Preface. Essential features and fundamental assumptions of the Concordia Discors project.


I. The expression “Concordia Discors” comes from the Latin poet Horace’s epistles and has become paradigm of a dynamic state of “discordant harmony”. A fundamental assumption of this project is that integration is a dynamic achievement and it is not a rigid state nor the conceptual opposite of conflict. Therefore it is necessary to face, thematize and analyze the inter-group tensions associated with integration processes, as a precondition to deal with such tensions proactively and constructively. We have thus investigated different modes of intergroup relations, in particular the various shapes of conflict and cooperation, including intermediate patterns of interactions, seen as developmental dynamics of integration processes.

II. Another assumption concerns the view of intergroup relations. We have adopted the boundary-making perspective proposed by Fredrik Barth as early as the 1960s, according to which ethnic distinctions have a relational nature and they may (or may not) crosscut groups of shared culture or nationality. Therefore, our units of observation are individuals and organised groups, that we have not pre-clustered into ethnic groups since the existence and the configuration of such groups will rather be part of the research findings. Coherently with this approach we have looked not only at ethnic/migration cleavages but also at other relevant cleavages which structure interactions – overlapping, reinforcing or blurring the ones produced by migration – such as the cleavages based on socio-economic status, generation or length of stay in the neighbourhood. The choice of this approach is the reason why we use the term “intergroup relations” and not “interethnic relations”.

III. A third assumption inspiring this project is that places matter in shaping relations among groups. Given that contemporary cities are (increasingly) internally fragmented and too heterogeneous to be investigated as undifferentiated places, we focused our study on those specific areas in cities which share urban and social characteristics and are called quarters. We define the quarter as a sub-municipal urban entity, which is not necessarily an autonomous administrative entity, but whose identity is recognisable (although not necessarily with a shared perception of its exact geographical boundaries).

IV. Given these three assumptions, Concordia Discors have investigated intergroup relations at the quarter level, in order to produce a deep, strongly empirically-based and directly policy relevant understanding of integration and conflict processes.
We focused on the quarter specificities, nonetheless adopting a wide perspective and taking factors into account which belong both to the macro and micro levels. In particular, we analysed the role played in shaping intergroup relations by:

  • Neighbourhoods as urban and social contexts;
  • Everyday experience and relations;
  • Information and representation flows of local media concerning the target neighbourhoods;
  • Local policies producing their effects on integroup relations in the target neighbourhoods, including political/electoral communication strategies.

V. We have referred to different disciplines and fields of study, using both quantitative and qualitative methods. The main methodological steps of the Concordia Discors project are the following.

  • Analysis of social and urban context. The first step consisted in reconstructing the urban and social context of the target quarters and identifying common indicators describing the urban, social and migration contexts;
  • Analysis of local policy communities’ perceptions. We carried out interviews and focus groups with quarter-level policy communities (policy-makers, street-level bureaucracy, NGOs, etc) investigating policy frames (i.e. the cognitive dimension of policy, in particular the way in which immigration and intergroup relations are framed) and the measures that according to interviewees have influenced intergroup relations;
  • Analysis of local media flows. This step of analysis was based on media contents of local and/or local sections of national newspapers depending on the specificities of media landscape of each city. First, we tried to understand how often the target quarters have been mentioned in association with immigration. Then, we analysed the contents of the news identifying the dominant representations of intergroup relations and of policy interventions on immigration and integration issues in the target quarters;
  • Ethnographic fieldwork. We tried to catch the experienced intergroup relations through direct observation and interviews that allowed us to single out residents’ representations of differences, on the one hand, and investigating everyday practices and daily encounters, on the other hand. In order to carry out an in-depth analysis, the ethnography was focused on a limited number of “interaction zones” for each quarter, which are regarded as significant in terms of intergroup relations and are geographically circumscribed. Furthermore, we reconstructed collective narratives of the neighbourhoods’ recent history through the Neighbourhood Forums, half-day events engaging residents from different ethnic and socio-economic groups (local administrators, NGOs, ethnic associations, residents of various ages, shopkeepers, etc). This Forums also represented means of involvement of population of the target neighbourhoods thus enhancing the participatory nature of this research.

VI. The Concordia Discors project has adopted a comparative perspective which has been articulated over two levels:

  • Comparison between different quarters within the same city;
  • Comparison between quarters located in different cities and countries.

The project’s specific focus has been on eleven quarters of five European cities, each of which has been investigated by one research partner: Barcelona by the Migration Research Group of the Autonomous University of Barcelona, Budapest by TARKI, London by COMPAS of the University of Oxford, Nüremberg by efms of the University of Bamberg and Torino by FIERI. A sixth partner, the Brussels-based European Policy Centre (EPC), has been in charge of the dissemination of results and of networking and institutional relations with decision-makers and civil society organizations at EU level.
For each city a Background report and a Final report have been produced, whereas the Synthesis report provides a comparative analysis of all eleven quarters of the five target cities.

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