Anthony Messina Reflects on Politics of Immigration and Identity in Europe

HARTFORD, Conn., April 5, 2011 – In his inaugural lecture as John R. Reitemeyer Professor of Political Science at Trinity College, Anthony Messina shared his perspective on the political implications of diversity in the European Union, drawing on research conducted over the past 30 years. Messina’s talk—“Is Europe Too Diverse? The Implications of “Super” Diversity for European Citizenship, Identity, and Political Community”—was based on his study of the politics of post-WWII migration to Europe and regional nationalism throughout the continent.

Listen to a podcast of the lecture here.
For a rapt audience of more than 60 students, faculty members, alumni, and President James F. Jones, Jr., Messina discussed the quickening pace of European integration and the related challenges to the emergence of a European identity.  Defining super diversity as “the extreme proliferation of ethnic, linguistic, religious, and/or racial cultures and identities within and across traditional territorial boundaries,” he cited three contemporary examples:
  • London is home to more than 50 ethnic groups of 10,000+ people
  • Across Europe approximately one-third of the population under the age of 35 has an immigrant background
  • About 150 regional and minority languages are in regular use across the European Union

In his presentation, Messina shared an overview of the many ethno-regional groups and anti-immigrant political parties in Western Europe and discussed the success of some in reaching the mass public and “mobilizing the growing uncertainties about the future of European integration.” One example, France’s Front National party led by Marine Le Pen, he said, has been particularly adept at packaging a variety of issues around the cleavage of identity and appealing to a wide swath of the public.

The best predictor of popular opposition to multiculturalism in Europe is not the size of the immigrant population of a country but, rather, the presence of one or more anti-immigrant parties, according to Messina. Further, he concluded, “The extent to which super diversity in Europe is or will be ultimately detrimental to the cause of ‘ever closer European Union’ will, for the most part, be politically determined.”

Messina joined the faculty of Trinity College in 2008 as the John R. Reitemeyer Chair of Political Science. His research focuses on the politics of ethnicity and immigration within contemporary Western Europe.  He has authored Race and Party Competition in Britain (1989) and The Logics and Politics of Post-World War II Migration to Western Europe (2007) and edited or co-edited Ethnic and Racial Minorities in the Advanced Industrial Democracies (1992), West European Immigration and Immigrant Policy in the New Century (2002), The Migration Reader (2006), and The Year of the Euro (2006).  He is currently co-editing a book on nationalist, ethnonationalist, and religious challenges to the emergence of a European identity. Before joining Trinity, Messina taught at Tufts University and the University of Notre Dame, the latter which recognized him with a distinguished teaching award in 2005. His courses aspire to expose students to the most sophisticated yet accessible analyses of contemporary political problems.