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The European Union and Beyond

Collective Action and the 'Refugee Crisi'” in France: Movement/Countermovement Dynamics

Social Movements
Pietro Castelli Gattinara
Universitetet i Oslo
Pietro Castelli Gattinara
Universitetet i Oslo
Lorenzo Zamponi
Scuola Normale Superiore

Contemporary French politics have been monopolised by the electoral contraposition between mainstream parties and populist challengers, both on the left (La France Insoumise) and on the right (Front National) of the political spectrum. If most scholarly attention has been devoted to understanding these parties, their political programmes and electorates, considerably little research has focused instead on events taking place at the flanks of electoral competition. In the social movement arena, most notably, the so-called ‘refugee crisis’ in 2015 set in motion two interrelated processes, triggering not only grassroots actions in solidarity with asylum-seekers, but also reactive mobilization against migrants and refugee camps. The French case thus offers a unique vantage point to observe movement-countermovement dynamics in the field of migration politics. While, on the one hand, it allows observing the relationship between the opposing camps in the social movement arena, on the other it also permits to investigate the interplay between the electoral and protest arenas throughout the 2017 presidential campaign. Based on new empirical data from face-to-face interviews with activists from anti-immigration as well as solidarity groups in France, this paper disentangles the main strategies of contention promoted by the contrasting movements, and discusses the related collective action frames. We focus specifically on the interaction between actors in the two camps, looking at how they tried to limit the expansion and resonance of the opposing movement, and how they built alliances with other actors in the system.
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