In recent years, issues of secularism and the recognition of cultural and religious minorities have been at the center of public debate. This research aims to show that the controversies surrounding these issues are not only theoretical, but should be analyzed in practice, in individual institutional configurations. We are concerned here with the role played by institutions and social representations in how public action is put in practice, focusing on permanent interactions and negotiations between actors in unequal positions. From the observation point of the hospital, I compare local ways of managing diversity – cultural, religious and social in particular – in two spaces with different state and political traditions, France and Quebec, whose political philosophies differ radically in regard to this issue and in terms of legislation. How, in practice, do the various actors in a public hospital manage – or not – the demands, conflicts, and organizational issues of public service for patients required by their different practices, beliefs, needs and characteristics?
The hospital, where work is organized, where several “professional groups” – they themselves in a permanent face-to-face with laymen – constantly interact, is structured in and by negotiation. My aim is to bring to light the modalities of these negotiations, taking into consideration the different uses the various publics make of the organization mechanism and their capacity to orient the practices of public agents by reflecting together on modes of government and the practices of those governed. The aim of my research is to answer two types of questionings: on one hand the relation between State and religion, diversity and minorities; on the other, part of a broader reflection on modes of government, through the way we manage populations in negotiation and derogation.