A number of local and national governments across the world are trying to find ways to understand how and to what extent their populations are “integrated”.
Some nations are doing this in order to measure the effectiveness of their multicultural policies, others in response to extremist threats/movements, yet others as part of an approach to cultural assimilation.
In Rome, Italy, a sophisticated “integration index” has been proposed by civil servants and economists that
utilizes up to 30 local and national statistics to try and quantify the degree of cohesion across and within regions.
In Alberta, Canada, local government officials are working to propose a set of “outcomes” (e.g. does an individual “understand Canada?”) that can be then checked off a list in order to provide an integration score.
Part of the problem in any system is that when attempting to measure “integration”, who or what do we use
as our barometer? Who in our society is “integrated”?
The question hits at the core of how a society attempts to represent itself to itself—who we see
as representative or “central” to our notion of who “we” are.
To take a current Europe-wide example: Anthropologically, Roma/Gypsies communities have been integral to European life and culture for at least as long as the Reformation has shaped the continent’s social and economic life.
Therefore, should a measure of the integration of Roma/Gypsies centre on their inclusion into national
cultures of Europe, or should the focus be on whether national cultures contain the Roma/Gypsy
community as integral to “their” cultural identity?
Most attempts to measure integration reveal a state of anxiety on behalf of a cultural group that sees its dominance and/or success threatened in some way. On the whole, such measures do not give us information as to the quality and degree to which actual human relationships are affected by the intra-cultural arrangement of images and identities—i.e. whether a society flourishes or suffers due to its diversity.
The introduction of Integration Measures, as with other tools and practices in national and global governance,
seem to advance at a pace outstripping an understanding or definition of the fundamental problems they attempt to solve.
For one, models of culture that are based on accurate historical and cultural information are needed before we embark on measuring to what extent people feel able to express themselves through these models. Such models will need to provide the resources for all populations to find a sense of place while redressing symbolic imbalances.