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20th International Conference of Migration «The Multicultural Condition»

Multiculturalism is a political strategy employed since the 1970s by state apparatuses to deal with social inequalities relating to minorities and people of differing origins in pursuit of equal rights. Stuart Hall (2000) emphasizes that “far from being a settled doctrine, ‘multiculturalism’ is a deeply contested idea”. From the outset, multiculturalism has been devalued in political terms and contested; in discourse sometimes dismissed and discredited as ‘multiculti.’ It is often seen as a cause of new social conflict situations, and as a threat to social cohesion. Opponents of multiculturalism argue by reference to individual and social limits of the tolerability of cultural pluralism, which is termed a ‘tolerance threshold’. However, political circles and the media often celebrate ‘multiculti’ in its conformity with market demands as a new, attractive lifestyle within modern urbanism. In this particular conceptualization, multiculturalism aligns well with postmodern relativistic value perspectives, thus casting doubt upon the potential of multiculturalism to contribute to freedom and emancipation in modern societies. Stuart Hall (2004) proposes that “distinguishing between ‘multicultural’ and ‘multiculturalism’ would be useful. ‘Multicultural’ describes “the social characteristics and problems of governance by any society in which different cultural communities live together” (Hall 2004). Cultural heterogeneity forms the basis of multicultural societies that differ by dint of their multiple histories of migration and minority settlement. Such societies are grounded on the respective experience that minorities and migration groups do no
lose their respective cultural particularities and “assimilate” to the majority society in the course of their social development. Rather, they maintain their identities over extended time periods, sometimes permanently. From the 1990s onwards, multiculturalism has lost traction both as a political strategy and a concept for describing heterogeneity and has been the object of critiques. Thus, multiculturalism is a “political concept” that is reacting to social pluralism. Just as there are various, different multicultural societies, multiculturalism is not a uniform “political doctrine” but rather a “variety of political strategies and processes which are everywhere incomplete” (Hall 2004). At this point the discussion will be taken up at the conference to revisit the foundations and critics of multiculturalism. In doing so, the relation of multiculturalism with competing concepts, such as diversity or integration, should be leaded and discussed. The basis for this debate should be the assumption of a “multicultural condition”, a specific multicultural mode of existence, deeply inscribed into societies and decisively determines life praxis in modern societies. The distinction between “multiculturalism” and “multicultural” – a different multicultural life praxis – introduces a further distinction, which should be in the focus of the planed conference.

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The conference costs will be announced soon.




Hochschule für Soziale Arbeit FHNW, Olten

Fachhochschule Nordwestschweiz FHNW Hochschule für Soziale Arbeit Riggenbachstrasse 16 4600 Olten
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