The Impact of Political Opportunity Structures on Networks of Immigrant Associations: A Comparison of Two European Cities

Eggert, Nina (2011) The Impact of Political Opportunity Structures on Networks of Immigrant Associations: A Comparison of Two European Cities. PhD thesis, University of Trento, Université de Genève.

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Abstract

Political inclusion of migrants is at the heart of contested scholarly and political debate. The increasing diversity of European democracies and the exclusion of a large part of the resident population from the political process raise questions about social cohesion and the quality of democracy. In the absence of voting rights for migrant residents, associations are often considered as an alternative for voice, representing migrants and defending their interest in the political process. Yet, little is known about the conditions favoring the political inclusion of migrant associations. Studies on migrants associations tend to consider migrant organizations as discrete units acting independently from each other. Yet, migrant associations do not act in a vacuum and are embedded in webs of relations as well as in a wider political context. Social movement scholars implicitly acknowledge an interaction between institutional and relational context in affecting collective action, but studies analyzing this interaction are scarce. Considering only one of the two structures in which associations are embedded might lead to wrong conclusions as to what fosters political inclusion. Thus, the objective of this study is twofold. First it attempts to link two traditions in the social movement literature: the political opportunity theory and the relational approach. Second, it aims at furthering our knowledge on the mechanisms linking the embeddedness of migrants associations in an institutional and a relational context and their political inclusion. Empirically, this study analyzes network structures in the field of immigration and the political inclusion of migrant organizations in Lyon and in Zurich. To analyze network structures the study draws on a relational approach to social movements that provides useful tools for comparing networks across contexts by defining a typology of modes of coordination of collective action. Modes of coordination are the mechanisms through which resources are allocated within collectivities but also how collective representation are elaborated as well as collective identities. The specific opportunities in the field of immigration draw on the citizenship approaches of nation-states to define the opportunities in the field. Two dimensions of political opportunty structures are defined. An institutional dimension, which refers to the rights and duties offered to immigrants as well as the institutional channels available to them, but also resources to actors acting in the field. The cultural dimension refers to the notions of citizenship and national identity that act as discursive opportunities and provide public recognition of different identities in the field. The main argument of this study is that the specific institutional and discursive opportunities in the field of immigration affect the network structure of migrant organizations and that the political inclusion of migrant organizations is affected by the interaction of both structures. Drawing on the social movement literature, this study analyzes the effect of the specific opportunity structure in the field of immigration on network structure and the political inclusion of migrant organizations. The results show that migrant organizations adapt to the specific opportunities when creating alliances, and the networks that emerge vary between the cities under study. Indeed, associations tend to create alliances on the basis of their access to institutional channels, and the publicly recognized identities in the field. Moreover, it shows that the interaction of the opportunity structure and the network structure affects political inclusion of migrant associations. Indeed, the embeddedness of associations in similar relational structures has different outcomes for political inclusion according to the context. The study concludes by stating that analyzing the interaction of specific political opportunity structures and network structures is necessary to get a better understanding of the conditions favoring or hindering the political inclusion of migrant organizations.

Item Type:Doctoral Thesis (PhD)
Doctoral School:Sociology and Social Research (within the School in Social Sciences, till the a.y. 2010-11)
PhD Cycle:XXI
Subjects:Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/11 SOCIOLOGIA DEI FENOMENI POLITICI
Area 14 - Scienze politiche e sociali > SPS/04 SCIENZA POLITICA
Repository Staff approval on:17 Nov 2011 12:19

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