Review – European Multiculturalisms

Map of Europe
Europe. Photo: Caitlinator/flickr.

Political heavyweights such as David Cameron and Angela Merkel have recently proclaimed that multiculturalism has failed, underlining the tension between the securitisation of migration and the on-going need for integration, or the incorporation of minorities into society. European Multiculturalisms: Cultural, Religious and Ethnic Challenges offers an assessment of the different ways in which European countries have dealt with diversity. Multiculturalism is one such ‘mode of integration’ that recognises that ‘social existence consists of individuals and groups, and that both need to be provided for in the formal and informal distribution of powers’ (p. 4). While the presumed crisis of multiculturalism has given it an air of obsoleteness, the authors argue that in fact, multiculturalism remains the best way to conceptualise citizenship in the globalised and diverse societies of Europe.

The book presents findings from a large international research project (EMILIE) and consists of two parts that reflect the twofold aims of this interdisciplinary study: the first part contains theoretical and conceptual reflections and refinements; and the second part focuses on the empirical and comparative exploration of the political responses developed during the alleged crisis of multiculturalism in seven case studies: five in Northern Europe, where immigration has been on the political agenda for some time now (Belgium, the UK, Denmark, France and Germany); and two in Southern Europe, where immigration has become an issue only relatively recently (Spain and Greece). Two countries in Central Eastern Europe, which face emigration rather than immigration, are also sometimes referred to (Poland and Latvia). Together, they help to both grasp and evaluate recent developments in the accommodation of minorities, and particularly Muslims, and contribute to our understanding of the ‘crisis of multiculturalism’ as well as the variety of multiculturalisms present in Europe.


Evolving Ideas of Nationalism II

Travelling the world - but only with states

This week the ISN will examine the role of nationalism in an evolving and dynamic international system. We will also consider whether multiculturalism is a necessary and appropriate response to some of the more retrograde and unsettling aspects of nationalism. From the outset, however, it is important to mention that the social science literature on nationalism often emphasizes 1) the lack of a comprehensive definition for the term, or 2) that there is a multiplicity of nationalisms. Indeed, these nationalisms often get defined with catch-all terms such as New Nationalism, Liberal Nationalism, Small Nationalism and so on. This multiplicity, in turn, confirms that the very concept of the nation has developed across the course of history and refers to more than just to a group of people born in the same place.

Again, to chart our understanding of nationalism today, we begin by quickly outlining Ernst Renan’s conception of the nation-state, followed by a look at how some analysts are trying to transform this traditional view of it in order to respond more effectively to the stresses of globalization. (Yes, nationalism provides states with a cohesive identity, but often by playing upon the insecurity of societies to achieve desired outcomes.) Finally, we will quickly look at multiculturalism and see whether it offers an approach to addressing global challenges that is more user-friendly than nationalism.

The Death of “Multikulti”?

Is it really ‘us’ versus ‘them’? photo: Alejandro Angel Velásquez/flickr

When the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, spoke on Saturday about the “utter failure” of German attempts to foster a multicultural society, the move was widely seen as an attempt to bolster her position in a coalition increasingly focused on the issue of immigration.

In the aftermath of Thilo Sarrazin’s controversial book that accused Muslim migrants in particular of sapping the country of its intellectual vigor, her comments to young Christian Democratic Union (CDU) members seem particularly opportunistic.

Meanwhile, prominent members of Merkel’s coalition, chief among them the premier of Bavaria, Horst Seehofer, have called for a halt to migration from other cultural spheres. Claiming to reflect the popular will, Seehofer has chosen to frame a thorny, complex and multifaceted issue in starkly populist terms.

While clearly immigration is a problematic issue in many European countries that struggle with economic uncertainty and immigrant populations of varying degrees of integration (and facing a variety of challenges from entrenched unemployment, language barriers and discrimination), the increasing acceptability of xenophobic rhetoric is a deeply worrying phenomenon that is taking root beyond the geographical margins of Europe. In addition to the well-documented cases in Holland, Switzerland and most recently Sweden, German politics seem to be lurching in a similar direction.

Instead of debating the issue constructively, and engaging positively with those immigrants (whether Muslim or not) that seek to integrate- the public debate across Europe seems to be moving towards the blanket-stigmatization of immigrants. A sense of xenophobic dread and a wish to turn back the time on increasingly diverse and ethnically, socially and religiously diverse societies seems to underlie this trend.