Is European Multiculturalism in Crisis?

International Debate

Samuel Alexander Theatre

University of Manchester

4-6pm, March 23rd, 2012

Speakers include: Mary Dejevsky (The Independent), Jon Gower Davies (author and academic), Kenan Malik (writer, broadcaster), Alexei Miller (Russian Academy of Sciences), Tariq Modood (Bristol University Research Centre for the Study of Ethnicity and Citizenship) and Erik van Ree (University of Amsterdam)

Across Europe, public figures are questioning whether multiculturalism has a future as a policy for ensuring inter-ethnic cohesion. It has been criticized for encouraging separatist extremism, for undermining core national values, and for preventing immigrant cultures from integrating into their host communities. British Prime Minister, David Cameron, German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, and French President, Nicolas Sarkozy have all recently spoken out against the ‘damage’ that multiculturalism is doing to the social fabric of European nations. Recent controversies over religious symbols in public spaces, the deportation of gypsy communities, and the influx of refugees from North Africa seem to offer support for such a view. Moreover, the riots which took place in France in 2005, in Britain in August 2011, and in Russia in December 2010, have been attributed in part to failed state policies on inter-ethnic cohesion. Others argue that the assault on multiculturalism is driven by covert racism, that assimilationism (the French approach) has had no more success, that it is a crisis in neoliberalism which is the true cause of the conflicts, and that multicultural difference is here to stay. Each nation has interpreted multiculturalism differently (raising questions about the very meaning of the term) and each national context is distinct, but there has been little opportunity to compare, to distinguish and to learn from, the plurality of experiences, and to debate the issues on a trans-European basis. With a selection of prominent proponents of both sides of the argument from Europe’s Eastern and Western peripheries (Russia and the UK) this event makes space for just such a debate, and will thereby contribute to a better understanding of the various scenarios facing European societies, and of their likely consequences.

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