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The Politics of Sociocultural Leveraging: Why Gender Became Central to Immigrant Integration Policy in France


October 23, 2014
4:15pm - 6:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Busch Hall
October 23, 2014
4:15pm - 6:00pm
Hoffmann Room, Busch Hall

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Debates over immigrant integration policy in France have increasingly been dominated by questions of gender relations, sexuality, and the family. This paper investigates why integration policy has taken this strongly gendered cast by examining the evolution of these policies, and rhetorical constructions of them, from 1989 to 2010. The paper interprets contemporary conflicts over immigrant integration through the concept of sociocultural leveraging – a social and political process whereby status majorities elevate one downtrodden group in a way that subordinates another. Sociocultural leveraging has occurred as French policy-makers exploit the dilemmas that follow from intersectionality – the overlapping, politically salient identities that generate competing claims for recognition and support. In France, the mobilization of immigrant-origin women around issues of gender-based violence put important issues on the political agenda, yet also created opportunities for conservatives seeking to stave off the rise of the far right. Sociocultural leveraging has been a strategy deployed by politicians, particularly but not exclusively those on the right, to recast right wing values in a politically acceptable guise. In so doing, they have portrayed France as a “modern” and enlightened nation dedicated to the pursuit of gender equality.

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