CAIRN-INT.INFO : International Edition

1 During the 2000s, immigration and citizenship policies in Europe and North America gave rise to the development of a new policy paradigm, termed “civic integration” (Joppke, 2007; Mouritsen, 2008). In the literature, these policies are presented as marking a “civic turn”, reflected in the introduction of a series of measures and laws on entry, residence, integration of foreign nationals and acquisition of nationality. These include the multiplication of citizenship tests, the reinforcement of language requirements, the development of compulsory civic training, the importance given to citizenship ceremonies in the framework of naturalisation, the signing of charters or contracts of integration and adherence to the “values” of the society of settlement.

2 Beyond academic discussions on the nature, magnitude and scope of this “turn”, there is a consensus that the reconfigurations at work in “civic integration” policies consist, on the one hand, of imposing greater constraints on migrants seeking to settle in one of the countries concerned and, on the other, of promoting a “thick” conception of citizenship (Etzioni, 2011), emphasising the identity dimension of membership of belonging to the national community.

3 At a time when integration of migrants is at the heart of public debate, this dossier analyses the policies of “civic integration” by focusing on two case studies: France and Canada. Using analyses that combine empirical research and theoretical approaches, and drawing on a large body of data, the aim is to understand whether the reconfigurations attributed to a “civic turn” are underway in both countries, and their possible implications for migrants, in terms of inclusion/exclusion, and for the society of settlement, in terms of reaffirming national identity. To this end, this REMI special issue entitled Citizenship in times of “civic integration”: France and Canada compared adopts a firmly interdisciplinary approach, combining and intersecting sociology, anthropology, law, philosophy and political science, not only across the special issue as a whole, but also within several of the articles.

4 Analysing integration policies in France and Canada through the prism of the “civic turn” makes it possible to refresh the study of these two national contexts by applying a framework of interpretation that has rarely been used until now. Analysis of these two cases also contributes to broadening the literature on the “civic turn”, mainly composed of studies on the Netherlands, the United Kingdom, Germany, the Scandinavian countries, and the United States (Bonjour, 2018; Meer et al., 2015; Borevi et al., 2017; Goodman, 2020).

5 The articles presented here thus contribute to the three debates identified by Joppke (2017) as central to the literature on “civic integration” policies. First, whether there is policy convergence or persistent variation along “national models” of integration? Second, do civic integration policies mark a retreat from multiculturalism, or are they merely layered on top of them? Third, do they support — as Joppke (2010) argues — a “liberal” vision of citizenship, focused on fundamental rights and individual freedoms, or on the contrary, do they signal the return of “cultural assimilation” (Duyvendak et al., 2016)?

6 The issue of a “civic turn” in France and Canada has as a background the differences between two “models” — the first described as “republican”, the second as “multiculturalist” — with divergent ideological orientations.

7 In the case of France, testing the hypothesis of a “civic turn” immediately raises a number of points. First, it is not in these terms, at least not primarily, that public and academic debate on the entry of foreigners into the national community is conducted. From the beginning of the 2000s to the present day, the debate has been less about the “French model of integration” than about the possibility and desirability of redesigning it to make it more welcoming of cultural differences. Even when the public authorities claim to be initiating “diversity policies”, they do so by taking care to distinguish them from “Anglo-Saxon multiculturalism”, which acts as a “repellent” in the French debate. Second, the very terms of this debate, compared to those in the literature on the “civic turn”, display certain specificities and semantic dissonances that may complicate the application of this analytical framework to the case of France. An example of this is the term “liberalism”, which is widely associated with economic neo-liberalism, whereas in research on citizenship it conveys a conception of justice combining respect for fundamental rights and the quest for social justice. A central term in the French debate is the word “communitarianism”, encompassing a range of phenomena, real or imagined, which are the object of constant warnings from the same people whose “thick” conception of citizenship is closest to the one discussed in the literature in terms of the “communitarian” approach (Lacroix, 2007). Finally, the question, raised in the literature on “civic integration”, of an abandonment of multiculturalist policies takes on a singular, even paradoxical, aspect in the French case: the confirmation of the “failure of multiculturalism” by President Nicolas Sarkozy in 2011 cannot be considered a “turning point”, since France had never adopted policies falling into this category. Moreover, in “republican” territory, this failure proclaimed by Angela Merkel and then David Cameron is seen as tangible proof of the superiority of the “French model”, which is presented as shielding “civic” attachments from, and placing them above, so-called “ethnic” affiliations. These are elements that need to be taken into account when examining the issue of a French “civic turn”, especially when the potential shift consists of adopting a “civic” orientation from which the French public authorities have never declared their intention to break away.

8 In public debate on integration, Canada is also seen — rightly or wrongly — as having a relatively stable ideological and political stance. In this case, it is the “multiculturalist” model that provides the background against which the issue of a potential “civic turn” is raised, promoting a “thicker” conception of citizenship. To some extent, Canada’s approach to integration has long been “civic” in the sense that the policy of multiculturalism encourages not only the valuing of cultural diversity, but also the integration and building of a common identity in the majority society. The same is true of Quebec’s interculturalism, which — even more than multiculturalism in the rest of Canada — emphasises a core culture (French-Canadian culture in particular) and remains closely linked to the so-called “francisation” of new arrivals. In both cases, the policy far from encourages the existence of “parallel societies”. On the contrary, Canadian multiculturalism is intended as a means of strengthening a common national identity. Unlike in Europe, where the “civic turn” is closely linked to the implementation of citizenship tests, ceremonies and oaths, these schemes are not new in Canada. They were introduced as early as 1947 — with the coming into force of the first Canadian Citizenship Act — and have been requirements for becoming a Canadian citizen since then. Nevertheless, from the 2000s onwards, an important shift can be noted in federal policy. Stephen Harper’s Conservative government (2006-2015) took inspiration from the so-called “backlash” against multiculturalism in Europe to redefine Canada in decidedly more conservative and nationalistic terms. The visibility and scope of multiculturalism was reduced, immigration policy was reorganised according to economic criteria, and citizenship became more difficult to obtain and easier to lose. These changes were based on a stronger involvement of the state in integration policies while emphasising the individual responsibility of migrants. According to the government of the day, they were aimed at strengthening Canadian values and the economy, rendered more vulnerable by globalisation.

9 Despite the particularities of these two contexts, an analysis of the measures concerning migrants which have been developed since the 2000s in both France and Canada, reveals policy reconfigurations corresponding to the paradigm of “civic integration”.

10 With regard to France, Émilien Fargues’ article on the condition of “professional integration” and, in particular, the requirement of “economic performance” in naturalisation procedures highlights, over the long term, the existence of a seemingly paradoxical alliance between the communitarian dimension of “civic integration” policies and a neoliberal orientation. Analysing integration contracts from 2003 to the present day, Myriam Hachimi-Alaoui and Janie Pélabay show that the “republican integration condition”, coupled with the obligation for migrants to conform to the “values of the Republic”, indicates a moralisation and culturalisation of citizenship. Linda Haapajärvi documents this dual tendency to culturalise and moralise citizenship, in particular through the injunction to achieve emancipation and individual fulfilment, by looking at the local practices of “participatory integration” implemented by an association for migrant women in the Paris suburbs.

11 The case of Canada is addressed in two articles and a research note. Delphine Nakache, Jennifer Stone and Elke Winter analyse the recent decline in Canada’s naturalisation rate. They show that the emphasis on economic selection and on making individuals responsible for “integration” works to the disadvantage of those — especially women — who come to Canada through non-economic routes, by denying them access to citizenship. Lois Harder examines the debates on “maternity tourism” and the prejudices they reveal about what constitutes “proper” citizenship. Focusing on the new “Quebec values test”, which has been mandatory since January 2020 for economic migrants wishing to settle in the province, Emily Laxer’s research note analyses the very core of the policy tools favoured by promoters of “civic integration”.

12 As Saskia Bonjour’s concluding text emphasises, by shedding a “postcolonial” light on this special issue, the analyses presented here reveal, each in their own way, that the policies developed in France and Canada do indeed contain the main features of the “civic turn” as described by Mouritsen et al. (2019: 601), namely: making individuals responsible for the “success” of “their” integration; the intervention of the state at the level of personal values and identity; the use of integration measures to exclude “undesirables”; and the culturalisation of “good citizenship”. One of the key lessons to be learned from the comparative study of the French and Canadian cases is that the presence of “civic integration” policies in both contexts represents not so much a break with, as a deepening of trends that were already at work. Beyond this observation, the comparative analysis of the French and Canadian cases raises a cross-cutting question about the novelty and the strength of a “neoliberal turn” that may reinforce these policies and intensify their effects on the delineation of ever “thicker” borders between “us” and “them”.

  • citoyenneté
  • immigration
  • tournant civique
  • politique d’intégration
  • approches comparées
  • inmigración
  • políticas de integración
  • ciudadanía
  • giro cívico
  • enfoques comparativos
  • immigration
  • integration policies
  • citizenship
  • civic turn
  • comparative approaches
    • Bonjour Saskia (2018) The Role of the State and the Image of Migrants: Debating Dutch Civic Integration Policies, in Andrea Rea, Emmanuelle Bribosia, Isabelle Rorive and Djordje Sredanovic Eds., Governing Diversity: Migrant Integration and Multiculturalism in North America and Europe, Bruxelles, Éditions de l’Université de Bruxelles, pp. 203-217.
    • Borevi Karin, Jensen Kristian K. and Mouritsen Per (2017) The civic turn of immigrant integration policies in the Scandinavian welfare states, Comparative Migration Studies, 5 (9), [online]. URL:
    • Duyvendak Jan Willem, Geschiere Peter and Tonkens Evelien (Eds.) (2016) The Culturalization of Citizenship: Belonging and Polarization in a Globalizing World, London, Palgrave Macmillan.
    • Etzioni Amitia (2011) Citizenship in a communitarian perspective, Ethnicities, 11 (3), pp. 336-349.
    • Goodman Sara Wallace (2020) “Good American citizens”: a text-as-data analysis of citizenship manuals for immigrants, 1921-1996, Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies, pp. 1-24, [online]. URL:
    • Joppke Christian (2017) Civic integration in Western Europe: three debates, West European Politics, 40 (6), pp. 1153-1176.
    • Joppke Christian (2010) Citizenship and Immigration, Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.
    • Joppke Christian (2007) Beyond national models: Civic integration policies for immigrants in Western Europe, West European Politics, 30 (1), pp. 16-22.
    • Lacroix Justine (2007) Communautarisme et pluralisme dans le débat français. Essai d’élucidation, Éthique publique, 9 (1), pp. 50-55.
    • Meer Nasar, Mouritsen Per, Faas Daniel and de Witte Nynke (2015) Examining “Postmulticultural” and Civic Turns in the Netherlands, Britain, Germany, and Denmark, American Behavioral Scientist, 59 (6), pp. 702-726.
    • OnlineMouritsen Per (2008) Political Responses to Cultural Conflict: Reflections on the Ambiguities of the Civic Turn, in Per Mouritsen and Knud Erik Jørgensen Eds., Constituting Communities: Political Solutions to Cultural Conflict, Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 1-30.
    • Mouritsen Per, Jensen Kristian K. and Larin Stephen J. (2019) Introduction: Theorizing the civic turn in European integration policies, Ethnicities, 19 (4), pp. 595-613.
Janie Pélabay
FNSP Research Fellow, Sciences Po, Centre for Political Research (CEVIPOF), CNRS, 1 place St Thomas d’Aquin, 75007 Paris, France;
Elke Winter
Full Professor of Sociology, University of Ottawa; 120 University Private (#10059), Ottawa, Ontario, K1N 6N5, Canada;
Myriam Hachimi-Alaoui
Senior Lecturer, Fellow of the Convergences Migration Institute, University of Le Havre Normandy, Laboratoire IDEES-Le Havre, 25 rue Ph. Lebon, 76000 Le Havre, France;
Delphine Nakache
Associate Professor, University of Ottawa, Faculty of Law, 57 Louis-Pasteur Private, Ottawa, Ontario, K1N6N5, Canada;
Alexandra Poméon O’Neill
Katherine Booth
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
This is the latest publication of the author on cairn.
Uploaded on on 23/09/2022
Distribution électronique pour Université de Poitiers © Université de Poitiers. Tous droits réservés pour tous pays. Il est interdit, sauf accord préalable et écrit de l’éditeur, de reproduire (notamment par photocopie) partiellement ou totalement le présent article, de le stocker dans une banque de données ou de le communiquer au public sous quelque forme et de quelque manière que ce soit.
Loading... Please wait