Must Interculturalists misrepresent multiculturalism?

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Statements of and advocacy for interculturalism always seems to begin with a critique of multiculturalism and aspire to offer a new and alternative paradigm of diversity and citizenship. With particular reference to a recent publication, which marks the current state of the art debate between the two ‘isms’, I suggest that the critique is often not based on an engagement with multiculturalist authors but targets popular (mis)perceptions of multiculturalism. A consequence of this is that interculturalists fail to appreciate the limitations of their critique and of their claim to novelty. The newness of interculturalism may relate to the normative significance of the majority but less to intercultural dialogue or to an anti-essentialism. While interculturalism has a contribution to offer, eg, by a focus on micro-level interactions, on superdiversity and by challenging multiculturalists to think about the majority, it is best understood as a version of multiculturalism rather than as an alternative paradigm. Multiculturalism can benefit from the contribution of interculturalism but this may involve moderating interculturalist ideas so, for example, not abandoning an anti-essentialism that is consistent with the sociological reality of groups, or by taking on board the normative significance of the majority but without accepting the idea of a majority precedence. In this way what is of value in interculturalism can be taken on board within existing multiculturalist theoretical frameworks.
Original languageEnglish
Article number15
Number of pages17
JournalComparative Migration Studies
Publication statusPublished - 8 Sept 2017

Structured keywords

  • SPAIS Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship


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