, state interest in the curriculum of private schools and the construction and monitoring of places of worship are all necessary steps that require the state to move past this attitude of blindness and move toward taking differences into account. This research is a guide to all political leaders who are aware that the evolution of a social context now involves the recognition and acceptance of cultural, religious and linguistic differences whose expression has until now been limited to the private sphere.

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Contact

Monique Bersier, (Administrative diector)
Tel.: +41 26 300 7003
Fax: +41 26 300 9600
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Record Number: 189019 / Last updated on: 2016-09-15
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