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how to succeed in the cultural integration of immigrant populations?»

FIGAROVOX/TRIBUNE – Essayist Max-Erwann Gastineau analyzes the partisan “tripartition” that structures the debate around the cultural integration of immigrant populations. The appearance of the terms “creolization”, “inclusion” and “assimilation” reveals the weight taken on by the question of immigration.

A graduate in history and international relations, Max-Erwann Gastineau analyzes the ideological balance of power within Europe. Essayist, he published The New Eastern Trial (editions of Cerf, 2019).


The legislative elections on 12th and 19th June next should establish the prevalence of the three major political forces that came out on top in the last presidential election: the “social-ecologist” left, embodied by Jean-Luc Mélenchon; the “liberal-European” center embodied by Emmanuel Macron; the “national-populist” right embodied by Marine Le Pen. This “tripartization” of our political life intersects with a cultural tripartism opposing three projects, three ways of conceiving living together: “creolization” on the left; “inclusion” in the center; “assimilation” on the right.

On the left, Jean-Luc Mélenchon favors “creolization”. Theorized by the “archipelago thinker” (as he defines himself) Édouard Glissant, creolization designates “the bringing into contact of several cultures or at least of several elements of distinct cultures, in one place of the world, resulting in a new datum, totally unpredictable in relation to the sum or the simple synthesis of these elements”. In other words, creolization is based on a wager: the reciprocal intermingling of cultures punctuating the social body until, under the mechanical effect of time, the terms of a new common identity are forged. It presupposes a prerequisite: the abolition of the distinction between the autochthonous and the allochthonous. It can be summed up in one ambition: “make France of all wood, permanently“, summed up Jean-Luc Mélenchon in September 2020.

The main asset of creolization resides in a promise: the happy ending, the union that it projects at the end of “archipelization”. Its weakness is its natural tendency to relativize the tensions that the cohabitation of cultures can involve.

Max-Erwann Gastineau

The creolization model takes root in the Caribbean; region with very heterogeneous societies, shaped by the successive arrival of diverse populations (European, African, Indian, Middle Eastern, Chinese, etc.) and the absence of a historical culture of reference.

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In 1994, in Trinidad and Tobago, an English-speaking country in the South Caribbean, theindian arrival day(the day of arrival of the Indians) became an official holiday. Initially celebrated within the only Indian community (the second most important of the country after that of the Afro-Descendants), in order to mark the day of his arrival, in 1845, on the boats of the British Empire, the “indian arrival day” became “arrival day” and thus a national holiday. originate from the fact of came fromto be one day arrived from is, indeed, a common characteristic of all Trinidadians; people whose name of the capital, Port-of-Spain, recalls how much, in a Creole nation, the elsewhere is combined with the here.

The main asset of creolization resides in a promise: the happy ending, the union that it projects at the end of “archipelization”. Its weakness is its natural tendency to relativize the tensions that the cohabitation of cultures can involve, especially in societies with a strong historical identity. This is the case of French society, whose identity has been built around cultural references that are still widely shared, shaped by several centuries of unification which do not give creolization the same social configuration as in the islands where it imposed itself against a background of demographic loss of the indigenous people (Amerindian for the Caribbean).

Transferred to the political sphere and to the challenges of living together, inclusion militates for the insertion of otherness, of exogenous value systems in a particular national context.

Max-Erwann Gastineau

In the center, Emmanuel Macron advocates the “inclusion” of “minorities”, thanks to the advent of a inclusive patriotism»he claimed on the web channel Brut in November 2020. According to the dictionary of the French Academy, inclusion means “the presence of a heterogeneous body inside a given medium”. Transferred to the political sphere and to the challenges of living together, inclusion militates for the insertion of otherness, of exogenous value systems in a particular national context. Thus it does not demand of the “other” that he strips himself of his ethnocultural ties in order to blend better into the already constituted social body, but that he adds his note, under the auspices of tolerance and from the “overture”, to the symphony of the whole.

SEE ALSO – Immigration: Macron lax?

Inclusion is the most popular term of the three aforementioned projects. In the world of academia, business or the senior public service, both national and European, its occurrences have grown exponentially over the past ten years. Let us think of the report by State Councilor Thierry Tuot, calling in 2013 to abandon the old moons of French-style assimilation to build an “inclusive society”. Let’s think about the program “for inclusion and the fight against discrimination” on whose behalf the Council of Europe has developed its campaign to promote the hijab. Let’s think about the “inclusive communication” of the Brussels Commission, which last December recommended abandoning certain expressions with cultural connotations, such as the expression ‘Christmas period’, in favor of more neutral expressions, such as ‘holiday period’.

In theory, and according to the established formula, inclusion takes nothing away from anyone (citizens attached to Christmas will continue to be able to celebrate it); it gives rights, makes room for minorities as minorities. Thus it is expected that “300 to 500 names of black or arab historical personalities” will soon be designated to rename our streets, erect new statues, the importance being, detailed President Macron in an interview with the magazine The Great Continentof “to give pride to the diasporas who live in our countries and who come from Africa”. The appointment of historian Pap Ndiaye, whose writings on the representation of immigration and the “black condition” have shaped the work, as Minister of National Education and Youth takes, at the yardstick of this presidential ambition, all its meaning.

The strength of inclusion, whose model is rooted in North America, is that it responds to a very strong desire for recognition (of the individual and his particularities) in our societies. It is also coupled with an introspective requirement, inviting us to question our references to better adjust them to the changes of a social body in perpetual construction. Its weakness lies in its “diversity” tropism, which, on the pretext of recognizing differences, takes the risk of consecrating them, drawing a France à la carte, to living together always more theoretical than practical, for lack of references and shared values.

On the right, Marine le Pen defends “assimilation”, like the main parties and personalities structuring the eastern pole of our political spectrum; from the Reconquest party of Éric Zemmour to the caciques of the “classic” right. Candidates for the presidential election, Nicolas Sarkozy, François Fillon and Valérie Pécresse have, in turn, pleaded the cause.

The criteria for assimilation may vary over time but always revolve around the same goal: to perpetuate the national identity, the attachment of citizens, wherever they come from, to the material and immaterial content that it conceals. .

Max-Erwann Gastineau

The notion of assimilation, summarized in 2006 Mirna Safi in the French journal of sociologyanticipates that over time and over generations, populations of immigrant origin will become closer and closer to natives”. The criteria used to promote this rapprochement can vary, ranging from a certain orthodoxy regarding the choice of first names to the need to demonstrate “sufficient knowledge (…) of the French language, history, culture and society”recalls article 22-24 of our Civil Code. The criteria for assimilation may vary over time but always revolve around the same goal: to perpetuate national identity, the attachment of citizens, wherever they come from, to material and immaterial content (values, traditions , monuments, literature, etc. that it conceals. Assimilation presupposes a leitkultur, a culture of reference or, literally, a “guiding culture” (in France, the French culture) which it is important to preserve and transmit; hence the strong emphasis placed by its supporters on the school, the crucible of the national bond.

The strength of assimilation, in a context of growing heterogeneity, is that it aspires to transcend our particularities, including the most irreducible of them (racial), by transmitting national landmarks that promote the feeling of belonging. to one and the same community. Its weakness is twofold: its relative strangeness at a time when France values ​​unity less than “diversity”; the negative symbolic charge with which it is also coated, by association with colonial history, the past of a France sure of itself, dominating and prescriptive.

Proponents of creolization and assimilation have in common the desire to transcend differences into a common transcendent identity; becoming for some, inherited for others. Proponents of creolization and inclusion have in common the desire to promote minority references in order to project them into a new France, constantly reinvigorated, “open to diversity”. Proponents of inclusion and assimilation have in common to consider past history, memories, pains and sources of pride as essential elements in any construction of identity.

“Creolization”, “inclusion”, “assimilation”… Three words that bear witness to a tripling political era. Three words that alone reveal the weight taken by immigration to (re)think the nation.


SEE ALSO – Éric Zemmour: “Assimilation is the opposite of racism” specifies the candidate for the Trocadero

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