Karl E. Meyer, a former member of the NYT editorial board, has an op-ed in the NYT today on immigrant integration and non-integration in France. Not a new or underexamined topic but very much de l’actualité these days, in view of the anti-immigration/anti-Islam demagoguery under Sarkozy’s presidency (and particularly during the current campaign). Meyer says
These opposing approaches to what it means to be French — one rooted in an uncompromising ideal of assimilation, the other grounded in the messy realities of multiculturalism — struck a chord with me. While researching a book on the politics of diversity with my wife, Shareen Blair Brysac, I encountered not only the exclusionary attitude prevailing in metropolitan Paris, but also the more tolerant worldview epitomized by the port city of Marseille — a worldview that the rest of France would be well served to embrace.
When it comes to immigration/ethnicity/race, Marseille really is exceptional in France, in that français de souche are likely a minority (and many, if not most, white folks there—apologies for the Americanism—have recent origins in Corsica, Spain, Italy, North Africa pied noir, Armenia, Greece, Lebanon, Ashkenazi and Sephardic Jews, etc.; and as there are no banlieues to which poorer immigrant-origin populations are relegated, everyone lives in the city). The Marseille exception, which is well-known in France—though is not necessarily presented as a model to emulate—, was the subject of three lengthy and admiring articles by American journalists in the last decade (two of whom are conservatives): Christopher Caldwell in The Atlantic, Jeffrey Tayler in Harper’s, and Claire Berlinski in Azure. Though several years old they’re still worth reading (two are unfortunately behind subscriber walls; if I find free links to them, will post).
UPDATE: The full text of Claire Berlinski’s article is here.