COMBAT <br>Combating racism in Portugal: an analysis of public policies and anti­discrimination law

Combating racism in Portugal: an analysis of public policies and anti­discrimination law

June 1, 2016 to April 30, 2020
47 months
Funding Entity
Portuguese Foundation for Science and Technology

Since the 2000s, there has been a strong commitment to mainstreaming racial equality and combating racist hate crime in the European Union, illustrated by the Race Equality Directive (2000/43/EC) and the Framework Decision on combating racism by means of criminal law (2008/913/JHA). In parallel to the implementation of anti­discrimination and anti­racist law, Member States have developed a wide range of public policies concerning the integration of immigrants and ethnic minorities. In this context, reports by monitoring agencies —such as the Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA)—, legal reviews, and sociological studies have pointed at the limited impact of racial equality measures in most of the countries —including Portugal. The number of complaints and case­law is low, there is no systematic reporting and anti­racist initiatives within integration policies remain marginal (Maeso 2015; Araújo 2014; EC 2014; Chopin & Do 2012; FRA 2010).

Accordingly, the COMBAT project addresses the relationship between integration public policies and anti­discrimination/human rights law in Portugal, under the framework of the European Union. The project proposes a sociological understanding of key issues raised by recent literature in the field: a) the limits of integration policies in questioning how basic institutional structures are permeated by racial discrimination and the difficulties to raise a public debate on institutional racism (Maeso & Araújo 2014; Maeso & Cavia 2014; Sian, Law & Sayyid 2013); b) the reluctance of the public to report racial discrimination to the competente bodies and racist offenses to law enforcement officials, revealing distrust and fears of repeated victimization (EC 2014); c) the narrow understanding of racism within legal definitions and the trend to consider racist attacks as extraordinary events resulting from individual’s pathological behaviour, rather than embedded in institutional practices and normalcy (Goodey 2007).

The project will develop a qualitative multi­method strategy that enables an interrelated analysis at regional, national and local level with a diversity of participants:
a) Archival research and document analysis for the review of policy texts, legal cases and officially unreported incidents; of official reports by European and national agencies, competent bodies and associations;
b) Case­study research in education and housing that allows to produce ‘context­dependent knowledge’ (Flyvbjerg 2004) of processes of racial discrimination and harassment.
c) In­depth, semi­structured interviews with a variety of relevant actors to the case­studies and to the specific objectives of each stage of the research project such as: key experts from specialised bodies in data collection and the combat against racism at European and national level; key experts at the European Court of Human Rights; victim support associations; key agents from judicial and police governance authorities in Portugal; policy makers and local authorities; teachers and school boards; neighbourhood associations; journalists and media producers; victims of racial discrimination and racist hate crime; members of grassroots associations and NGOs;
d) Participatory workshops with policy makers, legal experts, immigrant and anti­racist NGOs, grassroots movements and journalists, to collect further data and discuss the main findings of the project, expanding its social and political impact.

The project will engage with socio­political of ‘institutional racism’ (Hesse 2004) and ‘everyday racism’ (Essed 1991), and sociolegal analysis of the process of mainstreaming racial equality in the EU Member States (Chopin & Do 2012; Geddes & Guiraudon 2004). Thus, COMBAT is innovative in proposing an integrated analysis of the multilayered policy initiatives and legal provisions for integration and anti­discrimination, and their relationship with a diversity of social and political agents. This innovative approach will be strengthen by the multidisciplinary nature of the team (including researchers from fields such as Political Sociology, Sociology of Education, Sociology of Law and Anthropology) and its previous research experience within interdisciplinary theoretical frameworks. The team combines senior researchers with an extensive academic experience and young researchers that are carrying out their PhD within the project’s area of research.


The project’s results will contribute to build innovative and more complex and critical approaches to the dominant understandings of racism in public policy and anti­discrimination law in Portugal, a context that has received scarce attention by research in a field usually dominated by studies in the UK and the United States. The focus on two crucial spheres, education and housing, enhances the relevance of the results.

institutional racism, integration public policies, European Union, anti­discrimination law