Public multiculturalism and/or private multiculturality?

Authored by: Rebecca Chiyoko King-O’Riain

Routledge Handbook of Cultural Sociology

Print publication date:  October  2018
Online publication date:  November  2018

Print ISBN: 9781138288621
eBook ISBN: 9781315267784
Adobe ISBN:


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Multiculturalism is often defined as an appreciation of diverse cultures, races, and ethnicities. It is a social movement and an ideology advancing cultural ideas within legal, political, and national discourses. This chapter briefly outlines theories of multiculturalism in the US and then compares these to other parts of the world in countries with assimilationist (Japan), liberal (UK, Ireland), and cosmopolitan/social (France, Germany, and Sweden) models of multiculturalism. The failure of multiculturalism in the US is illustrated through an analysis of the push for multiracial categorization in the US census. Overall the project failed because it neglected the hybridity/transnationality of cultural identities and adopted a “top-down” approach to social diversity. The entry finishes by positing that perhaps multiculturalism should be reframed as an issue of “multiculturality” from the “bottom up” – built upon the everyday lived practices of groups of people with multiple allegiances and backgrounds living together – in order to influence state policies on rights and recognition.

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