In both Germany and France, perceptions of immigration, diversity and their societal consequences have undergone important transformations in the past two decades. However, existing research has only partially captured such processes. The “grand narratives” of national approaches, while still influential, no longer explain contemporary realities. Further, analyses of national politics and discourses may not sufficiently reflect the realities across localities and society more broadly. While emerging in different national contexts, little is known about how diversity is actually perceived by political stakeholders at the urban level. Given the key role of immigration and diversity in current conflicts over Europe’s future, it is imperative to assess present-day conceptualisations of migration-related diversity among important societal actors. This article investigates perceptions and evaluations of socio-cultural heterogeneity by important societal actors in large cities. We contribute to existing literature by capturing an unusually broad set of actors from state and civil society. We also present data drawn from an unusually large number of cities. How influential is the perception of current society as heterogeneous, and what forms of heterogeneity are salient? And is socio-cultural and migration-related heterogeneity evaluated as threatening or rather as beneficial? Based on an original data set, this study explores the shared and contested ideas, the cognitive roadmaps of state and non-state actors involved in local politics. We argue that, in both German and French cities, socio-cultural heterogeneity is nowadays widely recognized as marking cities and often positively connoted. At the same time, perceptions of the main features of diversity and of the benefits and challenges attached to it vary. We find commonalities between French and German local actors, but also clear differences. In concluding, we suggest how and why national contexts importantly shape evaluations of diversity.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
The research for this article was kindly funded by the Max Planck Institute for the Study of Religious and Ethnic Diversity, Göttingen, Germany.
© 2020, The Author(s).