Patrick Simon, Senior Researcher, Institut National d’Etudes Démographiques, Paris

Discrimination in a colour-blind society: racial divisions behind the French model of integration?

After being one of the most renowned “assimilationist countries” in the world, France has recently been engaged in quick changes in its framing of incorporation of “immigrants”. Indeed, not only have the concepts and theories used to portray the processes behind the “remaking of the French mainstream” dramatically changed, but the categories of those targeted by these processes have also been renewed. Access of “new second generations” (i.e. those born from the waves of immigration of the 1950s and 1960s) to the job market and their visibility in social, political and cultural life have challenged the “French model of integration”.

This presentation will first set up the background on which discrimination can be studied in the French context, and then it will confront the normative model of colour-blindness to the trajectories of potentially racialized immigrants and second generation. I will argue that the salience of race and ethnicity for minority members in contemporary France is challenging the expectations of equality beyond race and that discrimination has a devastating impact on the political model of colour-blindness. Data comes from a new survey Trajectories and Origins: a survey on population diversity in France, which is the largest survey ever done in France on immigrants and second generation. Promoted by INED and the French National Statistical Institute (INSEE), the survey gathered information via a long questionnaire administered in face-to-face interviews with 22 000 respondents from 5 specific sub-samples: Immigrants (8300), descendants of Immigrants (8200), Overseas French (700), descendants of Overseas French (700) and “mainstream population” (3900). Findings on employment, housing segregation, intermarriage and social networks, and discrimination will be presented to support the thesis of an ongoing process of racialization of the French society and the rise of ethnic and racial minorities.

Patrick Simon is Director of research at INED (Institut National d’Etudes Demographiques – National demographic institute) and is fellow researcher at the Center of European Studies (CEE) at Sciences Po. He was Visiting Scholar at CUNY in 2015-2016. Trained as socio-demographer at EHESS (Doctoral degree circa 1994), he has studied social and ethnic segregation in French cities, antidiscrimination policies and the integration of ethnic minorities in European countries. He has recently edited “Accounting for ethnic and racial diversity: the challenge of enumeration”, a special issue of Ethnic and Racial Studies, 35:8, 2012 (with V.Piché); Beauchemin Cris, Hamel Christelle et Simon Patrick. (Dir) 2015. Trajectoires et Origines: enquête sur la diversité des populations en France, Paris, INED, Coll. Grandes enquêtes; Foner Nancy and Simon Patrick. (Ed.) 2015 Fear, Anxiety, and National Identity: Immigration and Belonging in North America and Western Europe, New York, Russel Sage Foundation.

All seminars in the series.