There has been an enormous amount of academic and policy work on the integration of minority cultural communities, especially certain Muslim communities, into 'mainstream' society in the last decade. Our task in this briefing is to outline a potential new approach, one that we call 'everyday integration'.
We believe that this approach, grounded in new academic work, provides a better way of both analysing and advancing the possibilities for the integration of different communities into a stable social order.
In academia, most work on integration has focused on supposed conflicts of values between minority communities and western liberalism, and the difficulties that these conflicts create for social life in European countries. Many of these debates have moved from academia into policy discourse, stemming from such events as the French headscarf controversy and the security implications of radicalisation and extremism.
For over a decade, this debate has been characterised by a simple choice between, on the one hand, a multicultural group-rights approach popular in much of the academic community and, on the other hand, an increasingly assimilative approach focused on developing a stronger sense of shared citizenship and national identity, which is popular among much of the policy community. It is our contention that both of these models are mistaken.
We propose that future work on the best ways of integrating minority communities into broader society should focus on everyday integration, that is, on sites where identities are constructed and reconstructed and where new possibilities of group allegiance are continually developed. In this briefing, we have suggest that four potential areas for further exploration in this regard are:
- early-years childcare
- shopping and consumption
- leisure activities
- supplementary education.
Difficult practical, ethical and scholarly questions remain, but we believe that 'everyday integration' provides the possibility of a crucial new start for work in this vital policy area.