Re-casting local laïcité: the local governance of religious diversity in France (completed)

Julia Martínez-Ariño

The overall question of my project is how French cities respond to ethno-religious diversification. How are French secularism and colour-blind republicanism being re-shaped and re-fashioned at the local level? In particular, I am investigating the incorporation of diversity (in my case mainly through, but not limited to, religious organisations) into local governance. More precisely, the research focuses on four main aspects of the local governance of religious diversity:

  1. Faith involvement in local governance. To what extent are religious groups and organisations considered legitimate partners in the local governance of urban diversity in French cities?
  2. 'Policy instruments' for the governance of (religious) diversity. What public policy instruments do local actors use in responding to urban (religious) diversity? Why do cities adopt these specific policy tools?
  3. The local (re-)definition of membership of the nation. How are the boundaries of the membership of the nation being reshaped at the local level? How are ethnic and religious differences played out in these contexts? What are the narratives and discursive formations that drive, and result from, cities’ responses to diversity?
  4. (Religious) Minorities’ claim-making. Are minority groups able to mobilise and assert their claims to local policy-making through their participation in governance networks?

Methodologically, I adopt a mixed-methods approach combining in-depth interviews with observations and network analysis in three medium-sized cities in France. I have published an initial article analysing the interaction of religious organisations and local government in the city of Rennes. I am currently working on two other articles exploring the role of cities in the governance of religious diversity.

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