Top-down and bottom-up reconsidered: The dynamics of immigrant participation in local civil society

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This chapter analyses the ways in which local or community organisations and public authorities come to communicate and interact, with a particular focus on decision-making activities that affect immigrant or ethnic minority populations.1 Research was carried out in Oeiras, a municipality within the Lisbon metropolitan area with a large population of first-and second-generation immigrants. Most of them originate from former Portuguese colonies in Africa, especially Cape Verde. Some interviews were also conducted with national-and international-level actors.2 We start by describing the chief characteristics of the local situation and the relations between local agents and the supra-local agents that have some sort of influence at the local level.3 Our analysis of this institutional context exposes some inconsistencies in the institutional blueprint that informs the general theoretical framework of the mpmc. We argue that this framework amounts to a hierarchical model of the local institutional arenas-ranging from immigrant or ethnic minority communities to municipal political institutions-which represent increasing degrees of access to civil society. We reassess the framework in the light of our empirical findings and propose a refinement that does more justice to the complexity of the data. Because our data proved difficult to incorporate into the single dimension of the m p m c typology, we now distinguish an additional dimension that we believe was unjustifiably conflated with institutional arenas in the original model. It involves a series of institutional levels, extending from the neighbourhood to the supranational level. The refined model can give us a better grip on the complex set of actors and relations in the urban environment, thus enabling a more accurate analysis of the networks in which they operate.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationCitizenship in European Cities
Subtitle of host publicationImmigrants, Local Politics and Integration Policies
EditorsKaren Kraal, Steve Vertovec, Rinus Penninx
Place of PublicationLondon
Number of pages19
ISBN (Electronic)9781351951418, 9781315260228
ISBN (Print)9780754642053
Publication statusPublished - 1 Jan 2017


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