The principal objective of TRICUD is to better understand how migration transforms both sending societies in the South and receiving societies in the North. It is widely acknowledged that international migration has always been a cause as well as a result of economic, political, social and cultural change. It is a key dimension of globalisation. It affects, the dynamics of identities, the process of cultural diversification and social representations in urban settings both in the North and South. Migration has also prompted the formation of transnational social spaces connecting home and destination countries. This phenomenon is observable between Belgium and some of the countries of origin of its migrant population. The Democratic Republic of Congo and Morocco are in this respect two strategic case-studies.

Cities within the European Union are host to a wide variety of ethno-cultural and national affiliations and identities. European ethno-cultural and national diversity is currently being challenged and pressurised by the process of globalisation. On the one hand, the uniformisation of mass culture is a trend that accompanies this process. But on the other hand and according to the specialised literature, diversity is likely to grow in importance. Various forms of cultural, ethnic, national, religious and post-national identities emerge in the European public sphere and reconstruct themselves as a response to the trend towards uniformisation. This has been particularly well observed at the urban level. It may be advocated that the European Union has entered, most notably at the local level, a process of fragmentation that could be called the diversification of diversity, a process which follows specific patterns and calls for a specific European debate about European forms of diversity or European diversities.

Migration is an important source for the diversification of diversity. Migrants come from all over the world following new patterns of migration in comparison to earlier periods of industrial immigration. Some of them settle and adapt culturally to their new environment while simultaneously enriching the local cultures and the variety of ethno-cultural identities. Others maintain transnational links and activities. Immigrant and immigrant origin populations in European cities are undoubtedly bound to increase in the future. As a result, new ways of life, new religions, new visions of the world, new cultures are constantly introduced in the social fabric of the European Union in a more or less smooth way and may be reintroduced by the same migrants in the countries of origin. Communication technologies and international travel facilities have led migrant communities in the UE to play increasingly significant roles in their societies of origin. The specialised literature has massively explored the question from the vantage point of economic and financial transfers. A restricted focus on remittances however leads to a biased appraisal of the real dynamics of social change in the concrete life, cultural values and norms generated by migration in the sending societies of the South.

The relationships between states, supranational organizations and a population that is increasingly diversified constitutes a major concern for any reflection on modern democracies: what political responses surface in response to identity claims and to demands for the preservation of cultural specificity? How can Nation-States and the European Union intervene in the management of cultural diversity? How can the European Union, deal with its de facto multicultural, multireligious, multiethnic growing character while simultaneously reasserting its democratic expectations and dealing with growing social and economic inequality and exclusion? The concern at the beginning of the third millennium is not to choose between the construction of a multicultural European society and the construction of a culturally homogenous society. Rather, each society, including the European Union, finds itself being challenged to tailor a sort of multiculturalism adapted to its population and to its history in order to reconcile observable cultural and identity-based diversity, on the one hand, with the necessary social, economic and political cohesion, on the other hand. In other words, how can the European Union combine the search for a more united and integrated society while at the same time promoting the various facets of its diversity and fostering more social and economic equality?

In order to better understand the dynamics of identities, the processes of cultural diversification and the dynamics of representations in urban settings affected by international migration and immigrants’ transnational practices both in Belgium and in two immigrant sending countries, the research will be carried out along three main directions, which consist in the 3 research projects of this concerted effort:

-          The post-migratory city and transnational flows

This project approaches the issue of immigrant transnationalism in an innovative way. The main question here is to understand from a holistic point of view how and under which conditions  the exchanges (cultural, religious, economic, political, etc.) between “diasporic” communities and networks, on the one hand, and corresponding communities in the southern urban setting of  origin develop ? What is the relevance of transnational interactions for social life both in the southern cities of emigration and in the northern cities of immigration? What is the relevance of transnational activities from (and for) the social logics and cultural values in the south?

-          The Dynamics of identities.

Following up previous research carried out within CEDEM and CLEO, this project will examine the effects of migration and transnational practices of migrants on public opinion and identity formation and change of both minority and majority groups in cities of immigration and in cities of emigration. Do transnational practices develop together with post-national, post-ethnic or cosmopolitan identities? On the contrary, do they contribute to reinforce ethnic identities and national identities of both migrant and majority populations here and there? This issue of the reciprocal links between immigrant transnationalism and the dynamics of identities remains highly contentious. This project will contribute to it both empirically and theoretically.

-    The process of cultural diversification.

This part of the programme will examine how the process of cultural diversification develops at the local level. What does it consist in? How do communities, real or imagined, differ in terms of generation, gender, class, religion and culture ? How is cultural production used by majority and minority groups to interact, or to prevent social interactions in neighbourhoods and cities? Through which social networks, institutions and practices ? How does all this meet the official discourse on citizenship and interculturalism and related local policies ?

This programme opts for a study of the relationships between migration and change by linking together pre- and post-migration urban contexts together seen as forming a transnational social space. The idea is to consider that the patterns of coexistence between majorities and minorities in the urban context of the receiving state are shaped by transnational processes taking their roots in the countries of origin and involving the interplay of “diasporas”. Therefore, the research programme considers issues of majority and minority identities and representations in immigrant receiving cities. This will be achieved chiefly through the combination of quantitative and qualitative methods. The project will then move its focus upstream in order to understand the processes that affect patterns of multicultural coexistence in cities. In order to deepen our knowledge of cultural diversification, the project will look at two case-studied relatively understudied, namely the role of immigrant arts and cultures and the issue of migration and development.

In order to gather ethnographic data, fieldwork will be conducted in three cities: one in Belgium (the Greater Liège), one in the DR of Congo (Kinshasa) and one in the North of Morocco (Oujda)