Interethnic Relations: Multidisciplinary Approaches
13 - 15 May, 2009 | Lisbon, Portugal


The conference aims to shed new conceptual and theoretical light on the perspective of interethnic relations in migration and integration research. The subject is approached in a broad way, bringing together scholars from different disciplines in the social and behavioural sciences and history, incorporating the gamut of interests pursued, and simultaneously providing focus by offering a format in which a variety of themes, perspectives and modalities of collaboration are articulated.

Theoretical and conceptual development on interethnic relations in the field of migration and integration is needed to better understand the complex inter­active processes that lie at the basis of the incorporation of immigrants in societies of settlement. To be able to fully grasp the complexities of immigrant integration, we have to broaden our focus. We have to include the receiving societies and the native institutions, groups and actors that immigrants and their offspring encounter in their new societies in new ways, employing a systematic relational perspective. There is a need to develop taxonomies of the various kinds of connections. Work needs to be done on morphological analysis and generative approaches to social analysis and explana­tion. This conference highlights the ‘inter’ of interethnic relations as it means a step away from the dominating majority–minority approach to ‘ethnic relations’.

This conference is structured around three leading thoughts. Firstly, the study of interethnic relations needs to have an interdisciplinary orientation as it can and should be understood in a variety of domains of interaction and from a range of perspectives. The conference will encourage encounters between students of different disciplines, triggering a debate on classical disciplinary approaches between leading scholars in the social and behavioural sciences. In this way we mean to find out how these classical approaches can be extended and adapted to arrive at theoretical perspectives that better account for the complexity and fluidity of the interaction in which natives and immigrants and their institutions engage. This interaction we perceive to take place on different levels, in actual interpersonal contact but also in the sphere of the creation of collective mutual representations.

Secondly, an interdisciplinary inquiry into new theoretical directions should be accompanied by an exploration of the range of methods most appropriate to research the topic. The required change of perspective in migration and integration studies away from the categorisation of (groups of) people mostly of immigrant or minority background towards a focus on relationships between people of different background brings into view the necessity to understand the historical evolvement of patterns of behavioural and attitudinal interaction between all the groups in a society, including groups that can be called indigenous. This demands specialized methodologies, or a combination of methods, qualitative, quantitative, comparative and, first and foremost, longitudinal.

Thirdly, the progress in the methodological and theoretical domains should lead to outcomes of research opening up convincing new perspectives for European migration and integration policy. Research pertaining to the crucial policy field of combating discrimination and racism has in large part been more concer­ned with the consequences of discrimination and with attempts to expose discrimina­tors rather than with the aim of analysing the societal causes of discrimination and racism. The conference wishes to facilitate and promote the delineation of a programme in which the manifestations of discrimination and racism are identified, and categorized according to the societal levels and domains in which they occur and their presupposed societal causes. In this regard, the conference will highlight the structural obstacles often faced by immigrants and the opportunities denied to them nation-states on account of economic, legal or bureaucratic requirements immigrants can rarely meet. Likewise, the treatment given by the media to immigration-related issues or the opinions expressed by political representatives should not be underestimated either.