Social Cohesion and Hyper-Diversity in Milan, Italy: A Case Study
How is social cohesion influenced by the action of grassroots associations and civil initiatives in a highly diversified context? Which role do they play and what are their potentialities in fostering immigrants’ participation and social inclusion? What's their general effect in fostering social cohesion and participation of different social groups, from an immigrant background or not?
These research questions will be discussed based on a research campaign framed within the European project “Divercities”. In particular, we will analyse 30 interviews to policy makers, officials and representatives of grassroots associations, and 52 interviews to inhabitants of our case area -- including their interactions (if any) with the above-mentioned associations and initiatives.
Results highlight the coexistence of different trends concerning social cohesion and participatory dynamics, influenced both by the activism of civil society and by the plural characteristics of the inhabitants. In particular, inclusionary effects may be quite segmented, jeopardizing the participation of more vulnerable migrant groups due to the high informal entry barriers some associations and initiatives can have. In this respect, tolerance and civilized attitudes by natives and long-term residents may well be coupled with weak ties and limited support, trust and cohesion, while close-knit kinship networks may result in a spiral of segregation that prevents participation.
Thus, civil action in hyperdiversified contexts – if not reflexive enough – may have little effect on social cohesion. We will discuss how much this is due to a poorly supportive national and local policy (in the Italian case still poorly considering diversity as an issue to cope with).