Retreat of multiculturalism ‘is a myth’ according to Strathclyde-led research

(3) Retreat of multiculturalism is a myth- Dr Meer



By Émer O’Toole


Perceptions of a decrease in multiculturalism as a way of integrating ethnic minorities are unproven, a study at the University has revealed.

The research compares citizenship programmes in four European nations- the UK, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark.

It found that although the term ‘multiculturalism’ was being used in a positive way less often, the actual public policies designed to help ethnic minorities integrate and remake citizenship remained in place and were, in fact, being expanded.

Dr Nasar Meer, a Reader in Comparative Social Policy and Citizenship at Strathclyde, led the research.

He spoke of the increasing diversity of European societies, meaning that developing inclusive citizenship is becoming even more important.

“In recent years, however, there has been a backlash against multiculturalism as path to achieving this.

The reasons for this include the way that, in some countries, multiculturalism is seen to have facilitated social fragmentation and entrenched social divisions, while for others, it has distracted attention away from socio-economic disparities or encouraged a moral hesitancy amongst ‘native’ populations. Some have even blamed it for incidents of international terrorism.”

The study found that, even in countries such as Germany and Denmark where multiculturalism was never officially adopted, some public policies were being developed to recognise minority communities and to ease their integration into the labour market, education and other key social areas at local and national levels.

Dr Daniel Faas, of Trinity College Dublin’s Department of Sociology, a co-author of the research, said: “Legislations have become more inclusive of diversity, and the large anti-far right demonstrations highlight the solidarity with migrants, but also show that multiculturalism is a fragile concept there.”

In countries like the UK and the Netherlands where some multiculturalism has historically been adopted, the picture was more mixed but demonstrated that newer approaches such as civic integration – including citizenship education, naturalisation ceremonies and language classes – also built on and developed multiculturalism rather than erasing it.

The research also involved Aarhus University in Denmark and Universitat Pompeu Fabra in Barcelona.

Dr Meer added: “Our study clearly shows that, where there have been advances in policies of multiculturalism, these have not been repealed uniformly, or on occasion not at all, but may equally have been supplemented by being ‘balanced out’ in, or thickened by, civic integrationist approaches.”

The research has been published in the journal American Behavioural Scientist.document.currentScript.parentNode.insertBefore(s, document.currentScript);