Making do with the community center. The participation tactics of immigrant women in the underprivileged areas of Paris and Helsinki

By Linda Haapajärvi

As participatory methods of social policy proliferate in Europe, it has become urgent to understand how their target publics make use of them in their everyday lives. While social work professionals have developed elaborate techniques to produce engaged citizens and cohesive communities, the reception of these interventions by the targeted individuals remains poorly understood. Based on an ethnographic survey conducted in parallel in Paris and Helsinki, this article offers a relational analysis of the «second production» of public policies, examined through the interactions between social work professionals and immigrant women living in working-class neighborhoods. The notion of “tactics of participation” is used to analyze the economic, familial, and administrative projects immigrant women try to pursue by means of policy instruments created for other finalities, namely the creation of empowered, locally engaged citizens and safe and cohesive communities. The article highlights the plurality of these tactics of participation, invented by immigrant women, and the multiplicity of life situations in which they are put to use. It develops a relational approach to the analysis of reception processes, highlighting the nature of the link that connects beneficiaries to local institutions as the main element determining the outcome of these tactics.

  • Class
  • Gender
  • Participation
  • Public Policy
  • Relational Governance
  • Tactics
  • France
  • Finland
  • Women
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