Struggles for Institutional Space in France and the United Kingdom: Intersectionality and the Politics of Policy

Leah Bassel, Akwugo Emejulu

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This article uses intersectionality as an analytical tool to explore struggles for institutional space in policy processes in two ostensibly contrasting contexts: "republican" France and the "multicultural" United Kingdom. Specifically, the article undertakes within-case analysis of three policy processes. In France, we discuss the debate over laicite', or secularism, the subsequent formulation of the March 2004 law banning the wearing of religious signs in state schools, and the creation of the High Authority for the Fight Against Discrimination (HALDE). In the UK, we examine the problem definitions, language, and subject positions constructed by the 2008 Single Equality Bill. The result of these analyses is that institutional actors employ similar (though not identical) practices in relation to intersections, which have similar outcomes for minority groups on either side of the English Channel. Through what we term a "logic of separation," institutional actors severely curtail the "institutional space" available to minority ethnic groups to make complex and intersectional social justice claims. Even though France and the UK are often portrayed as opposites with regard to constructions of citizenship, we argue that these seemingly differing traditions of citizenship end up having a similar effect of misrecognizing minority women and men's experiences and demands.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)517-544
Number of pages28
JournalPolitics & Gender
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2010

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