“Well-tempered Multiculturalism”

 

plai_300Alexis Nouss, Plaidoyer pour un monde métis, Paris : Textuel, 2005

 

Multiculturalism is undeniably a conceptual and discursive success story since it has been able to replace the old-fashioned humanism on a new stage called post-modernism and to revamp its message of tolerance. However, this very success has to be questioned and the notion of multiculturalism should be located within a wider framework, namely ‘cultural pluralism’. It would be wrong to mistake
one for the other given that cultural pluralism takes different forms, the three main ones being multiculturalism, interculturalism and transculturalism. Furthermore, there are different brands of multiculturalism which are not carrying a similar semantic and political value, e.g. conservative multiculturalism, environmental multiculturalism, left-wing multiculturalism, liberal multiculturalism, essentialist multiculturalism, state multiculturalism, Benetton multiculturalism, ‘World music’ multiculturalism…

A more neutral definition will claim that multiculturalism is a concept which describes a social setting (be it urban, regional, national or supranational) in which different communities are in contact, no matter what their importance and/or hierarchical positions are. Big scale examples are the Roman Empire, the Habsburg Empire, the Ottoman Empire, the ancient African kingdoms or, nowadays, the Western states.

Interculturalism calls for a different conceptual approach. It designates at both individual and collective levels the dynamics of encounter and of exchange as well as of clash and of rejection which occur when two communities or more are in contact. Intercultural potentials are dependant of the social, economical, and political conditions of the host society and rely on its cultural tradition. Democracy, by instance, does not receive the same definition in, say, France and China. Interculturalism is not a policy one could impose. A good example is the limited success of multiple languages teaching programmes in schools due to the prevalent belief in the virtues of monoculturalism for social harmony. Multiculturalism, thus, describes a social reality and interculturalism a mode of functioning operating in its midst. Problems begin when they are transformed into governmental programmes.

Lastly, Transculturalism should be used to name the common adoption of cultural forms by different communities in a given society. Unlike the two previous notions, transculturalism supposes the willingness of actors to play a role on the socio-cultural level. It could also be defined as an ethical drive. As such, it should be considered as the ultimate goal of a well-tempered multiculturalism.

 

(Adapted from Alexis Nuselovici (Nouss), Plaidoyer pour un monde métis, Paris: Textuel, 2005)

 

http://nle.hypotheses.org/260

http://www.rta.be/intermag/index.php/alexis-nouss-plaidoyer-pour-un-monde-metis

 

 

Related Posts

Narration Versus Myth

31/05/2010

Narration Versus MythWriting the Mediterranean was the theme that brought together 12 writers of the “white sea” at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

The Comic Book Fever

19/06/2009

The Comic Book FeverLong confined to children's books and a victim of censorship, the comic book is now taking off on the Southern side of the Mediterranean.

Beirut: “World Book Capital 2009”

13/09/2007

Beirut: “World Book Capital 2009”Unesco Director-General announced on the 3rd of July the nomination of Beirut as the “World Book Capital 2009”. According to the selection committee, the city of Beirut was selected “in the light of its focus on cultural diversity, dialogue and tolerance, and of its diverse and stimulating programme.” During that year the city should undertake to organise and run a larger number of events around books, literature and reading.