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Can academic philosophy make a difference?

A new philosophy project at UiT will research equality of opportunity, cultural integration and social cohesion, to find out how these concepts impact good integration.

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Why is it that our understandings of the goals, means and value of integration differ? This is something the researchers behind GOODINT want to find out. Foto: Sara Lupini
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Kreft, Joanna Aleksandra joanna.a.kreft@uit.no
Portrettbilde av Vitikainen, Annamari
Vitikainen, Annamari annamari.vitikainen@uit.no
Published: 24.09.21 14:30 Updated: 27.09.21 12:42
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What is good integration of migrants in Norway and Europe? How can we achieve it? The newly started research project Good Integration (GOODINT): Goals and bottlenecks of good integration and social cohesion from the Department of Philosophy aims to answer these questions.

“Good integration”, “equality of opportunity” and “social cohesion” are often used as buzzwords in public debates without further scrutiny to what they actually mean. Moreover, it is rarely contemplated why good integration or social cohesion is something that we should be striving for in the first place. Our goal with GOODINT is to gain a theoretical understanding about what those terms entail, as well as what value, if any, they bring to society.

Three focus countries

We chose to focus on three European contexts: UK, Norway/Nordics, and Hungary. These countries have, both historically and at present, adopted somewhat different views on the central normative goals of integration and the means through which such goals are to be achieved. We want to ensure that our theoretical analyses are grounded in real world circumstances and acknowledge that ‘good integration’ may mean very different things depending on the context in question.

UK and Norway both seem to be, at least formally, committed to equality of opportunity (EOP) for their own citizens, and extend that care to newly arrived migrants. However, their understanding of what EOP demands and what kinds of outcomes its realization may result in seem somewhat different - partially based on the differences in the countries’ political, economic, and social welfare systems.

On the other hand, even though Norway/Nordics and Hungary may be similar in terms of relatively recent history of migration (especially when compared to the UK with its colonial past), their perspectives on integration differ considerably. Hungary, for example, seems at present to show relatively little concern for equality of opportunity, particularly when it comes to migrants.

These varied perspectives help to illustrate the differences and similarities of societies and their responses to migration and integration in Europe. Consequently, our choice of particular areas of focus makes it easier to disentangle the normatively salient features of integration in general – why is it that our understandings of the goals, means and value of integration differ?

Can academics make a difference?

Academic philosophy is sometimes seen as overly theoretical and disconnected from everyday issues. GOODINT has a potential to influence a real change in the world, by focusing on gaining empirically informed theoretical knowledge on “good integration” - what it means, why it is valuable (indeed, if it is valuable) and a means of achieving it. Without a clarity given by reaching such theoretical understanding, making sound policy decisions and having valuable public debates may be difficult, if not impossible.

Even though our focus is on gaining theoretical knowledge, we will also invite and involve migrant organizations and public policy makers in our work, as well as more empirically oriented social scientists, in order to ensure that our research is solidly based on empirical facts. The inclusion of grass root organizations is especially important for creating a platform for fruitful discussions about the pressing issues that migrants are facing when it comes to integration and social cohesion and learn from one another.

Migration is here to stay, and societies become more and more diverse. With GOODINT we may understand better how different socio-political and historical circumstances affect our understandings of good integration, as well as gain knowledge on the ways in which transnational exchanges affects integration, also from the perspective of those who are, in common political jargon, often viewed as ‘those to be integrated.’ 

What’s next?

On 14-16 December, GOODINT will have its official launch. The confirmed keynote speakers are Grete Brochmann (University of Oslo) and Anne Phillips (London School of Economics).

If you would like to learn more about the project, please visit our website: https://en.uit.no/project/goodint or contact the project leaders: Professor Annamari Vitikainen and Professor Kasper Lippert-Rasmussen.

Kreft, Joanna Aleksandra joanna.a.kreft@uit.no
Vitikainen, Annamari annamari.vitikainen@uit.no
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