The notion of diversity has benefited from a growing popularity in France during these last years, particularly in relation to questions of integration and “living together”. It has been used to account for the “pluri-ethnic” character of French society, for the way minorities are perceived as well as for the dynamics of segregation and ethno-racial discrimination. The aim of this paper is to trace back the origin and to study the uses of this new ideal both in relation to the principle of non-discrimination to which it was initially associated and to the claim of social recognition of the “pluri-ethnic” and multicultural character of French society by the majority of agents involved in this movement. The paper is based on a study conducted between 2006 and 2008 in the regions of Lille and Paris on activist and professional associations, on political and institutional actors involved in the development and dissemination of initiatives promoting “diversity”, especially in firms and work settings. The article explores the hypotheses of a decline of law as a regulatory mechanism linked to the rise of managerial discourses and of the euphemisation of the ethno-racial dimension linked to the development of a “global” conception of diversity.
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