The increase in the demographic weight of immigrants in European countries and their more and more vital role for the economic development of these countries have generated a strong new debate on multiculturalism, that is to say on the currents of thought about the coexistence of different cultures in the same geopolitical space. In a multiethnic and multicultural society, the effective integration between immigrants and natives can be achieved only by sharing common experiences, problems and aims, which is to say in the local dimension, where differences become a source of mutual enrichment rather than of conflict. Using an interdisciplinary approach and referring to the principles of ideographic sciences, this paper aims at examining how the complex identities of the immigrants can be linked with the geographic concept of “territorial identity”. The concept of territorial identity, focusing on the local context and social action towards common goals, can overcome both the impasses deriving from cultural identity and the rhetoric of multiculturalism. Assuming that it is in metropolitan areas that the process of integration between autochthonous and allochthonous components is more problematic – due to the importance of the phenomenon of immigration and the social and environmental problems affecting them – this paper examines the level of integration of non-indigenous communities in the metropolitan area of Rome as well as the actual and potential role territorial identity can play as a factor for social cohesion. What emerges is a highly complex picture which, however, tends to bear out the authors’ key hypothesis and the fundamentals of the ideographic approach to which they refer : 1) integration policies are required to take on a territorial dimension both because integration is affected by specific local conditions and thus requires differentiated policies depending on the local context, and because the territory, as a relational space, is the context in which integration manifests itself and tends to take root as a social practice; 2) integration is not a concept which can be made objective and unbiased, since it is influenced by the way it is perceived by the actors involved, by their expectations on its effective feasibility and, not least, by their willingness to achieve it; 3) the involvement in the community’s social, economic and political life produces a strong sense of belonging and helps to create an open territorial identity transcending the boundaries of the different ethno-cultural attachments.
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