Introduction: Questioning the European ‘crisis of multiculturalism’
Gavan Titley, National University of Ireland Maynooth and Alana Lentin, University of Sussex
We argue that understandings of the European ‘crisis of multiculturalism’ have been hindered by a lack of attention to the mediated interconnectedness of various national crises and their dependence on ahistorical yet mutually referential and productive narratives of multicultural failure. This proclaimed crisis is emblematic not only of the political utility of crisis discourse in the post 9/11 world, but of a culturalisation of politics and political agency that has disabled more critical explanations of social conflict and fissure. This introduction argues that the wiring of ‘circuits of belief’ on a failed multiculturalism must be unpicked to elucidate the ways in which this crisis sublimates a multiplicity of conflictual relations; between globalised states and citizens, between nation and self, and between mobile and mobilised capital and embodied, positioned actors.
The ‘Death of Multiculturalism’ and the Moral Projects of Community
Les Back, Goldsmiths College
This paper focuses on the ways in which concern about the ‘crisis of multiculturalism’ in Europe is policing the present as it moves towards the future and the ways in which issues of diversity and belonging are understood. The paper explores the culpability of intellectuals and writers in sustaining a sense that social solidarity and diversity are mutually exclusive. It argues that the languages of public debate about multiculture are damaged irrevocably and argues for alternative protocols for both investigating and describing the trace of global elsewhere within the near at hand
White Ghettos: The “Crisis of Multiculturalism” in Post-Unification Germany
Maria Stehle, University of Tennessee Knoxville
This article traces the shifts in German discourses about multiculturalism and the “failed experiment of multiculturalism” from the early 1990s into the 21st century by analyzing social anxieties about emerging “ethnic ghettos” and “parallel societies” in Europe. In these discourses, “European space” plays a complicated and contradictory role. “Europe” functions simultaneously as an example for the failures of multiculturalism and as a bastion of “Western values” that need to be protected.
Creative political interventions expose these tensions and contradictions and emphasize the historic dimension of racialized exclusion in Germany and in the European context. They also describe the material effects of racist exclusion, and propose (often syncretic) trans-local forms of solidarity and activism. In their irreverent, playful, and performative attitudes towards cultural identifications, activists and artists develop a language to counter the essentialist culturalisms that underpin the debates about “multiculturalism” and the “crisis of multiculturalism” in the German context.
Turbans, Hijabs and other differences: The crisis of (Irish) interculturalism
Ronit Lentin, Department of Sociology, Trinity College Dublin
This paper is underpinned by the shift in the Republic of Ireland from reluctantly accepting racism as an Irish problem, to the current euphemistic use of terms such as interculturalism, transculturalism, integration and cultural diversity. In the current race to diversity, such euphemisms erase political terms such as race and racism, which, at this post-race stage, states and individuals don’t want to hear mentioned.
While the discourse of Ireland as an emigrant nursery becoming an in-migration destination is being re-rehearsed, official Ireland’s ‘integration strategy and diversity management’ is framed by the Irish vision of failed multiculturalism and its lessons.
Against the background of shadowy figures of turbaned and veiled migrants as the trope of Irish ‘racism without racism’, this paper argues that interculturalism as an alternative to failures of assimilationism and multiculturalism is heading towards a real, not merely perceived, dead end.
Multiculturalism and its discontents ? Left, Right and liberal
Arun Kundnani, Institute of Race Relations, UK
Attacks on multiculturalism from across the political spectrum reduce the complex history of settlement and interaction in the UK to a simplistic narrative of excessive British tolerance and increasingly disruptive immigrant communities. The liberal version of this ‘integrationist’ discourse emphasises the Enlightenment and its legacy of secularism, individualism, gender equality, sexual freedom and freedom of expression as markers of civilisational superiority. This liberal integrationism is a demand for allegiance to the prevailing western political order at a time when that order is suffering a crisis of vulnerability. The demand that minorities in Europe, particularly Muslims, engage in spectacular declarations of allegiance signifies that western societies are being forced to confront the realities of other histories and experiences, in ‘a world of extreme and intimately lived inequality, deprived of strong legitimating discourses’. Because anxieties about cultural difference are symptoms of this deeper political conflict, difference comes to be feared as inherently conflictual ? and multiculturalism is rendered a national security issue.
A Conservative Revolution within Secularism: The Ideological Premises and Social Effects of the March 15, 2004 “Anti-Headscarf” Law
Pierre Tévanien, France
Launched by the right-wing government in France and quickly endorsed by a large portion of the Left, the campaign against “the headscarf at school” provoked a political and media hysteria for almost two years, and resulted in the law of March 15, 2004 which prohibited “wearing conspicuous symbols of religious affiliation.” Paradoxically, a rhetoric of “return to roots” has been used to promote this new law, leading to a radical transformation of French secularism. By imposing “neutrality” not only on the agents of the public educational system, but on its users as well, the law transforms the founding laws of 1880, 1882, 1886 and 1905, breaking with so-called “progressive” principles, and is actually part of a profoundly conservative revolution, which can be summarized as :
(a) the transition from a secular to a religious conception of the secular;
(b) the transition from libertarian to securitarian secularism;
(c) the transition from democratic to totalitarian logic; and
(d) the transition from egalitarian to identitarian secularism.
Who Fears to Speak in the New Europe? Plurilingualism and Alterity
Michael Cronin, Dublin City University
In debates around the ‘crisis’ in European multiculturalism, questions of language and identity are often to the fore. From the mobilisation of language for citizenship tests to controversies over state funding on translating and interpreting services, language becomes a highly overdetermined issue in the strategic elaboration of national identities around discourses of integration. The present essay proposes to analyse three basic aspects of a question that does not always get the critical attention it warrants in view of its centrality to public policy. Firstly, we will explore the fundamental ambivalence of translation as an ally of the specific (community interpreting) and an agent of the universal (translation into the dominant host language of the nation-state) in the engagement of nation-states with migration. Secondly, we will consider the implications for a specific nation-state, Ireland, of an integrationist, monoglot policy that seeks to end language difference through instrumental assimilation. Thirdly, we will challenge the fundamental paradigm underlying integrationist discourse on language which supposes conflict as an avoidable and necessary obstacle in human society and communication. We will argue on the contrary that what language alterity demonstrates is the ontological necessity of conflict in the working out of meaningful commonality in the context of situated differences.
Ending Tolerance as Solution to Incompatibility: A Critical Analysis of the Danish ‘Crisis of Multiculturalism’
A successful integration must include the long-term enactment of “the will to feel Danish.” Like the Jews in Denmark have done in the course of many generations, so must immigrant Muslims absorb themselves and become unrecognizable to the extent that feeling Danish is naturalized and unreflected. Such is the perspective coming out of a recent focus group discussion in Denmark on the integration of Muslims into Danish society. The idea of incompatibility between native Danes and Muslim newcomers have also become salient features of value-based journalism and value-based politics in the last decade, which is further legitimized with reference to the majority of the voters and readers, who identify Muslim markers of identity only to establish them as incompatible. In this article I trace the origin of the end of tolerance, which follows from this development, and I examine the emergence of neo-racism in Denmark with its ideas of xenophobia as a natural reaction to other “cultures”, which do not belong “naturally.” I show that migrants of non-European origin are talked about in increasingly crass and uncompromising way as a consequence of the belief in incompatibility. Then, I move on to argue that the idea of incompatibility does not so much come from personal or direct experiences but from mass mediated experiences.
Cultivating Outsiders: The Civic Integration Course and the Specter of Liberal Tolerance
Sonja van Wichelen and Mark de Leeuw
Taking its cues from the new Dutch citizenship test our article aims to articulate recent political and public transformations with respect to cultural diversity and the debate on multiculturalism in Dutch society. Through an analysis of this civic integration course, we argue that “Dutch culture” is not merely used as an ideological tool, but far more complex and subtle, it is appropriated as an appeal to an emotional wish of belonging, citizenship, and recognition. In a paradigmatic manner, the citizenship test structurally and culturally (en) codes notions of freedom, liberalism, tolerance, sexuality, and equality as Dutch values. While emphasizing an apparent universal desire and meaning of freedom, it also turns this freedom into a hegemonic marker of Dutch culture, law, and society. We content that the question of cultural understanding shifts from a need of mutual understanding (to enable social and political participation), to a question of loyalty and cultural assimilation informed by civilizational pathos and moral superiority. The once so popular Dutch consensus-politics (poldermodel) from the 1990s is now replaced by a new Dutch model of “cultural loyalty” – a model readily followed by other western countries.