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We opened this chapter with a paradox: While many scholars reject the concept of integration arguing that it is highly normative and teleological in nature, the concept of integration nonetheless continues to be central in many studies and academic debates. How can we solve this contradiction? How can we study the process of settlement of newcomers in host societies and policies aiming to foster this process without falling into the pitfalls of the old assimilation/integration approach? With these questions in mind, this chapter presented a heuristic model for the nonnormative, analytical study of both integration processes and policies. First, we proposed a disaggregated approach to the concept of integration, distinguishing three dimensions (the legal-political, the socio-economic, and the cultural-religious), two parties (the immigrants and the receiving society), and three levels (individuals, organizations, and institutions). Second, for the study of integration policies, we suggested taking into account policy frames, concrete policy measures, and both the vertical and horizontal aspects of integration policymaking.

While the use of this heuristic device enables a systematic and analytic description of integration processes and policies, comparison is key when aiming to explain differences (and similarities) in outcomes. In the past decade, a number of research projects have compared integration processes by focusing either on different immigrant groups in the same national or local context or on the same immigrant group in different contexts. Integration policies have also been objects of comparison. While most early studies focused exclusively on the national level, more recent approaches have taken into account the supranational and local levels, particular policy domains, and concrete implementation practices by street-level bureaucrats and practitioners. Though these researches have significantly contributed to the understanding of integration processes and policies, there is still much to be done.

Looking at integration processes, new systematic comparative analyses might shed more light on how particular immigrant cultures and migratory histories on the one hand, and general public institutions and immigrant policies on the other, shape integration outcomes. If we look at integration policies, comparisons between different cities and regions in the same country and in different countries are key to enable us to understand not only local and regional policy responses but also the relationship between the national, regional, and local levels. Despite difficulty in terms of fieldwork, more research is also needed on policy implementation practices. Comparisons of these will enable us to elucidate and understand important differences between policies as written and policies as practised as well as to identify and explain trends of convergence in this regard. Finally, while comparative research on integration processes has been done in North America and Europe, most comparative research on integration policies has been limited to Europe. Going beyond these traditional geographies of comparative studies will be essential to understand how more significant differences in terms of nationhood, welfare state, or public and immigrant policies can lead to different outcomes in terms of integration processes. Looking in from the geographic outside may help to definitively strip the concept of integration of its normative and, above all, Western-centric character.

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